So often in western culture, there seems to be a rush. When we were kids, we couldn’t wait for the holidays, summer break or growing up. Now as adults, so ingrained in our consciousness is this “hurry-up and get on to the next” syndrome, “lose weight fast” gimmicks are a billion dollar industry, fast food restaurants are lining strip malls across the nation, now we can download movies at the push of a button, no need to get in your car and drive anywhere! We have acclimated ourselves to a pattern of needing to be in a constant state of anticipation, while possibly missing the gifts that linger in the beauty of the present moment.
Apply this ever-present state of semi panic to something so profound as becoming a parent and we begin to double dose ourselves with anxiety. It doesn’t help that we have so much pressure to get it all “right” by a certain age, or the clock will no longer tic and all our eggs will be dried up raisons by the time we hit 40. Generationally speaking, by the time I was 35 my grandmother had given up on me getting married since according to the time frames within her own generation, I was quite unmarriageable. Even though we live in a different cultural context than that of 50 years ago, the pressure to have this baby thing figured out has not gone away.
I would like to be the voice of why it is not only beneficial to wait, but why it could actually be paramount to the health and evolution of our species. And I would like to present solutions to what is a quiet epidemic that no one is talking about.
Here are my top 7 reasons for taking our time (minimum 6-9 months) to prepare our body for the experience of healthy conception.
One: Getting our hormones back on track
So, for many women, the idea of making a baby (once the ideal breeding partner has been chosen) begins with taking away the goalie and letting the pucks fly! For many of us, that means we get off the pill, the ring, or remove any barriers from doing their intended purpose. What this doesn’t take into account is that for however long we have been taking synthetic hormones, the body has actually been tricked into thinking it already was pregnant. Not to mention the risks associated with taking artificial hormones which include: increased risk of cervical and breast cancer, blood clots, vaginal imbalances and infections, high blood pressure, increased arterial plaque, lower bone density, and irregular periods. Just taking away the hormones does not magically make these health issues disappear and it often takes months/years of effort to bring the body back into a state of balance once the silent damage has been done. Adding a pregnancy onto a deep physiological imbalance is not going to be a fantastic idea. In fact, there is a higher likelihood of having miscarriages, vaginal discomfort, and hormonal confusion during the prenatal period (Mercola.com), not to mention, the child will inherit the mothers bacterial imbalances. These health issues can cause issues from thrush to allergies, digestive problems and other inflammatory conditions.
Two: Vetting the relationship
So, many of us who have been through the intoxicating love phase have often found ourselves dreaming up our future with our most recent lover. We are caught up in the moment and this partner couldn’t be a better fit for us in when we are high on love. But when you move past the chemical cocktails that mess with our rational mind during these phases when all we want to do is eat, drink, and sleep with our partner, its important for two people to get down to discussing the ideals that are the basis for how we see parenting take place – IN ADVANCE. This is not obvious in the early phases of relationship, but could be a deal breaker once the buzz of the newness wears off. Make sure topics like circumcision, parenting, schooling, spirituality, what we intend to feed our kids, and even issues around financial strategies become topic. Assume that the sex will not always be outrageous- can the relationship be sustained if the attraction fades? I would ask yourself and your mate a series of honest questions. If this person has a difficult time taking responsibility or looking at their own faults, when it comes time to deal with difficult moments as a partner and a co-parent, it could cause tremendous stress and pain later. And money. Ask any of your separated friends with kids. And for certain, having children has never fixed any relationship.
Three: If its not working on its own, don’t force it, look deeper.
Forcing a pregnancy with Clomid, IVF and other reproductive technologies may not be the answer. Lets face it, western medicine is not exactly a therapeutic industry. Imbalances are medicated, not healed. And there is a danger to these treatments that long term can cause other problems; according to experts, children conceived by IVF have double the chance of being born with serious birth defects. There are many places one can look to explore WHY a pregnancy isn’t happening, beyond just the very obvious potential plumbing malfunctions, sperm motility and morphology and hormone imbalances. Infertility is seen so often as a black and white issue, which can lead the woman or man with feelings of deep feelings of inequity. When we look further into the wormhole of the functioning of our bodies, often we can see how the puzzle pieces that make up the form and functionality of our biome are not communicating with each other due to prolonged dietary and environmental exposures. But even beyond that, we should not just be looking for the reasons why it isn’t happening and forcing it along, we should be asking a different question: How can we make the potential perinatal environment the most suitable for a thriving healthy pregnancy to occur?
