Sunday, September 13, 2009
For us getting pregnant was a journey that started two years before our son was born, when I bought the book The Natural Way to Better Babies: Preconception Health Care for Prospective Parents by Francesca Naish and Janette Roberts. The book was also published in America as Healthy Parents, Better Babies: A Couple's Guide to Natural Preconception Health Care. Around the same time, my Mother-in-law gave me a copy of The Chemical Maze, which is published in the USA as Eat Safe: The Truth about Additives from Aspartame to Xanthan Gum. Together these two books changed my life more than any others. I already thought I was being pretty green and healthy with my lifestyle choices, but this was my wake up call that a lot of products I was using in my house and on my body were not safe for me or the planet, especially not if I wanted to conceive and give birth to a healthy baby.
When I actually started reading all the ingredients (or tracking down the ingredients when they weren't listed) I found that I had to get rid of about 90% of what I was using. It took me a whole year to find effective replacements for all the synthetic chemicals in my life... I threw out mountains of personal care products and had to find a safe way to dispose of most of my cleaning products. It was during this year that I tried everything on offer in every health shop in Melbourne (not a cheap exercise). I found a few brands that stood up to my new criteria, ie nothing toxic. This is harder than you might think. Most of the products that claimed to be "green", "natural" or "organic" were mostly the same old chemicals dressed up with a couple of new ingredients, ie greenwashing. I had to educate myself as a consumer, and learn how to read a label and de-code all the ingredient names. I checked everything against the Chemical Maze (you can download a free excerpt of it here).
I was not being crazy, I was just a bit ahead of my time. Since then (five years ago) there have been many more books and articles published on how chemicals can decrease our fertility and increase our chances of health problems after exposure in the womb. Just this week Newsweek published an article on how exposure to chemicals (including BPA) as babies can make us fat later in life. And Gabriela Rosa has written books like The Awful Truth About Cleaning Products And Fertility Revealed and Protecting Your Fertility.
The concept of pre-conception health care has become so mainstream in the last five years that now even major pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer, which makes Elevit and Menevit, has published a booklet on how to boost your fertility. Amazingly, they have included a paragraph on "going natural" which states that naturopathy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicines, homeopathy, and hypnotherapy have all had reported successes in helping couples get pregnant. I can vouch for that, we did everything (except the hypnotherapy, but we used that for childbirth!) and we got pregnant the first time we tried, but of course that was after four months of detoxing, and a whole year of research and preparation before that. Normally I wouldn't recommend trying so many different tactics, but there's no harm done here (except for the cost) because all of these things (especially the detox) will help your general health and wellbeing, even if you could have gotten pregnant without doing it all.
The other things which have become more mainstream (and are recommended by Bayer) are to stop not just smoking, but to also give up alcohol and caffeine before you start trying. They point out that high caffeine intake can stop a fertilized egg implanting. It's not just women who have to cut out the bad stuff, it goes for men too, caffeine can increase sperm DNA damage and smoking and alcohol also reduce sperm quality. This is not some crazy health-nut idea, this is a major multi-national pharmaceutical company telling you this: if you're thinking about getting pregnant, or having trouble getting pregnant, then try cutting out alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine. I would add to that to replace all of your household and personal products with safe, natural, certified organic versions, such as miessence and Seventh Generation. It also helps to eat fresh, local, organic whole foods, sleep well, get plenty of exercise, fresh air and good sleep. Stress can actually play as big a part in (not) getting pregnant as anything else I've mentioned. So make some big changes, but try not to stress about them :-) Your body, your baby and the planet will thank you!