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  • Writer's pictureKim Atherton

Preconception Care & Methylation

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Preconception Care is the provision of health interventions to both partners at a minimum of 3-4 months prior to pregnancy to support healthy conception and fertility outcomes, for a smooth pregnancy and robust offspring. Additionally, it can minimise unnecessary fertility treatments, pregnancy complications and pre-term births.

Additionally, understanding you and your partners Methylation Status, prior to conception can be important to ensure the best possible outcome for your offspring. Methylation is a biochemical process, that amongst many tasks, is involved in DNA regulation. By looking after our health prior to conception, and ensuring methylation works well, we can do our best to create good health outcomes for our offspring.

We also create good health outcomes for our children's offspring! The current understanding is that female offspring are born with their entire lifetime supply of eggs, and while male offspring are not born with sperm they are born with immature stem cells that can produce sperm after puberty. Preconception care is therefore very important.

Picture of sperm swimming towards an egg in fertilisation
Sperm fertilising an egg in conception requires good Preconception Care.

Preconception Care focus & Methylation testing

Preconception care focus and Methylation testing is around a few key areas:

1. Focus on nutrition

  • Eat nutritionally dense, whole foods with diversity, and organic choices wherever possible

  • Eat adequate Protein (animal sources including oily fish, and plant sources)

  • Consume essential fats - our bodies can't manufacture them

  • Eat complex carbohydrates for high fibre, and low glycaemic load inclusions

  • Eat the Rainbow of natural foods for antioxidant rich choices

  • Drink filtered water (approximately 2L/ day)

  • Eat warm and easily digestible foods

  • The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to improve the chances of achieving a successful pregnancy

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Track ovulation with ovulation kits, monitoring ovulatory mucous, and via Basal Body Temperature charts (there is one available in my Resources section)

2. Avoid harmful substances

The listed substances are harmful and can all affect fertility and increase risk of complications.

  • Alcohol

  • Smoking and vaping

  • Recreational drugs

  • Unnecessary pharmaceutical medications

  • Environmental Chemicals and Heavy Metals - reduce the accumulated exposure to plastic bottles and containers, and heavy metals like lead and mercury. Choose organic foods where possible to avoid pesticides.

  • Household Cleanup - minimise your exposure to chemical cleaning products, and fragranced products

3. Gentle Exercise Inclusion

  • Builds muscle mass

  • Regulates ovulation

  • Supports sperm production

  • Strengthens libido

  • Ensures mental resilience

  • Supports the musculoskeletal system which becomes essential when ligaments become relaxed during pregnancy and for carrying weight gain during pregnancy, and weight of baby post birth

  • Positive effects on metabolism

4. Minimise Stress of all varieties

  • Physical

  • Mental

  • Emotional

5. Pathology Testing

Typically occurs via your G.P. (although a General Wellness Screen can be conducted via a Naturopath)

  • General Wellness Tests including FBC, UEC, LFT, Iron studies, Active B12, Folate, Full Thyroid Panel, Haemoglobin electrophoresis for hereditary blood disorders, Blood group and antibody screen, Vitamin D, Fasting Lipid studies, Fasting glucose, insulin and HbA1c, Reproductive Hormones (listed in the table below),

  • Your G.P. will screen your antibody levels for immunity and also for infectious disease to Measles Mumps Rubella, Varicella Zoster Virus, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis A, B, and C, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), HIV, Syphilis, Cytomegalovirus (CMV,) Parvovirus, Toxoplasmosis status as well as a Urine culture and sensitivity. Pap smear and HPV screening should be up to date.

  • Preconception screening for Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), Cystic Fibrosis (CF), Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is rebatable under Medicare through your G.P.

6. Methylation status

In addition to the tests mentioned, an important area to focus on in your preconception plan is your Methylation status. Methylation regulates the formation of the sperm and egg, the development of the embryo and the placenta. Miscarriages can occur due to genetic issues with methylation.

'Methylation is a first-line essential biochemical process in the transmission of life, playing a critical role in the modification of DNA. It is involved in regulating gametogenesis, embryonic and placental growth'. Poor methylation leads to poor Glutathione production (which is the body's major antioxidant). With poor antioxidant status, we can see poor ability to 'anti-oxidise.' This spells trouble for our bodies.

Therefore understanding you and your partners methylation status prior to conception becomes of importance to ensure the best possible outcome for your offspring. Methylation status can be positively improved through diet and lifestyle amendments, and the correct supplementation. Various tests are available to determine your genetic predisposition, along with functionally (epigenetically) how well methylation is occurring in your body.

'Healthy biochemistry results in healthy cellular function which ultimately results in healthy children. On the other hand, impairments in biochemical pathways result in increased risk of tongue ties, birth defects, speech delay, autism and ADHD'.

It is documented that '90% of children diagnosed with autism have methylation impairments'

Methylation is a complex topic and is covered in another blog found at:

Importantly: Ensure you speak to a naturopath who understands methylation well and who can order the correct tests, interpret the results, and then ensure you get the correct supplementation to ensure your body's biochemical pathways are working optimally. This is for both partners in preconception care.

6. Supplementation

It is important you speak to a qualified naturopath, or healthcare practitioner to understand the correct forms of supplement, and correct doses to ensure methylation occurs correctly, and that you are not overdosing.

Reproductive Hormones

The below chart highlights what is happening with both the menstrual cycle and ovarian cycle during the month, so you can see where the hormones interplay. For additional information please read my blog:

Chart showing both menstrual and ovarian cycles
Menstrual and Ovarian Cycles

If you would like to discuss your preconception plans further, or discuss methylation and how it relates to you, and your testing options, then please don't hesitate to make a booking with me.

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The information provided in this blog/article/handout is for your personal or other non-commercial, educational purposes. It should not be considered as medical or professional advice. We recommend you consult with a GP or other healthcare professional before taking or omitting to take any action based on this blog/article/handout. While the author uses best endeavours to provide accurate and true content, the author makes no guarantees or promises and assumes no liability regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information presented. The information, opinions, and recommendations presented in this blog/article/handout are for general information only and any reliance on the information provided in this blog/article/handout is done at your own risk. Any third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced in this blog/article/handout do not necessarily reflect the author’s opinion, standards or policies and the author does not assume any liability for them whatsoever.

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