Saturday, September 30, 2017

Is Pre-Conception Health Important?

By Dr. Beata Skorka, ND

Preconception health (PCH) encompasses your health throughout your whole life. It includes dietary, physical, social and emotional behaviours that you have learned and incorporate into your daily life. It is these decisions that play a part in your learned habits and current health status. For some, preconception health is a standard of health they want to achieve months or years prior to becoming pregnant.

However, making changes sooner than later is important for the following reasons:

1.     Epigenetics: The health of both male and female is important, as genes from each parent are utilized in the genetic makeup of their offspring. Studies show that dietary habits of parents play a role in the development of chronic diseases in their offspring. Obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimers disease are just some of the long term consequences that can be promoted during an offsprings life due to the health of their parents. 

2.     Behavioural Changes: Behaviours and behavioural outcomes such as cigarette smoking and high body mass index, are difficult to change. Creating healthy habits early on can benefit the future offspring in two ways. Prior to conception, the quality of sperm and egg can be optimized.  Post conception, macro- and micronutrient availability can be greater to the fetus.

3.      Delayed Confirmation of Pregnancy:  Whether a pregnancy is or is not planned, it isn’t uncommon to be pregnant and not know.  By making changes earlier, the risk of potentially harmful behaviors can be avoided.

4.     Improved fertility: About 1 in 6 couples in Canada are experiencing the challenges of infertility. By making the right behavioural changes in your day to day life, both men and woman are able to increase their likelihood of conception.

The following are general recommendations to optimize your preconception health and increase your likelihood of becoming pregnant. 


What you eat, how much and how often affects your weight, mood, nutritional status, overall health, and your likelihood to conceive. An opportune time to encourage good nutritional habits aimed at preventing future medical problems such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity, is prior to pregnancy.  The focus when it comes to making dietary choices should be on real whole foods. Choosing fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats in order to provide the necessary building blocks for proper functioning. A fetus utilizes nutrients from the mother’s body and the food she consumes to develop and thrive until birth.     


Protein is required for building materials in the body, immune function, and enzymatic activity. Protein recommendations range from 0.8-1.0 g/kg/day depending on one’s activity level. During pregnancy there is a maternal expansion of blood volume, the uterus and breast tissue. This is on top of the protein required for fetal placental development.
A general idea of how much protein is in foods:
-       Medium sized egg: 7g
-       100g of chicken: 25-30g
-       100g of lean ground beef: 25-30g
-       100g (1/2C) chickpeas: 20g
-       10 almonds: 3g


Carbohydrates (CHO) are more than pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. Vegetables are often forgotten as falling under this category. Vegetables come in a wide variety of shapes and colours, each having a different CHO and fiber content to them.  
Some general rules:
-       Eat at least 7 servings of vegetables a day
-       Choose different colours
-       Try to incorporate new vegetables into your meals
-       Fill half your plate with vegetables, ¼ plate with protein and ¼ with more of a starchy carbohydrate

Healthy Fats:

In the diet, healthy fats contribute to that feeling of satiety, make food more palatable, are a concentrated source of energy, carry fat soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E & L) and are a source of essential fatty acids. In the body they function as an energy reserve, are a primary component of cell membranes, pad internal organs, keep us warm and are essential for the production of hormones (including sex hormones).
Some general rules for fat consumption:
-       Recommendation of 20-35% of your daily calories
-       Increase your intake of unsaturated fatty acids: the fats of plants and fish
o   Fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados
o   Essential fatty acids (EFA) are a type of unsaturated fatty acid.
-  Omega 3 is a type of EFA that most people are not getting enough of in their diets
-  Fish & seafood fall into this category.
-  The highest sources of omega-3’s include:
·      Salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout, Atlantic mackerel.
-  Good sources of omega-3 include:
-       Eliminate trans fats from your diet: a type of saturated fatty acid
o   Margarine, processed foods (check label), typically fried fast food, shortening
-       Choose leaner foods to decrease saturated fatty acid intake: typically, animal fats
o   Dairy products, fatty meats, lard


High exposure levels to mercury cause changes in the central nervous system. Make it a habit to exclude these foods from your diet to help prevent some of the following: fatigue, irritability, tremors, headaches and problems with hearing.  In pregnancy, high levels of mercury can negatively effect the developing fetal nervous system. 

Foods high in mercury include the following fish:
-       Swordfish, shark, king mackerel, orange roughy and tile fish
-       To a lesser degree: shrimp and canned tuna

For a complete guide to good seafood

How Can a Naturopathic Doctor Help

Optimizing you and your partners’ health through dietary changes is a great start to preparing for a healthy pregnancy and offspring. Knowing how to best meet the individualized needs of you and your partner for fertility can be challenging.   A naturopathic doctor can help you feel educated and empowered about your body, health and future pregnancy. Through evaluation they are able to assess you and provide an individualized treatment plan based on your health, needs and goals, including guidance with preconception, pregnancy and post natal care. 

To learn more about how to optimize your preconception health and other associated concerns, please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email to book an appointment with Dr. Beata Skorka, ND