Are you thinking about trying for a baby? There are some things to think of before jumping on the baby-making wagon. A few changes before trying to conceive helps set you up for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Dr. Aumatma Shah, Naturopathic Doctor, and Founder of Holistic Fertility Center discusses what you need to do before trying to conceive.
Daniela: Good afternoon and welcome to Dreaming of Baby! We have with us today Dr. Shah, here to answer your question: ‘I want to get pregnant, what should I do first?’ It’s a pleasure to have you with us today, Dr. Shah – before we start with our discussion, it would be great if you could introduce yourself to our readers.
Dr. Aumatma Shah: Thank you for having me here! I am a Naturopathic Doctor, in practice for over 10 years and focused on fertility for over half of that time. I am also the author of the best-selling book: “Fertility Secrets: What your doctor didn’t tell you about baby-making”
Daniela: We’re in good hands for getting our question answered then, thank you Dr. Shah! Let’s go straight to the question of the day: Once I start thinking of pregnancy, what should I do first?
The importance of peri-conception care
Dr. Aumatma Shah: First and foremost, you want to PLAN. Which goes beyond the decision to have a baby and gets into the territory of detoxification and optimal nutritional levels because your health (and your partner’s health!) will determine the life-long health of the baby. So, my belief is that, as soon as you decide you are ready to have a child, you should seek support in doing peri-conception care so you and your partner are in optimal states of health well before conception.
“As soon as you decide you are ready to have a child, you should seek support in doing peri-conception care so you and your partner are in optimal states of health well before conception.” Dr. Aumatma
Daniela: You refer to peri-conception care; what would this entail? Does this go beyond nutrition?
Dr. Aumatma Shah: Yes, eating healthy is a good first step, and of course following the general guidelines of avoiding alcohol, limiting caffeine intake, and eating a wholesome diet. Also, your OBGYN will probably suggest taking a prenatal. However, peri-conception care relates to eliminating toxins from the body (food, heavy metals, hormones, etc) and then working on nutritional levels that go beyond eating “healthy.” Every person’s needs are different, so I like testing functional nutritional levels and figuring out deficiencies and where nutrients can be optimized. It may also mean testing digestion to confirm that what you eat, even if it’s super healthy, is getting absorbed and utilized in the body.
Daniela: Thank you for elaborating on this, Dr. Shah. What kind of tests should be pursued at this stage and will eliminating toxins have an effect on the time it takes to conceive?
Dr. Aumatma Shah: Great question! My favorite general test is functional nutrition testing through a company called Spectracell. However, testing is individualized. When I talk to a patient, I’m usually listening for what might be happening under the surface, for example, did they have high exposure to toxins throughout their life due to their work? Or is their digestion compromised, shown via symptoms of bloating, gas, or constipation/diarrhea? Do they have signs of inflammation in the body? Do they have difficulty losing weight and are they cold all the time? If the answer to any of these is yes, then we would do more focused testing related to each of the potential underlying factors. In this sense, even tests are individualized. Not every person needs $2000 worth of tests. Instead, a consultation can help them narrow in on the ones essential for them. And yes, once these areas are addressed, they will have faster paths to conception because their body is able to quickly optimize to optimal health. Fertility is almost a “bonus” to their efforts in getting healthy.
Daniela: In your experience working with couples wishing to conceive, what kind of nutritional deficiencies have you found to be most common?
Dr. Aumatma Shah: B-vitamins are often deficient. Because of our high-stress lifestyles, we deplete B-vitamins at a faster rate and B-vitamins are water-soluble so we are not going to hold on to them. They need to be replenished frequently. On the other hand, Vitamin D is deficient in so many people and is a fat-soluble vitamin. Yet, many are deficient, and it is an essential precursor to many sex hormones. Lastly, Vitamin E is essential for egg and sperm health. So, even though less often found to be deficient, a deficiency can create many problems in conception.
Know your body
Daniela: This is very interesting and imperative knowledge for those on the journey to pregnancy. On a slightly different angle, you have spoken widely about empowering women through intimate knowledge of their bodies. Can you elaborate on this a little – how important is knowing your body when trying to conceive?
