What Factors Should We Consider to Prepare for Conception?
Anyone, really. But if you fit any of the descriptions below, you're a good candidate.
- Normal healthy, fertile couples who want to do the best for their babies.
- Couples who have had difficulty conceiving, including couples with low sperm count or motility, ovulation problems, endometriosis, etc.
- Couples who have had one or more miscarriages.
- Couples with a personal history of birth defects, prematurity, low birth weight, stillbirth, or sudden infant death syndrome.
- Couples seeking treatment for infertility through in vitro fertilization, gamete intrafallopian transfer, or intrauterine insemination who want a healthy baby as well as an increase in their chance to conceive (success rates for advanced reproductive technologies are relatively low—25 percent per cycle at best).
- Older couples, including women over 40 years.
Protecting your fertility potential should really begin in your teens. Preconception preparation for both partners should begin six to 12 months prior to attempting to conceive.
You may be wondering why certain baby-friendly actions must be implemented in the months prior to conception. For one thing, the formation of sperm may take up to four months, so that any change in diet, lifestyle, or chemical exposure should allow at least that much time for them to have the greatest effect on conception and the health of the baby.
You must also take into account the amount of time required to realistically assess your health needs, to implement changes, adopt new habits, and have them become part of your lifestyle. The added bonus is that your future children will benefit from the healthy lifestyle they grow up with.
Three organizations have made significant contributions to defining what needs to be considered before conception. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations include at least an 18-month time period between pregnancies, 400 mcg or more of folic acid a day, cessation of smoking, avoidance of alcohol, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing, up-to-date immunizations, assessment of chronic conditions, avoidance of unsafe drugs during pregnancy, and achieving a healthy weight. The March of Dimes, the CDC, and 34 partner organizations are working together to educate health providers, women, and men about the importance of preconception risk reduction and healthcare .
Foresight, the Association for the Promotion of Preconception Care based in Surrey, England, has been the gold standard for preconception care in the UK since the 1970s. Starting six to 12 months prior to attempting to conceive, its client couples undergo a thorough health assessment that includes medical history, lifestyle, and assessment for allergies, nutritional imbalances, heavy metal loads, genitourinary infections, and intestinal parasites. Men are assessed for prostate infections and sperm count. The couples are advised to eat a diet of low glycemic, organic food. They are also counseled on fertility timing.