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Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy by Hannah Dare

As I write this Max, my one year old, plays by my feet with a cardboard box. I can’t even imagine what it would be like not to have him in my life. Unfortunately having children is not as easy for some people as it was for me - these days we all know someone who is having difficulty getting pregnant. Indeed, in recent times it seems that fertility issues are increasing, with 1 in 6 couples now having difficulty conceiving. Many people are turning to the expensive and often traumatic process of IVF, but this process is often a best only 30% effective. This means that people often have to endure the process several times without any guarantee of success.

In Organico we are frequently asked about natural ways of improving fertility, but until now it has been challenging to know where to start because there are so many different nutrients that are indicated as vital to fertility and most of them are needed in pretty large doses. For most people it’s quite off-putting, not to mind expensive, to have to take large quantities of different supplements every day.

A recently launched Irish company called Pillar Healthcare is now focusing on this issue and hopes to simplify the process with a new product that contains all the nutrients that are indicated as beneficial to couples struggling with reduced fertility. Their product is called pre-Conceive and it is a revolutionary idea in that it has therapeutic (meaning very big!) doses of all the important nutrients. This means neither partner should need any other supplement while trying to conceive.

pre-Conceive is the brainchild of Matt Ronan and Mark Whitney, both of whom work in the Natural Health industry. Mark is a qualified nutritionist and found through his work that while there was a lot of research going on into improving conception rates through nutrition, there really was no single product that addressed the nutritional needs of couples who were having difficulty conceiving. As Mark began to recommend the supplements in the type of dosages which he had seen get good results in the research papers, he found that he was beginning to get results with these clients. So he started digging deeper into the research into nutrition and fertility and the result is pre-Conceive.

There are many different reasons why a couple might have difficulty conceiving. According to Dr. Marilyn Glenville, a natural hormone and fertility specialist, the most common reason for infertility is ‘unexplained’. ‘If a couple fails to become pregnant, there is obviously something causing the problem. It’s no good labelling infertility ‘unexplained’. The answer is to look deeper – lifestyle factors, nutritional deficiencies and even emotional elements (are all important)’. She explains that the natural approach to fertility is and has been enormously successful, ‘largely because fertility is multi-factorial, meaning that there are many, many elements that can be at the root of your fertility problems. A study conducted by the University of Surrey showed that couples with a previous history of infertility who made changes in their lifestyle, diet and took nutritional supplements had an 80 percent success rate. Given that the success rate for IVF is around 25 per cent, it’s worth considering these options’.

On the Pre Conceive website ( there is a large section devoted to Lifestyle Choices that can help increase fertility in both men and women. None of this is surprising, though it may not be popular! If you are serious about starting a family you really must give up alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Drinking any alcohol reduces fertility by up to 50%, and can reduce sperm count and sperm motility. Alcohol inhibits zinc absorption, and zinc is one of the most important nutrients for boosting sperm count. As hard as it might be, it is advised to complete abstain for at least 3 months if you are trying to conceive. There is also plenty of evidence to show that caffeine, particularly in the form of coffee, decreases fertility. Drinking as little as one cup of coffee a day can halve your chances of conceiving and two cups a day increases the risk of a miscarriage. To quote Marilyn Glenville again: ‘one study showed that problems with sperm: sperm count, motility and abnormalities, increase with the number of cups of coffee consumed each day. Once again, it’s important to eliminate all caffeine-containing food and drinks for at least three months before trying to conceive’. Finally, if you or your partner smoke, take this opportunity to quit. Smoking has definitely been linked with infertility in women and leads to decreased sperm count in men.

Another significant cause for concern is what is called our ‘Toxic Load’. Whether from environmental pollution, household cleaning products, cigarette smoke, chemical beauty products, or unhealthy food, we are all coming into contact with chemicals that are causing unhelpful reactions within our body every day. This means detoxification can be very significant for those trying to conceive. ‘Pillar Healthcare suggests that your daily routine should be examined. If either you or your partner is being exposed to unnecessary toxins try come up with a solution to change this exposure. Our detoxification aids include NAC, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Magnesium, B vitamins and a host of others’. In particular, NAC is receiving huge attention in scientific research because of it’s antioxidant activity that has been shown to significantly increase the chances of both ovulation and conception in research into women with polycystic ovaries. NAC is also thought to protect egg quality as women age. Eating a good diet full of fresh food and as much organic food as you can is also very important, as is using natural cleaning products and skincare. Your local healthfood shop can help you with all of these.

There are too many nutrients in pre-Conceive to discuss individually here, suffice it to say that they are all included for their ability to improve fertility and conception. L Arginine, for example, is known to increase blood flow which is essential for both men and women, and there are over a thousand citations in research papers on L Arginine and fertility. CoQ10 is another nutrient that comes up again and again in research into fertility problems, and in pre-Conceive you find very high doses of CoQ10. In fact that is what makes pre-Conceive different from other products designed for couples trying to conceive - it contains significant doses of all the important nutrients. Declan Keane, Director of ReproMed (leading providers of fertility services in Ireland) has this to say about pre-Conceive: “I strongly believe this clinically tailored pre-conception formula is the most comprehensive product of its type. This is the only product I will recommend in my clinic.”

pre-Conceive will be available in Organico from January 2014. For more information on Pre-Conceive or to pre-order it, please contact Organico on email ( or by phone (027 51391). Organico is open from 9.15 till 6 Monday to Saturday (Organico Cafe from 10 to 5pm). Do call in!

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