Redefining Prenatal Care

by: Sara on 10/21/2014

Dawn Combs, along with a dozen or so other New Society authors, will be speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka Kansas October 24-25th. In today's post Dawn discusses the importance of parental health pre-conception to ensure a healthy foundation for the much anticipated child. Dawn is the author  Conceiving Healthy Babies, an Herbal Guide to Support Preconception, Pregnancy and Lactation and the Spring 2015 release, Heal Local, 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare.

 We’ve all seen the oxygen mask metaphor applied to life in general. The notion that we must care for ourselves first in order to be able to care for others is at least an intellectual reality, however much we might fail to apply it. Some of us with young children are learning each day to take time for ourselves. Ensuring that you, as a parent, are healthy in both body and mind means that you are better able to provide optimal care for your child.

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Why have we not applied this logic to prenatal care? In this country there is very little conversation around what is required to care for your body properly in anticipation of creating a child. It seems as though the best advice is to increase your intake of folic acid and consider taking a pre-natal vitamin. This, of course, only applies to the woman. What would it look like if we were to figuratively “make sure our oxygen masks are on before we assist our children”?

True prenatal care should extend well beyond one partner increasing one or two nutrients in their diet. The conversation needs to shift to a point where we understand that both partners need to be fully healthy before they decide to start a family. This is a difficult shift to make. Our medical culture focuses on symptom remediation rather than true healing. It isn’t enough to manage our symptoms before we start a family. These imbalances within our bodies become the material with which we build our children. When we choose to address the hormonal imbalance that has plagued us, or the inflammation in our joints first, we build our babies on the best foundation possible. While it is incredibly difficult to make this shift, it is much easier to build a healthy foundation for a child while in the womb than to shore up imbalances after they are born.

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A baby starts with one cell from each parent. It is not enough to focus on prenatal care for the mom. It is true that she provides the environment to grow and needs special attention, but the father is responsible for the other half of the equation. Men have just as much responsibility for the initial health of their baby as does the mother. The diet, stress level, activity level and overall health of both partners should be the focus of prenatal care. There are many studies that support the fact that the condition of either partner’s body at the time of conception can lead to nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances in a resulting child. In my practice, I see time and time again the effects of emotional or physical stress in the body of a parent as it is expressed in their child. Progesterone deficiencies and adrenal dysfunction abound in these children and I can often track the resulting fertility issues back to the body of their parent.

This is not to say that parents who have had children before their own health issues were resolved are “to blame” for their children’s health struggles. While there is a correlation, we are too quick with the notion of blame in our culture. We have to do better, but that should include moving forward and changing our conversation and educational model around preconception health. It should not include blame, shame or recrimination. Until the knowledge is there no one has the opportunity to do better. We must extend our notion of self-care to include slowing down and achieving our best health before we rush for any reason to bring another person into the world.

 Dawn Combs is the director of the Mockingbird Meadows Eclectic Herbal Institute. She consults with couples locally for hormonal balance and is the author of Conceiving Healthy Babies, an Herbal Guide to Support Preconception, Pregnancy and Lactation and the Spring 2015 release, Heal Local, 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare

 

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