The Importance of Preconception Health
The Lancet agrees with us! The Preconception health of both parents is crucial to the health of their future children.
This past fall, Midwives of NJ rolled out their two-night series called “How to Make a Baby” which provides couples hoping to conceive in the next 3 -12 months with a comprehensive information session to prepare their bodies for conception. This program has been a great addition to our prenatal care offerings, where we really encourage both men and women to prepare their bodies to conceive the healthiest child possible.
When we think about it, we spend more time planning a wedding than we typically do preparing to conceive a child. We want this to change for the families in New Jersey. We want to extend our intentional actions into the pre-trimester (the 3-12 months prior to conception). Doing this, will optimize the Epigenetic environments of both parents to improve fertility and the health of that child conceived.
Last month, the Lancet published a series of papers stressing the importance of preconception nutrition and lifestyle relating to the health of future children. They review the research completed on this topic, although limited, and call for more thorough research in the future.
Of the studies that have been completed, the focus is mostly on both overnutrition and undernutrition of both parents. Overnutrition and obesity, have been associated with increase in childhood obesity and increased risk of allergic and atopic conditions. Similarly, animal studies demonstrate that the BMI (body mass index) of the parent mice at conception were more influential on the BMI and health of the fetus than the BMI during gestation. In both mouse and sheep models, blastocysts were transplanted from an obese mother, into the uterus of females with normal BMIs. The offspring exhibited increased fat tissue and dysregulation of insulin, similar to those carried for duration of gestation by obese mothers. This suggests that preconception health and BMI is more influential than gestational BMI.
Another study looks at the effects of the Dutch famine of 1944. It appears as though the children who were conceived during the famine had worse health outcomes than those who were already at a later gestation when the famine began. This again suggests that the preconception conditions had more of an effect on their health than gestational conditions.
Sperm health is also highly dependent on BMI and diet of the father to be. Animal studies looking at paternal obesity and the Standard American Diet (SAD) showed that sperm motility was significantly reduced in those with an elevated BMI and those who consume the SAD. Additionally, the fertility of male and female offspring was also affected for up to 2 generations.
The Lancet concluded that Preconception Health is extremely important for outcomes of future generations and proposed more studies are indicated to further demonstrate the benefit.
We would like to invite you to take your own Preconception Health into your hands and get started with us. We want to assist you in achieving the healthiest conception and pregnancy possible. For more information about our “How to Make a Baby Program”, please click here.