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The Road to Healthy Pregnancy

Reproductive Health Reproductive Health

Ensuring a healthy pregnancy starts with proper preconception care for both women and men—supporting fertility in both sexes with the right diet and appropriate supplementation.

The foundation for any successful pregnancy starts by supporting a woman’s reproductive system, nourishing it with adequate nutrition and seeking proper medical care—even before conception. Encouraging preconception care for women of reproductive age can improve pregnancy-related outcomes. There have been numerous advances in medicine and prenatal care, yet birth outcomes in the United States are worse than many developing countries—such as having a low birth weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States there are 12.4 births per 1,000 population and 18 percent of the babies born in the U.S. have a low birth weight.

With that said, paying a yearly visit to see the OB/GYN can help to better establish preconception health. In a 2011 review by the Kaiser Family Foundation, it was reported that two-thirds of women paid at least one visit to their OB/GYN—a fairly popular visit for women in their reproductive years. Yes, frequenting the doctor during the year is a factor in boosting reproductive health, but so is practicing health-promoting activities that involve a person’s attitudes and behaviors. The creation of a reproductive life plan for women is also another driving force in supporting reproductive health prior to pregnancy.

A reproductive health plan works to identify a woman’s goal about becoming pregnant. Questions that encompass a plan are: “Do you use any contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancy?” or “When would you like to become pregnant?” Close to half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and many women now are waiting to have children until their 30s or 40s. And of that age group, 12 percent of married women have trouble getting pregnant or maintaining a pregnancy. Due to this more women are becoming proactive with their fertility by using at-home diagnostic tools, basal temperature charting, and fertility supplementation. Suzanne Munson, vice president of product development at Fairhaven Health in Washington said, “The CDC also reports that 6.7 million women in the United States aged 15-44 have an impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to full term.” In a nutshell: age impacts fertility levels not just in women, but men also.

Age doesn’t just pose as a factor in getting pregnant, but so does the prevalence of certain toxins we encounter during our daily lives. These toxins are known as “endocrine distributors,” which are chemicals that interrupt normal hormonal function. Egg health in women declines with age and can be negatively influenced by these toxins. As for men, Munson stated, “Sperm health is impacted by age and exposure to toxins, manifesting in low sperm count, low sperm motility, abnormal shape and size of sperm, and DNA fragmentation—all of which impacts the ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg and create a healthy embryo.”

Fertility Boosting Supplements

When fertility troubles arise, couples are on autopilot to travel down the road of invasive tests and hormone-altering medications. It’s not only emotionally taxing but financially as well. That’s why Fairhaven Health has developed a line of supplements that target couples who are seeking fertility treatment. The company has been supplying retailers and clinical facilities with products since 2005. It got its start in 2003 after partnering with leading fertility expert and OB/GYN, Amos Grunebaum. FairHaven Health offers 12 fertility-boosting products for both men and women.

FertilAid for Women is an all-natural, non-prescription, patented formula that is made with a blend of herbal ingredients and essential vitamins to promote female hormonal balance and overall reproductive health. And FertilAid for Men is formulated with ingredients—antioxidants, vitamins and l-carnitine—that support male fertility and enhance overall reproductive health. According to the company, it’s ideal for men who have a low sperm count or for those who are looking to improve their sexual health. Healthy sperm doesn’t just depend on the quantity of sperm but also the quality—meaning sperm’s motility and speed. Having healthy sperm motility allows sperm to live and move through the uterus to the fallopian tube—ultimately penetrating the superficial layer of the ovum and fertilizing the egg.

As mentioned before, toxins can negatively impact both men and women’s reproductive health. FertileDetox, also by Fairhaven Health works to detoxify the body by removing any toxic compounds that hinder reproductive health. These toxins can be found in the food we eat to cleaning supplies that we use on a daily basis—making our liver and intestines work harder to expel these compounds. FertileDetox is designed to be taken with FertileAid for Men/Women. To name a few, FertileDetox is made with milk thistle, calcium d-glucarate, and a group of amino acids (n-acetyl-cysteine, l-glycine, and l-glutamine). Milk thistle has the capability of reproducing liver cells and aiding the liver in removing toxins while calcium d-glucarate helps the liver remove fat-soluble toxins by reducing the activity of beta-glucoronidase. Beta-glucoronidase is an enzyme that supports the reabsorption of toxic chemicals. Last but not least, the amino acids play a vital role in the synthesis of glutathione; this antioxidant binds to fat-soluble toxins so that they are excreted more readily.

