Updated: Jul 21
Whilst many of us know the importance of pregnancy diet and routine, most of us are unaware of the importance of pre-conception care, which I believe is even more important than pregnancy care itself.
Ayurveda recommends that couples start preparing for baby for at least a year prior to conceiving, which usually includes panchakarma (detoxification therapies) followed by rejuvenating therapies, not only to enhance fertility but also to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby!
We live in an environment where we are surrounded by toxins, through air, water, food, and products. Some of them, once inside the body, stay forever deep into our tissues. Ayurveda says that toxins are also created internally, usually due to a low digestive fire, and is the cause of most of our diseases.
An American study found 287 toxins in the umbilical cord of babies.
In a study for the Environment Working Group in the United States two major laboratories tested the cord of 10 newborn babies for 413 chemicals. They found that the blood in the babies’ cords contained more than 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants. As cord blood reflects what is being carried through the placenta, this shows that man-made chemicals that have entered the women’s bodies are being passed directly to the unborn baby.
Whilst we thought the placenta shielded the baby from the environment, this study found an astonishing 287 chemicals in newborn's umbilical cord blood:
180 are carcinogenic
217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system
208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.
Read the study here.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Cause cancer and nervous system problems.
Industrial insulators and lubricants. Banned in the U.S. in 1976. Persist for decades in the environment. Accumulate up the food chain, to man.
Highly neurotoxic metal that is strongly linked to permanent brain and nervous system damage as well as behavior and learning difficulties, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing and reproductive problems and nerve disorders). Increase risk for miscarriage. Cause the baby to be born too early or too small.
Lead based paint, old water pipelines, antique jewellery, old toys, even soil, dust, lead-glazed dishes/ceramics/china, batteries, radiators for cars and trucks
Polychlorinated Naphthalenes (PCNs)
Cause liver and kidney damage.
Wood preservatives, varnishes, machine lubricating oils, waste incineration. Common PCB contaminant. Contaminate the food chain.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
Adversely affects brain development and the thyroid.
Flame retardant in furniture foam, computers, and televisions. Accumulates in the food chain and human tissues.
Organochlorine pesticides (OCs)
Cause cancer and numerous reproductive effects.
DDT, chlordane and other pesticides. Largely banned in the U.S. Persist for decades in the environment. Accumulate up the food chain, to man
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)
Linked to cancer, birth defects, and more.
Active ingredients or breakdown products of Teflon, Scotchgard, fabric and carpet protectors, food wrap coatings. Global contaminants. Accumulate in the environment and the food chain.
Neurotoxin that impedes development of the brain and nervous system)
Pollutant from coal-fired power plants, mercury-containing products, and certain industrial processes. Accumulates in seafood.
Linked to cancer.
Pollutants from burning gasoline and garbage. Accumulates in food chain.
Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans (PCDD/F)
Cause cancer in humans. Persist for decades in the environment. Very toxic to developing endocrine (hormone) system.
Pollutants, by-products of PVC production, industrial bleaching, and incineration
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
Linked to birth defects, cancer, kidney disease, liver problems and other health issues. Added to make products resist water, stains and heat. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, and accumulate in human bodies and the environment.
In meat, fish, dairy, crops and processed foods, everyday consumer products, like nonstick cookware, food packaging, waterproof clothing, stainguards like Scotchgard and some dental floss.
Whilst the mother might not yet develop symptoms, exposure to toxins within the womb can have adverse effects on the development and growth of the foetus, whose detox organs are not fully developed and is at its vulnerable stage of his life. Indeed, research shows that carcinogens average 10 times the potency for babies than adults, and that some chemicals are up to 65 times more powerful!
These toxic chemicals may be most impactful especially in the first few weeks (3 to 12 weeks) where cells start multiplying and differentiating into various organs: spine, brain, heart, stomach, lungs, arms legs etc.
This study clearly states that these toxins can, at high levels, wreak havoc in the form of severe birth defects, or at lower levels cause subtle but important changes in development that surface later in childhood as learning or behavioural problems, or in adulthood have an impact on cognitive function, reproductive function, changes in weight, eczema, altered glucose balance and even cancer.
Alarming, isn't it? Following this, many studies today have detected more and more toxins in newborn and even in miscarried foetuses who carried so many toxic chemicals. So the question is, what can we do?