Four: Prepare the body for the incredible demands of sustaining a pregnancy
Pregnancy can be one of the most difficult periods of a woman’s life. It takes several pounds of minerals from the mother to sustain a pregnancy over a 10 month period. For some women, pregnancy is like having a debilitating stomach flu for 10+ weeks. You can’t function when you feel this sick and it can cause tremendous depression, financial and emotional stress on a relationship and stress is NOT good for a pregnancy. We have the technology and testing available to diagnose and remediate deficiencies prior to conception such that the metabolic demands of the pregnancy don’t level the woman experiencing it. I met Anna Getty a few years ago (founder of Pregnancy Awareness Month) and while in a conversation with her about the period of pregnancy, we got on the topic of marriage and how we spend on average a year planning for the single day we get married and yet we hardly think about planning to get pregnant. What if we changed our perception about pregnancy and instead of it being a goal to get the blue + when we peed on the stick, we spent a year rolling out the red carpet for this event to take place? Getting the body as healthy and strong as it’s ever been… how would that impact the biological and metabolic demands on our body? Not to mention, how would it impact the fetus’s ability to thrive?
Five: Clean out your mouth
So many of us have old amalgam fillings and tooth/gum infections that will greatly impact our ability to sustain a healthy pregnancy. A study published in 2004 in the British Dental Journal found significant links to poor periodontal health and late term miscarriages. Dr.Thomas Nissen, a specialist in Environmental Medicine in Canada has a lot to say about heavy metal toxicity (such as mercury as found in metal fillings) and how it can lead to infertility, miscarriage and preterm birth. “Mercury can cross the placental barrier, which screens out many harmful substances. This has been shown in both human and animal studies. Mercury is in fact, stored in the fetus before the mother. Mercury will also be transmitted to the infant via breast milk. Mercury from amalgam is stored in the breast milk and in the fetus at levels up to eight times that in the mother’s tissues.” Detoxification and chelation of heavy metals became an important part of his treatment protocol after he discovered that heavy metals accumulate in the body, which replaces essential minerals, which produces a high oxidative stress, which destroys the cell-membrane and mutates the DNA. This is far from an ideal environment to help a fetus thrive.
Six: Birth defects are on the rise
According to the Birth Defects Foundation, 1 in 16 babies born in Britain are born with some form of defect. These of course range in severity, however, we aren’t talking about a problem that is necessarily being caused by an average later maternal age. As a licensed midwife in California, colleagues and I have noticed the absolute prevalence of mid-line defects in newborns (cleft palate, tongue tie, hypospadias, umbilical hernia, ear/nose, throat defect, etc), things that were a rare event 15 years ago seem to be affecting 40% of the population of babies. And these defects can be minimized and supported with appropriate supplementation during preconception and during pregnancy as well. Most women are unaware of testing options available to identify if they have a predisposition to express these genetic mutations because the money isn’t in finding these deficiencies, its in giving women IVF, and its just not part of standard obstetric training.
Seven: Autism spectrum disorder and the fetal environment
Ok. Here is where the conversation gets tough. According to the CDC, Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability and the prevalence is growing up to 15% more a year. As of the 2014 CDC statistics, 1 in 68 children are being born with autism (1 in 42 boys, 1 in 186 girls) today as opposed to 1 in 150 12 years ago. Something needs to change and it can start with how we conceive our children and the environment we are providing them for their healthy conception and gestation. We live in an environment that is toxic, we put toxic chemicals on our skin (the skin is our biggest digestive organ) and we eat and drink toxic “food.” We can no longer ignore the impact that these exposures are having on our biomes, but we can make better choices as to what goes in and on our bodies, while taking the time to gently detox the accumulation of harmful chemical residues so that our babe has a better chance to thrive and the issue no longer becomes one of fertility, but of quality of the fertile environment. Cellular biologist Bruce Lipton and his work on Epigenetics has discovered that the fetal environment, the virtual “soup” that the fetus draws its nourishment and genetics from is determined 3 months prior to conception. So if this is true, whatever exposures we ate, drank, inhaled or experienced catalyzed the foundation of conception months before the sperm and egg met. This is an important detail to digest as we plan the child we will be responsible for taking care of the rest of our lives.
What seems to be missing from the conversation in the rush to start a family is that we are not acknowledging that we are already sick. Biologically, we are wired to fulfill this destiny of being a parent and most of us still believe in the storybook ideal of what our lives will look like when we start our own family. But nowadays, parenting is looking less like getting your child through the teen years and off to college, and more like raising a generation of disabled dependents. This is going to have a tremendous social impact on the future of our society if we do not address these issues before conception takes place.
There is a certain biological imperative that propels our species, really ALL species forward. It is an urge, a drive, buoyed by desire and enjoyment of sex. We will not be able to tone down these feelings and tendencies that propel all creatures to reproduce, but we should begin some thoughtful consideration around these issues as there is mounting evidence that suggests we have tremendous problems impacting our reproductive wellness and the ability for our species to embody our healthiest potential. Being nonchalant about getting pregnant, or putting the future health of our children in someone else’s hands is not the responsible choice any longer, it is in fact like playing a game of Russian roulette. Conscious, healthy conception is no longer only a conversation about the “spiritual welcoming” of a child’s soul to come join the family. It is about taking the period prior to conceiving a child intentionally, such that an empowered lifestyle may emerge in the process. Conscious conception is about slowing down, it is about taking charge of your vitality so that as parents to the future children of this fine planet, we are making choices that positively impact the health and wellbeing of future generations. There is a choice.