And for those who would rather not swallow a pill, Fairheaven Health has FertilTea and ViriliTea, which are herbal teas designed to promote reproductive health and sex drive in men and women.

Body Fat’s Influence

It has been seen that low and high percentages of body fat are linked to a reduction in fertility in both men and women. The reason: body fat alters hormone levels because it’s responsible for producing estrogen, androgens, and leptin—all hormones that effect the reproductive process. When estrogen, androgens and leptin levels change in women, amenorrhea and a short luteal phase can occur.

It’s thought that 30 percent of fertility cases are negatively impacted because of a drastic drop in weight. As for men, a plummet in weight can significantly impact testosterone levels—the hormone that’s responsible for sex drive and sperm production.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 33 percent of women who can become pregnant are considered obese and 62 percent are overweight. A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher indicates obese and a BMI over 26 signifies someone being overweight. Women who fall into either category or have a significant amount of body fat can also have elevated levels of estrogen.

The extra abundance of estrogen can interfere with the ovulation cycle. Excess body fat can also negatively influence the luteal phase; this phase is when fertilization and implementation occurs, lasting for 14 days. When extra body fat is present, progesterone levels can be lowered—hindering the development of the uterine lining and thus resulting in inadequate ovulation. And in men, extra body fat will depress testosterone production and there will actually be more estrogen present.

It’s also more difficult for a woman who has a high body fat percentage to conceive through in vitro fertilization. And those who are overweight or obese at the time of conception have an increased risk of having a child with a structural defect such as spina bifida and neural tube defects (NTDs).

With all that being said, diet and weight should be a part of the reproductive health plan for both men and women. Entering preconception at a healthy weight can prevent any of the problems mentioned above and it also increases fertility in both sexes.

Quality vs. Quantity

As for the diet portion, women who are hoping to eat for pink or blue need to keep a watchful eye with what’s being piled on to their plate. For starters when it comes to foods, it’s quality versus quantity. That means going for the complex carb instead of the white potato. Then from there it’s determining how much can be put on to a person’s plate, such as cutting back on the portions to lose weight in hopes of boosting fertility. Once that foundation is set, it’s time to iron out any unnecessary food tendencies such as going for the junk food stash. Cutting back on sugary or greasy food items can help the baby cause—ultimately regulating ovulation. The reason: junk foods can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, which leads to an increased insulin level—interrupting the equilibrium of reproductive hormones that’s needed for reproduction.

Incorporating foods that are rich in calcium, protein, healthy fats and iron will benefit the baby-making production. For calcium foods women should not only look for dairy products but calcium-fortified juices, nuts, green leafy vegetables and soy products. As for protein it’s recommended to choose lean cuts like chicken, turkey and fish (avoiding ones that are high in mercury) because they’re fertility-friendly. Iron is typically the topic of conversation at the doctor’s office because iron-deficiency anemia can interrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle—making it harder to conceive. Lean meats and leafy greens are prime iron-rich food sources. And to keep insulin levels from spiking, complex carbohydrates will ensure that reproductive hormones are in check. Bonus: complex carbohydrates are high in the pro-pregnancy nutrient, folic acid. And healthy fats will feed the body with the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

The Right Prenatal Plan

Yes, a sound diet should be the first route for providing proper nutrition to all women of childbearing age, but a smart supplementation plan can play an important role. Marci Clow who has a master of science and is a registered dietitian-nutritionist for California-based Rainbow Light said, “Folic acid, iron, and calcium are three key nutrients which can help support a pregnancy.” The company has been manufacturing supplements for both the retail and practitioner markets for more than 30 years.

Folic acid is a major pro-pregnancy nutrient because it prevents birth defects of the brain and spinal cord—neural tube defects. Clow stated, “The neural tube is the embryonic structure that develops into the brain and spinal cord. It starts out as a tiny ribbon of tissue, and by the 28th day a spinal cord is beginning to form When this process goes awry and the neural tube does not close properly, NTDs can result. Folic acid is intricately involved in this process and has also been seen to help prevent other birth defects including cleft lip and palate.” Folic acids also aid in the development of new blood cells in the mother.