First of all, we have to limit our exposure to toxins by
Switching to organic foods, vegetables and fruits who will have less herbicides, insecticides and pesticides and will be more nutritious
Reduce/cut out all processed foods which are loaded with man-made toxic chemicals. Simple rule is to avoid buying anything that is packaged.
Be cautious about what you apply on your skin. The simple rule is to avoid anything you cannot eat. This is one reason I created a beauty brand with organic and 100% safe ingredients.
Avoid plastic containers/bottles or any plastic packaged foods, and definitely avoid heating food in plastic containers into the microwave as micro plastics can leach into the food.
Use safe pans / pots in your kitchen. Teflon and non stick coating may be toxic (many contradicting studies online!). To be on the safe side, stainless steel and cast iron are always the best options. By the way, if your non stick pan is scratched, you should stop using it.
Make your own cleaning products. You can check my blog on zero-waste living here
Introduce plants into your home that purifiy the indoor air such as snake plants, aloe vera, peace lillies, dracenea, english ivy or spider plants. Studies show that indoor pollution is 2 to 5 times more than outdoor pollution, so make sure to open windows regularly.
Avoid air freshners and scented candles as they contain hazardous chemicals, affecting the lungs and liver, even affecting our immune system. Instead, diffuse essential oils and keep flowers around your house.
Second of all, an ayurvedic cleanse is advised to get rid of toxins that are already into your body. The best times to cleanse is spring and autumn. Read about simple ways to detox here. For a deeper detox before conception, continue reading until the end.
In Ayurveda, ama (toxins) in Ayurveda is a sticky and heavy substance that can coat cellular membranes, tissues inside the body and block pathways. It can also make conception difficult.
Heavy to digest foods (meat, fish, eggs, cheese...)
Highly processed foods (sugar, salt, oil...)
Irregular eating / sleeping habits
The presence of a toxic overload can be detected with a thick coating on the tongue, indigestion, constipation, poor immunity, fatigue, insomnia, pains and aches in the body, puffy eyes and lack of appetite. Obviously, any disease or medical condition is the manifestation of accumulation of toxins over many years. Therefore, a regular cleanse is recommended (once or twice a year), however a specific cleanse is advised before conceiving for both parents.
Benefits of an ayurvedic fertility cleanse
Research has demonstrated that undergoing a detox can have a positive impact on your reproductive health. Choosing a specialised detoxification approach specifically designed for reproductive health can greatly enhance your metabolic system and improve the functioning of your reproductive organs, thereby facilitating easier conception.
Furthermore, Ayurveda believes that a detox prior to pregnancy can substantially decrease the risk of newborn diseases and for the mother, make pregnancy and postpartum easier.
Additionally, a proper cleanse may contribute to the improvement of sperm or egg quality, leading to higher success rates in conceiving.
Ideally, a 3 months cleanse would be ideal if you have the time. This is time an egg takes to mature before ovulation. Women are born with a specific ovarian reserve (made in the mother's womb) which is continuously lost. Whilst we cannot change the egg reserve, we can improve the egg quality through the cleanse.
An ayurvedic preconception plan also includes a 'rejuvenation' phase after the cleanse, in which nourishing foods are taken to enhance Ojas (immunity) and ultimately fertility. There is a specific branch in Ayurveda called Vajikarna (the science of aphrodisiacs), which studies herbs, foods and therapies that specifically deal with sexual performance and fertility of both men and women. Blog post on Rejuvenation coming soon.
If you planning to conceive, join my Fertility and Conception program, a step by step process to maximize your chances to get pregnant naturally:
Slow Cleansing (40 days or more) where you start eliminating processed foods, introduce ayurvedic rituals and healthy eating habits and heal imbalances.
Intense home cleansing, a 10 day cleanse specially with recipes designed to bring all the toxins lodged into the tissues (uterus, liver etc) into the GI tract so they are easily eliminated through the colon
Rejuvenation (40 days or more) : introduce nutritious foods, herbs and rituals that directly nourish the reproductive system to make it super fertile and elevate the satva guna (purity in body, mind and soul) to attract a soul with high consciousness
Conscious conception - how, where and when to perform the sacred act according to vedic guidelines.
I have designed this program according to ayurvedic guidelines that both you and your partner can comfortably follow at home.