Preparing To Get Pregnant? Now Is The Time to Optimize Your Health

By TJ Williams, DC, PhD

As many of you know, I’m the father of two. These blessings didn’t come without struggles. I’ve lived through recurrent pregnancy loss and other complications, which has given me the opportunity to learn more about how the health of the parents affect fertility and any future pregnancy. Because of my experiences, I’m passionate about helping others in this phase of life. I want you to know that, if you’re thinking of conceiving, there’s a lot you can do to help with fertility, successful pregnancy outcomes, and the health of your precious baby.

One of the most important things you and your partner can do is limit your exposure to toxic chemicals. We live in a toxic world where exposures to chemicals and heavy metals are pervasive. They’re in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the personal care products we slather on our skin every single day.

A 2004 study detected 287 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of babies, including mercury, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Of those chemicals, 180 are known carcinogens, 217 are neurotoxins, and 208 are known to cause birth defects or developmental abnormalities in animal studies. In another study, randomly selected samples of cord blood tested positive nine of ten times for bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial petrochemical and synthetic estrogen used in plastics. Does this seem a little overwhelming or shocking? That’s because it is and not enough parents are warned about it.

While exposure to the exact chemical cocktail referenced in the 2004 study above has never formally been studied before and after pregnancy, there is no doubt that the presence of that many harmful toxins in cord blood samples is a bad thing. We know that a growing fetus is uniquely vulnerable to mom’s toxic exposures through placental transfer. Exposures to toxins in the womb are linked to lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, neurobehavioral disorders like autism, and more. In 2018, The Endocrine Society presented research on how exposure to BPA during pregnancy, even at very low levels, can lead to altered brain development and behavior of offspring later in life.

Environmental toxins can also affect fertility, egg health, and semen quality in a big way. In the Scientific Statement of The Endocrine Society, they present loads of evidence that endocrine disrupting chemicals have negative effects on the male and female reproductive system. Endocrine disruptors are implicated in a whole host of hormonal issues and reproductive disorders in women including:

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS);
  • Premature ovarian failure (POF);
  • Decreased ovarian reserve;
  • Uterine fibroids;
  • Endometriosis;
  • Ectopic pregnancy; and
  • Disruption of female reproductive tract development.

If you are thinking of conceiving in the future, we recommend starting to work with a functional medicine doctor. Ideally, give yourself at least a year to prep your body for conception. However, we also work with many couples who are already trying to conceive naturally or are currently going through fertility treatments. No matter what stage you are in, working with a functional medicine practitioner can help ensure the healthiest pregnancy, and baby, possible.

If you would like more information regarding any of the treatments, therapies, or services offered at The Institute of Natural Health, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at INHSTL.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 2:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.