Dr. Aumatma Shah: YES! Thank you, this is one of my favorite topics. What I hear most frequently from patients is… “wow, why aren’t we taught this in school? Thank god for my fertility issues that brought me in to your office so I can learn these things.”
Dr. Aumatma Shah: The main thing that I think every woman ought to know is what is happening at each part of her menstrual cycle and what that means for her energetically. The best way to start to learn and empower yourself is to start by taking your basal body temperature in the morning. Then, add to that, any symptoms you’re experiencing – cramps, low sex drive, lower energy, worsened sleep, etc. And, after a few months of doing this, you will likely see some patterns that can give deep insights about what’s happening in your body at each phase.
“The best way to start to learn and empower yourself is to start by taking your basal body temperature in the morning.” Dr. Aumatma
Dr. Aumatma Shah: What we should expect to see in temperatures is slightly lower temperatures in the first half of the cycle, with a steep spike (signifying ovulation) and then temperatures staying high in the latter half. When this doesn’t happen, we can guess an imbalance in hormones, and depending on the pattern, I can usually tell which hormones are out of balance.
Dr. Aumatma Shah: Additionally, what is really fascinating for me and what I love teaching about is the energies in our bodies in each phase of this cycle. Menses mark the beginning of the cycle, you can most easily connect to it as the winter season. It is the time to be internal and self-contained; take care of yourself and take time for you! It is also the time to gain deep insights into yourself and the world around you. After that, it is spring season… this is when we are getting more energy and starting to engage with the world around us. Summer is the peak – it also connects with ovulation. This is when we are easy to connect with, a great time to engage with our partner, have those tough conversations, and overall enjoy time with others. This is also the time to see the fruition of intentions we may have set during ‘winter’. Then lastly, post-ovulation is fall season where we take stock of what we have left, what we need to hold on to and what must be let go. This is the time for beginning to conserve our energy for the winter to come. When we fall in sync with these rhythms on a monthly basis, it is easy for hormones to get more balanced and to have less “menstrual symptoms” that so many women consider to be completely normal.
“When we fall in sync with these rhythms on a monthly basis, it is easy for hormones to get more balanced and to have less “menstrual symptoms” that so many women consider to be completely normal.” Dr. AUmatma
Daniela: Wow! The way you describe the cycle is impressive and makes so much sense. In a way then, ideally, preparing for pregnancy is a time when to really get to know yourself and your body. Based on your own experience working with expectant moms, when a mom-to-be is fully aware of her body, does this usually have an effect on the pregnancy and birth itself?
Dr. Aumatma Shah: Yes, exactly! When a mom-to-be is fully aware and in tune with these rhythms, she has made space to invite in a baby. And, being in tune with herself makes it easier for her to be in tune with the baby. I often find that if she has lived in rhythm (as opposed to the go, go, go lifestyle so many women have), she will have fewer symptoms that we consider “normal” in pregnancy such as nausea/ vomiting, fatigue, pain, headaches, etc. A lot of these can be avoided now because she knows and is able to listen to what her body needs while pregnant. It makes it easy for her to say, “oh, today, I am feeling more exhausted. Maybe baby is growing a lot. I need to clear my schedule and take a nap instead.”
Dr. Aumatma Shah: This training will also benefit her in birth because again, she will have learned to listen to what her body and the baby needs. She is more likely to move if needed or dance if her body wants, instead of feeling confined to the birthing bed. And lastly, this shall help her restore her balance post-partum.
Daniela: Thank you, Dr. Shah. It’s been a pleasure discussing this subject with you today! On a final note, what would be that one piece of advice that you’d always share with a couple preparing for pregnancy – is there anything that maybe we have missed in our conversation today?
Dr. Aumatma Shah: Thank you, Daniela. I would say this to couples preparing for pregnancy: Trust in your body, it knows exactly what to do; but also, get help. Don’t wait for months and months if pregnancy is not happening. Instead, get tested sooner so you don’t frustrate yourself unnecessarily. Wishing and hoping that ‘it will happen next cycle’ can be tiring and depressing for both partners. Instead, take action sooner. If your doctor isn’t willing to help you, find someone who will!
Daniela: Thank you, and thank you for your time today Dr. Shah!
Dr. Aumatma Shah is a Naturopathic Doctor and Founder of Holistic Fertility Center. Get in touch with Dr. Shah via this link.