When a woman eventually becomes pregnant, iron plays a critical role during the second and third trimester because it’s needed to produce hemoglobin in both maternal and fetal red blood cells. Clow said, “The blood volume of the pregnant woman increases by about 50 percent from conception to 8 ½ months of pregnancy.”

Calcium doesn’t just help build strong bones, it also works to decrease pre-term delivery and reduce leg cramps. Hormonal changes within a pregnant woman can also impede calcium metabolism. And interestingly enough, “The body will attempt to compensate for chronically low intake levels of calcium by making the existing calcium in the mother’s bones more bioavailable to the fetus,” stated Clow.

Prenatal One by Rainbow Light is a multivitamin that covers all of those three nutrients—800 micrograms of folic and acid 30 milligrams of iron. It was designed to surpass purity, potency, and bioavailability of over-the-counter and prescription prenatal products. It’s a food and herbal-based product that includes red raspberry, fresh ginger juice and organic spirulina.

And for women who are over the age of 35, Rainbow light has developed Embrace Prenatal 35+. This supplement has a complete multivitamin profile while addressing key concerns for women of this age group. It contains bioflavonoid blend that supports the microcirculatory system for healthy blood pressure and circulation while specific nutrients maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

The right multivitamin supplement should also be stacked with an omega-3 supplement—Prenatal DHA Smart Essentials from Rainbow Light. Prenatal DHA Smart Essentials is composed of pure omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that support brain function and cognitive development. Clow said, “The pharmaceutical grade fish oils are sustainably derived from sustainable anchovy, sardine and have U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) verification, which is the most rigorous quality assurance verification available.”

Overall Monthly Cycle Care

Irritability, food cravings, fatigue and back pain are all signs that a friend is about to pay a monthly visit. Menstrual periods are uncomfortable and unwanted by most women. Yet, a regular monthly visit indicates that a women’s body is healthy and it’s a clear indicator of no pregnancy. But those who are not looking to have a baby any time soon are simply looking to alleviate the discomforting period symptoms.

Oregon-based Vitanica offers Menstrual Cycle Support. Vitanica is a dietary supplement company that has been existence for 21 years and offers natural products. The company came to the forefront after Dr. Tori Hudson established her clinical practice. Vitanica offers more than 70 products with 12 support categories.

Within that category is Cramp Bark Extra, which is composed of a safe and supportive formula that reduces unwanted muscle cramps. OC Companion promotes enhanced hormone metabolism, and it’s made to be taken with oral contraceptives.

A heavy menstrual flow can also be a burden by limiting physical activity and make a woman feel more self-conscious. Slow Flow by Vitanica is formulated with astringent herbs; ginger and uterine tonics to support a normal period flow. Women’s Phase 1 was developed using clinical evidence and research in herbal medicine and nutrition to support a woman’s cycle from mid-cycle to the start of menses.

For More Information:
Fairhaven Health, (800) 367-2837, www.fairhavenhealth.com
Rainbow Light, (866) 972-6989, www.rainbowlight.com
Vitanica, (800) 572-4712, www.vitanica.com

References:

“Birth and Natality.” FastStats. N.p., 2013. Web. 09 Sept. 2015. www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm.

Johnson, Kay, Samuel Posner, and Janis Biermann. “A Report of the CDC/ATSDR Preconception Care Work Group and the Select Panel on Preconception Care.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Apr. 2006. Web. 10 Sept. 2015. www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5506a1.htm.

“Preconception Care to Improve Women’s Health and Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes.” PsycEXTRA Dataset (n.d.): n. pag. Preconception Health and Health Care. Web. 09 Sept. 2015. www.cdc.gov/preconception/documents/rlphealthproviders.pdf.

Ranji, Usha, and Alina Salganicoff. “Women’s Health: Findings from the California Women’s Health Survey, 1997-2003.” PsycEXTRA Dataset (2006): n. pag. Kaiser Family Foundation. May 2011. Web. 09 Sept. 2015. https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/8164.pdf.

Ward, Elizabeth M., RD. “Prime the Body for Pregnancy – Preconception Care and Nutrition for Moms-to-Be.” Prime the Body for Pregnancy – Preconception Care and Nutrition for Moms-to-Be. N.p., Dec. 2008. Web. 09 Sept. 2015. www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/120108p26.shtml.