Did you know that the health of your unborn child is directly influenced by you and your spouse and that the both of you are the ones who will set the direction of your child\u2019s wellbeing in life? Indeed, having a baby and raising that child to be a healthy, well-adjusted, productive and contributing citizen of the nation is a huge responsibility. It starts with the both of you taking action to lay the right foundation for him from the get go. There\u2019s a term for this health plan. It\u2019s called Preconception Care and it is the single most important thing parents-to-be need to do before even trying for a baby. What is Preconception Care? The World Health Organisation gives you a definition: \u201cPreconception care is the provision of biomedical, behavioural and social health interventions to women and couples before conception occurs. It aims at improving their health status, and reducing behaviours and individual and environmental factors that contribute to poor maternal and child health outcomes. Its ultimate aim is to improve maternal and child health, in both the short and long term.\u201d A report in NCBI further stresses the point: \u201cSince the most critical period for organ development occurs before many women even know they are pregnant, the first contact with antenatal care is often too late for advice about health-promoting changes in lifestyle. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence that\u00a0women\u2019s, and also men\u2019s, health and lifestyle before conception can affect pregnancy outcomes. Globally, at least four out of 10 women report that their pregnancies were unplanned, highlighting the need for population-wide approaches for evidence-based preconception care. Women with chronic diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), diabetes, hypertension, and obesity face unique reproductive planning challenges.\u201d Irene\u2019s nutrition tips in Nanyang Siang Pau. A Naturopath explains Preconception Care Irene Lok, a registered naturopath, medical herbalist and acupuncturist who owns and runs a natural health clinic in Auckland, New Zealand, was recently in KL to speak to Kwong Wah Daily as well as Nanyang Siang Pau about the importance of detoxification as a permanent means to wellness. Her areas of specialisation are in chronic diseases \u2013 metabolic syndrome, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, hormonal imbalances, obesity and chronic diseases leading to infertility or unhealthy pregnancies. She speaks to Motherhood about Preconception Care and why it is important to parents-to-be to optimise their own health before trying for a baby. A Bit About Irene Lok & Naturopathy Irene Lok Irene\u2019s clinic in New Zealand specialises in naturopathy \u2500 a natural health method that treats disharmony and imbalances in the body by using natural herbs, food, nutrition and relaxation. A key feature of naturopathy is the holistic approach to the patient where treatments are highly individualized to the specific needs of the patient. Irene came into naturopathy because of a twist of fate. She was originally a chartered accountant. When her father suddenly died less than 20 days upon his diagnosis of liver cancer in 2003, she realised that by the time a disease is diagnosed, it is often too late. So she embarked on a mission to find the key to health. To find it, she went back to the drawing board and went back to tertiary studies in nutrition, naturopathy and herbal medicine. After five years, she completed her Bachelor of Health Science in Complementary Medicine, Diploma in Naturopathy and Diploma in Herbal Medicine. She has since been running her natural health clinic in New Zealand for more than 10 years now. In the course of this time, she consulted over 12,000 chronic disease cases from around the world, including treating infertility and teaching the importance of Preconception Care. Last year, Irene decided to transfer her knowledge of naturopathy and herbal supplementation to her Malaysian partners. Malaysians can now find access to Irene\u2019s expertise at www.medsonat.com. Irene\u2019s story of her decision to become a Naturopathic Nutritional Consultant in Kwong Wah Daily. Exponential Growth of Foetal Mass in 1st Trimester \u201cHaving a baby is a joint decision made by prospective mums and dads,\u201d she says.\u00a0 \u201cMost of the time, you do not know that you are pregnant until you are six weeks along in your pregnancy.\u00a0 In the first trimester of pregnancy, foetal mass increases 2.5million times!\u00a0 This phenomenal rate of growth requires high amount of nutrients to support the growth.\u00a0 It is also the time when the foetus is most vulnerable to toxin damage and defect.\u201d The instant the sperm and egg combine, a genetic blueprint is formed for the future development of the baby (Image Credit: freepik\/free-photos-vectors\/Designed by rawpixel.com) In her New Zealand website Nutriactionz, she explains that the instant the sperm and egg combine, a genetic blueprint is formed for the future development of the baby. The health of the egg and the sperm is therefore of crucial importance. After conception, the growth of the embryo is so rapid that unless all the nutrient building blocks are there, ready and waiting, vital stages of development can be compromised. There is solid scientific evidence that a child's start in life and health is linked to the health of both the parents, she further says.\u00a0Preconception Care is thus work done before you and your spouse try to get pregnant.\u00a0 Why is it important? Health of Baby & 3 Generations Influenced By You & Spouse Why is Preconception Care important? Irene says: \tThe health of you and your spouse directly influences your child\u2019s health and the health of the following three generations \tPrenatal health determines the quality of the genetic material of your baby, as these genetic codes are contained in the egg and sperm \tThe demands of daily life may make your nutritional intake less than optimal, so making sure that you are in peak health is important.