Building a Healthy Foundation for a Successful Pregnancy
What can I do to improve my chances of conceiving naturally?
At our clinic, we often get asked the same question: “What can I do to improve my chances of conceiving naturally?” It’s a question we love to hear because it shows that our patients are invested in their reproductive health. And the answer is that the foundation of a strong pregnancy starts from a healthy foundation.
Many of us have been led to believe that getting pregnant is easy and can happen whenever we want. While this may be true for some women in their 20s, the reality is that fertility declines as we age. Extra care and focus might be needed to improve health so a successful pregnancy is possible.
Currently, “…more people are delaying having children until their late 30s or 40s. As you age, so do your ovaries and the eggs inside them. You cannot see or feel these changes, and they happen faster than you may think. A woman’s peak reproductive years are between the late teens and late 20s. By age 30, the ability to get pregnant starts to decline and it happens faster once you reach your mid-30s. By 45, fertility has declined so much that getting pregnant naturally is unlikely.” (ACOG FAQ)
As more couples choose to delay starting a family until their 30s and 40s, it’s crucial to prioritize lifestyle choices that support a healthy foundation for conception and a successful pregnancy. Unfortunately, the reality is that many of us in this age group lead busy lives, often eating on the go, getting inadequate sleep with electronics in our beds, and being exposed to toxic substances.
These day-to-day choices can contribute to a “stressed body” state, where the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system dominates, and the reproductive system may be compromised, leading to decreased fertility.
What is Fight (Sympathetic) Mode?
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s response to a perceived threat, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. When activated, this system can create a state of heightened stress, similar to the feeling of being in a heated argument or experiencing a sudden shock or scare. Prolonged exposure to this state of heightened stress can lead to chronic stress, which can have negative effects on both our physical and mental health.
Our bodies react to the argument or the perceived fear/stress in many ways:
- Increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, (panting or shortness of breath)
- Focus and alertness increase (too much),
- Our eyes become wider (dilated)
- Digestion shuts down (constipation)
- The mind races (insomnia), hard to calm down
- No interest in sex.
- A flash flood of hormones boosts the body’s alertness sending extra blood to the muscles increases sweating
- Activate goose bumps
The fight (sympathetic) mode is a normal healthy response when it is episodic (short term). It is a mode that is designed to be only for survival, literally living or dying. When this pattern becomes the norm day over day and year over year, our body systems start to push back, mostly out systemic exhaustion, in the fertility case – we do not get pregnant in this mode.
After all, you would not drive a car the fastest it could go for 3 years straight…the car needs to stop and rest for service, gas, parts, washing and new oil to maintain this fast driving.
We are very hard on our bodies – “we expect flat stomachs, fertility on call, deep sleep and perfect digestion without taking proper care and feeding of our body/soul.” (Tracy Harrison, SAFM)
What is Flight (Parasympathetic) Mode
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s rest and digest response when the body is in a relaxed or resting state. This system essentially reverses the effects of the sympathetic nervous system after a period of stress.
When activated, the parasympathetic nervous system slows down respiration and heart rate and promotes digestion. By creating a state of relaxation and calm, the parasympathetic nervous system can help reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being.
In the parasympathetic mode:
- Our heart rate and breathing rates slow down
- Blood pressure is lowered
- Digestion is optimized by increased digestive enzymes
- The bronchial tubes constrict – go back to normal
- Muscles relax all over the body
When we reach a state of relaxation, our bodies activate their natural healing, recovery, and cleaning processes. Being in the parasympathetic space more often can promote better health and increase the likelihood of becoming pregnant. However, our current lifestyles are the opposite of what our bodies are designed for.
Instead of living in the parasympathetic zone with occasional sympathetic episodes, we tend to live in the sympathetic zone, with the parasympathetic state being a rarity. This can lead to the tendency to resort to unhealthy habits such as consuming junk food, alcohol, and being sedentary in front of the TV as a way of soothing ourselves.
At any age we can start to pay attention to what our body’s need to thrive. It is important to recognize the fight (sympathetic mode) running fast from the attacker or flight (parasympathetic mode) the rest, digest, work life balance. Nurturing the rest and digest side and creating ways to find joy creates a platform to help the body say “yes” to conception.
The most effective approach to a healthy pregnancy is to allow for a period of 3-6 months to establish a solid and healthy foundation. During this timeframe, it’s recommended to visit an OB/Gyn for a thorough check-up and bloodwork. Then consider Chinese Medicine to help regulate hormones and improve menstrual cycles to ensure strong and regular ovulation, and reduce symptoms of PMS. This is especially important for women who have been taking birth control for prolonged periods.
First things First:
Schedule a check-up with your OB/Gyn and inform them about your plans to conceive. During the visit, request regular blood work including a complete blood chemistry (CBC), thyroid, vitamin D, fasting glucose, and A1C, in addition to a PAP.
These routine tests can identify minor issues that could impact your pregnancy and can be addressed beforehand. Skipping this step could result in missing out on vital information, and doing these workups can often prevent miscarriage. This is a good starting point.
Feed your Body:
Although not a sexy topic, it is highly crucial to consider eating a nutritious diet. . A poor diet puts your body under even more stress as it has to work harder to process chemicals, toxins, and low-quality foods, which requires a significant amount of energy.
This energy should ideally go towards fueling your hormones positively. Opting to focus on reducing sugar intake, consuming plenty of vegetables, a few fruits, nuts, and oils – a diverse range of foods – can significantly improve your chances of conceiving and bring your body back into balance. In some cases, this alone can lead to a successful pregnancy!
Addressing where the major stressors are in life and taking steps to reduce them lands us right in the parasympathetic mode (rest and relax). This article lists 43 ways to get into the parasympathetic mode.
In this article, the use of Acupuncture is #1 and indeed, is one of the best ways to get your body re-acquainted with the parasympathetic mode (rest, relax) and also regulates hormones at the same time.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s relaxation response. By stimulating the parasympathetic mode through acupuncture, individuals may experience reduced stress, improved sleep, and better overall health.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine also work closely with the Vagus nerve which is part of the parasympathetic (rest, relax) system.
The healthiest way to conception is to build a healthy foundation, the first building blocks can be the hardest.
Is your body in the sympathetic (stressed out/bad food/ no sleep) mode? Or, is your body in the parasympathetic mode (rested, relaxed, fed well) mode?
Identifying and making some shifts can take time and are well worth it.
By promoting relaxation and reducing stress, regular acupuncture treatments can help regulate hormones, improve menstrual cycles, and increase the likelihood of strong and regular ovulation. Additionally, acupuncture can help address underlying health issues that could impact pregnancy. We are available to assist you with your conception plan, fertility treatments and fertility coaching to help you conceive successfully.
By taking the time to establish a healthy foundation, individuals can increase their chances of a successful pregnancy and improve their overall health and wellbeing. Acupuncture can be a valuable tool in the journey towards parenthood.
Many Lives Chinese Medicine
Acupuncturist Redwood City
Follow us on Facebook