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Pre-conception care

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Looking after yourself before and during pregnancy is vital for the health of both mother and baby. Taking steps to prepare can assist your chances of conceiving, staying pregnant, and having a healthy baby. Ideally, pre-conception care should begin several months before conception.

A 2016 European congress on pre-conception care highlighted a need for pre-conception and pregnancy care, regardless of reproductive age and socio-economic background. The congress also highlighted the critical stages in embryonic development, which occur during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy making it important for women to make positive changes to their diet and lifestyle as early as possible, preferably before conception occurs, to encourage better pregnancy outcomes.

Pre-conception care addresses diet and lifestyle factors, and health imbalances for enhanced fertility, conception, and a healthy pregnancy. Care includes assistance with preparing for all aspects of pregnancy, and focuses on prevention and management before conception or during early pregnancy to encourage the best outcomes for parent and child.

When it comes to pre-pregnancy health and nutrition, there are many factors at play – genetics, epigenetics (such as nutrition, metabolism, environment, stress, infection), and maternal adaptations. These factors influence how likely it is to conceive, the risk of complications, as well as birth health and possibly even into adulthood.

The foods you eat, along with your stress levels, affect reproductive health through their impact on your gut, hormone levels and overall wellbeing. A 2018 review published in the Lancet suggests links between pre-pregnancy health and child health have consequences that can span generations. The review also found that inadequate nutrition and obesity are widespread among women of reproductive age, and typical diets of adolescents are not meeting nutritional recommendations.

Naturopathic pre-conception care aims to optimise the health and wellness of both partners, address lifestyle risk factors (such as stress, diet and toxin exposure), ensure key nutrients needs are being met, and help manage any existing conditions. Ideally, this process involves both parents and promotes partnership in preparing for a major life change.

Information sources

  • Annadurai, K., Mani, G., & Danasekaran, R. (2017). Preconception care: A pragmatic approach for planned pregnancy. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences.

  • Sarris, J., & Wardle, J. (2019). Clinical naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice (3rd ed.). Elsevier.

  • Stephenson, J., Heslehurst, N., Hall, J., Schoenaker, D. A. J. M., Hutchinson, J., Cade, J., Fafn, R., Poston, L., Barrett, G., Crozier, S., Kumaran, K., & Ffph, D. M. (2018). Before the beginning: nutrition and lifestyle in the preconception period and its importance for future health. Europe PMC Funders Group. Lancet, 391, 1830–1841.

  • Tydén, T. (2016). Why is preconception health and care important? Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, 121(4), 207.

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