\u00a0 If you have fatigue, brain fog, digestive disturbances, skin issues, blood pressure issues, increased blood sugar or simply overweight, address these problems before you try to get pregnant, during the preconception care period. \tThe spinal tube of the foetus closes on days 27 and 28, when most women do not even know they are pregnant. If there is a deficiency in folic acid, vitamin B12 and zinc, the baby would suffer from a neural tube defect. Of course folic acid is not the only nutrient required for a healthy baby. You need to ensure that your body is fit to reproduce successfully if you have prepared it well for several months before conception. Sperm Health & Contribution to Pregnancy The health of the sperm and ova are essential to foetal development. Mum and Dad contribute 50% each of the DNA of the baby (Image Credit: freepik\/free-photos-vectors\/medical created by kjpargeter) \tThe health of the sperm and ova are essential to foetal development. Many men are unaware of their role and how critical their contribution is to the health of the pregnancy and foetus. Here\u2019s why: \tThe sperm is the smallest cell in the body.\u00a0 Sperm mobility and motility affects the ability of a couple to hold a healthy pregnancy to term.\u00a0 If the prospective dad has had high exposure to toxins through food, environment, work, chemicals or drugs, or a metabolic syndrome such as high blood pressure, or is prediabetic or diabetic, or overweight, it is important that he detoxifies the toxins, and balances his metabolic syndrome before conception.\u00a0 This is what Preconception Care is all about. \tContrary to old belief that pregnancy is just all about the mum, dad contributes 50% of the DNA, and because sperm is more vulnerable than eggs due to their development taking place wholly within the present existing environment, sperm becomes prone to oxidative stress, damage and volume.\u00a0 It is absolutely critical that prospective dads with any chronic illness or high exposure to toxins go through a thorough detoxification programme before falling pregnant. \tIt takes 116 days or about four months for sperm to mature, hence preconception care needs to take place about four months before a couple plans to get pregnant. \tFor prospective mums, if she is overweight, suffers from metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, blood sugar imbalances and increased abdominal fats), she runs the risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and complications during pregnancy. What is the Correct Weight? Overweight? Underweight? Extreme ends of the weighing scale can affect the outcome of the pregnancy. Mum\u2019s weight \u2500 whether overweight or underweight \u2500 can affect her ability to get pregnant and can also cause problems during the pregnancy. Obesity\u00a0during\u00a0pregnancy\u00a0carries a higher risk (1.32 times) of morbidity and mortality for both\u00a0mother\u00a0and the foetus. On the other hand,\u00a0underweight\u00a0is associated with Intrauterine Growth Restriction\u00a0(IUGR \u2500 resulting in small babies)\u00a0& anemia, says a study published in NCBI. What does Irene say about this? \u201cMy advice is that every prospective mum should have a waist to height ratio of no more than 48% before falling pregnant.\u00a0 This ratio is calculated by measuring your waist and dividing by your height x100%.\u00a0 If you have problems achieving the 48%, contact our nutritionists at www.medsonat.com in Kuala Lumpur and they will be able to put you onto the right programme to help you achieve your objective. Every prospective dad should have a waist to height ratio of no more than 52%. \u201cBecause both parents contribute 50% each to the DNA of the child, so both need to ensure that they are in their peak of health before they try for a baby to give their baby the best start.\u00a0 Doing a set of pathology blood test at the very least should be part of your Preconception Care plan.\u201d Eating a Well Balanced Diet Diet plays a big role during pregnancy. After all, the food you eat\u00a0is\u00a0your baby's main source of nourishment. Proper\u00a0nutrition can\u00a0help promote your baby's growth and development. \u00a0Irene says: Eat a well-balanced diet that is high in fresh organic fruits and vegetables of a variety of colours. \tEat a well-balanced diet that is high in fresh organic fruits and vegetables of a variety of colours. \tEat good quality protein rich foods, good quality essential fatty acids and adequate fibre rich foods to nourish the good bacteria in your gut. \tThe food and lifestyle you make before conception and throughout your baby\u2019s first three years lay the foundations for your baby\u2019s growth, health and ongoing development. \tMaintaining a healthy body composition and blood glucose levels through diet, supplementation and exercise can improve the likelihood of conception and reduce the risk of your child developing health issues.\u00a0 If you are unsure how to work through this, check out the programs on www.medsonat.com. Protein rich foods include eggs, almonds, chicken breast, lean beef, oats, cottage cheese, broccoli, quinoa and others. \tEveryday, you are exposed to toxins, which can affect fertility and the health status of you, your spouse and your child. "In my clinic in Auckland", she says, "Preconception planning has a key objective of reducing the toxic burden and enhancing detoxification pathways to achieve the best outcome for reproductive health and the health of the baby." Every baby deserves the best start in life.\u00a0 In our polluted, toxin-burdened world, you can still sidestep the obstacles if you plan and prepare for the pregnancy well.\u00a0 If you or your family have specific health concerns, you may need to support your nutritional intake and supplementation more.\u00a0 Make time to rest and prioritise activities that will make you relaxed and happy. A happy, healthy couple in the both of you will definitely make for a happy, healthy baby. For more stories on conception, pregnancy and postnatal care, remember to visit Motherhood.com.my.