Here at Poplin, we are all about preconception care. In fact, we think it’s just as important as prenatal care.
Preconception care includes interventions before getting pregnant, usually one year prior to conception.
Prenatal care includes interventions conducted during pregnancy.
Many of the principles that apply to prenatal care also apply to preconception care: take prenatal vitamins, move your body regularly, manage stress levels, eat a whole foods diet, etc. However, there are two things that you may consider prior to pregnancy, but that would not be safe during pregnancy.
We all have a toxic body burden. For some of us, that burden is quite heavy. For others, it is not that bad. If you suspect that your toxic burden is an issue, we would encourage you to consider doing a detox at least 6 months prior to conceiving (ideally longer if your toxic burden is substantial) with the support of a skilled practitioner.
Detoxing your body of toxic compounds can be an important component of preconception care. A study by the Environmental Working Group identified over 200 industrial compounds and pollutants in a sample of newborn babies’ umbilical cord blood. This means that some percentage of a mother’s toxic body burden is being transferred to her baby. Because of this, detoxing prior to pregnancy can help minimize the transfer of toxic compounds from mama to baby.
Why can’t you detox during pregnancy?
Because during the detox process, many compounds actually become more potent and harmful prior to being excreted from the body, so you want to take it slowly. And, it takes quite some time for your blood levels to normalize again after slowly releasing these toxins from your body; you wouldn’t want your baby to be exposed to such powerful, detrimental substances for any period of time. It’s just too risky.
Pregnancy is not the time to be stressing about your love handles. Seriously.
Yes, there is an optimal BMI range for pregnancy, which is aligned with the “normal” BMI range from 18.5 - 25 (Note: we are not huge fans of BMI measurements since they grossly oversimplify body mass, but they are the guidelines we have to work with for now. Body fat is a better indicator and would ideally be somewhere around 18-26%, depending on age, body type and other health parameters). We also know that being overweight or underweight can pose serious health risks for you and your baby.
However, trying to lose weight during pregnancy causes two main problems.
First, if you try to limit your food intake to control your weight, your body will preferentially “feed” your body over your baby’s body. If there isn’t enough nutrition to go around, your body will use the nutrition that is available for your needs first. We know this because there have been several studies that have shown newborns with vitamin or mineral deficiencies while their mothers don’t present with these same vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Therefore, if you artificially restrict calories during pregnancy, your baby is likely not to have sufficient nutrition to grow and will likely not develop normally.
Second, many toxins are stored in our fat tissue. When we lose weight, these toxins (such as persistent organic pollutants) are liberated into our bloodstream. For the reasons mentioned above, we don’t want this to be happening during pregnancy.
Given this, if you need to address your weight, do it BEFORE you get pregnant.
In summary, detoxing and dieting are two practices that may be helpful before you get pregnant, but would not be appropriate while you are pregnant.