Preparing for Pregnancy - Can Acupuncture Help?
Updated: Apr 19
For many reasons we don’t always have the opportunity to optimise our health ahead of pregnancy, but the chances are if you are reading this, you are keen to be in the best health you can be, and this applies to both men and women.
We are constantly being told what we should do to maintain our health so I thought it would be interesting to look at achieving optimal health for conception and pregnancy from both a western medicine and Chinese medicine perspective.
It is important to remember that when we start to make changes, we often put pressure on ourselves to be perfect and stick to the healthy regime. When we don't stick to what we planned, we can be really hard on ourselves. Do your best, having the odd take away or glass of wine, or missing a day of exercise is likely to be less damaging than the stress we put on ourselves!
The following are a few areas where changes can be made.....
Finding a work life balance
Time for yourself and your relationship
This needs to be taken into consideration so that we not only take in the correct nutrients, but also maintain a healthy weight. The following general dietary pointers should be considered;
Choose good quality fresh foods with fruits and vegetables of the season
Enjoy your food in a relaxed atmosphere away from your desk or the TV
Remember it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to communicate to the brain that it is full to avoid overeating
Eat three meals a day with small healthy snacks in between
Include protein such as lean meat, chicken, fish, tofu, eggs or lentils at least once a day
Homemade soups and stews are a great way of upping your vegetable intake and great for the digestion
Eat less processed foods
Avoid drinks with sugar or artificial sweeteners
Limit fatty and fried foods, but include good oils such as olive oil
Limit caffeine and minimise alcohol consumption
Cut out nicotine as research has shown that it can take longer for smokers to conceive. For men stopping smoking for over three months can lead to an increase in sperm count by 50-800%!
Ensure that both the male and female take a good quality pre-natal supplement
Exercise is also necessary for good health and an important factor to enhance fertility as it manages weight, encourages hormonal balance and counteracts stress. The NHS currently recommends that adults should participate in 30 minutes of activity each day, so it is essential to choose activities that you enjoy. Remember that walking does count if you are someone that enjoys the outdoors rather than sport!
Getting enough good quality sleep is not something that we often hear about. However, the quantity and quality of sleep is very important when preparing for pregnancy as it influences;
The sex hormones
Ovulation and regular menstruation
Stress levels and mood
Weight gain and stamina
Work Life Balance
This is often really difficult for many to do, but if this can be done, it can often lead to everything else falling into place.
Time for yourself and your relationship
The pressure to conceive often becomes overwhelming and takes over every aspect of your relationship. It is really important to continue doing the things that you enjoy both as a couple and as individuals to help you cope with the roller coaster of fertility.
And specifically for the men that are reading ....
The testicles are located outside the body because sperm develop best at a temperature several degrees cooler than normal internal body temperature. In practical terms this means that hot baths and steams rooms should be avoided along with tight fitting underwear and cycling. It has also been shown to be beneficial to take supplements containing Zinc, Selenium, Anti-oxidants and Omega 3 such as Well Man or Proxeed Plus. More specific information can be found in a separate Blog focussing on men and sperm health.
How can Acupuncture Help?
Acupuncture is known for its ability to reduced stress levels and has an important place in the treatment of fertility patients. Not only can it improve feelings of wellbeing, it can help deal with all of the emotions linked with trying to conceive.
Acupuncture also normalises the function of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian axis, which in turn;
Improves the function of the ovaries which assists the developing follicles and egg quality, which ultimatley leads to stronger embryos
Improves blood supply to the uterus
Increases the level of progesterone needed to maintain a pregnancy until the placenta has developed
Relaxes the body and reduces stress levels which assists with preventing early uterine contractions
If you would like any more information, please get in touch and we can discuss your individual circumstances.
British Acupuncture Council (2016) Available from: https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/
Danny Blyth and Greg Lampert (2015) Eating for health and wellbeing
Jane Lyttleton (2004) Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine
Nurture Fertility (2016) Available from: https://www.nurturefertility.co.uk