Increasing Fertility with Preconception Wellness Reduces Birth Defects
January is Birth Defects Prevention Month
Written and researched by:
Carolyn Gundell, MS- RMACT Nutritionist
Recent well-researched articles reference that an overall healthy diet prior to conception—not just the addition of folic acid supplementation—may play a significant role in reducing birth defects. Some women prefer to wait until they are pregnant to focus on their nutritional intake, but this may not be the best choice. RMA of CT supports the approach that women and their partners should optimize their health many months prior to pregnancy. Men and women have higher fertility success and pregnancy outcomes when they invest in their own health. Practicing a healthy lifestyle, even 8-12 weeks prior to conception, can also make a significant difference in the health of mother and baby.
Here is a way for you to choose to be proactive in your own fertility treatment. Often women and men in fertility treatment feel a lack of control, but choosing to lead a healthy lifestyle can help you reach your goal; a healthy pregnancy, a healthy mother and a healthy child.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TAKING A PRENATAL SUPPLEMENT
Are you taking your prenatal vitamin everyday?
So many woman have difficulty getting in a balanced diet on a regular basis so Prenatal vitamins can be very beneficial taken daily prior to fertility treatment, pregnancy and preferably 3 months or more before conception. RMA of CT recommends that a minimum of 800 mcg of folic acid should be included in a prenatal supplement. Folic acid is a vitamin that plays a key role in preventing neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. The neural tube develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord within the first 28 days of conception. A birth defect can occur if the neural tube does not close and this is called a neural tube defect. Folic acid has been added to grain food products in the US since 1998 and this fortification, along with a prenatal with folic acid has contributed to a 50-70% reduction of neural tube defects.
Prenatal vitamins are available for purchase at every RMA of CT office. We offer Rainbow Light Prenatal ONE. This prenatal is an excellent quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement that is vegan, allergy free and easily digested. Also, the Rainbow Light Company donates a portion of their proceeds to offer prenatals to third world women.
OPTIMAL NUTRITION IMPROVES PREGNANCY OUTCOMES
Healthful eating, adequate hydration, physical activity, and appropriate weight gain all improve pregnancy outcomes. A high quality diet provides a variety of nutrients from fresh fruits & vegetables, whole grains, heart healthy fats, low fat proteins and foods rich in calcium, iron, folic acid and other nutrients. Recent studies support the importance of obtaining nutrients from food in addition to folic acid supplementation several months prior to pregnancy. The highest quality diets were associated with up to 51 % lower risk of anencephaly (brain and spine birth defects), 34% reduced risk of cleft lip, and 26% lower odds of cleft palate when compared with low quality diets.
RMA of CT screens all patients for gestational diabetes risk through a simple blood test called hemoglobin A1c. This measures average amount of blood sugar (glucose) in the blood for the past 10-12 weeks. If elevated, blood sugar levels can be lowered, along with diabetes risk with a few simple meal plan, activity, and sometimes body weight changes in a short period of time. If HgbA1c is elevated, it is very important to lower the blood sugar because high blood sugar levels can cause fetal birth defects.
Growing research is supporting the importance of essential fatty acids in pregnancy, especially omega -3 DHA to ensure optimal fetal brain and eye development. Pregnant women should consume 200-300mg minimum of DHA per day. Quality supplements are available at RMA of CT offices--Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA and Pro-DHA.
All RMA of CT patients’ serum vitamin D levels are tested and supplementation (also sold at RMA of CT offices) is recommended when levels are inadequate or deficient. Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy may be correlated with preeclampsia, low birth weight, poor postnatal growth, and higher incidence of autoimmune disease in infants. Low mercury fish consumption 2x per week will help increase EPA, DHA, and Vitamin D intake from food sources. High mercury fish--shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna steak, marlin, grouper, orange roughy, tilefish--should be completely avoided prior to and during pregnancy.
Much more information on preconception health for both partners can be obtained by attending one of RMA of CTs preconception wellness classes held on Saturdays at our Norwalk office. Topics discussed include men’s health, pre-pregnancy weight of both partners, activity, stress, smoking, alcohol, nutrition, and more.
WHAT IS RMA of CT OFFERRING FOR FERTILITY & PREGNANCY WELLNESS?
Pre-pregnancy & pregnancy care is a shared responsibility between healthcare providers and their patients. RMA of CT offers several opportunities for patients to obtain information on optimizing their health, and also to participate in services, such as seminars and workshops. Classes/groups for preconception wellness, pregnancy, cooking, Fertile Yoga, PCOS, and general support are posted on the events calendar at www.rmact.com.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.