When couples are on the journey to parenthood, navigating preconception isn’t always straightforward. Within the world of prepregnancy, diverse opinions and “expert” advice can sometimes be confusing. While some of our OB/GYNs promise us that it will be a smooth transition from birth control to conception, contrasting practitioners highlight the potential months (or even years) that it takes for detoxification before conception. And don’t even get us started on the male partner’s role in all of this. Questions, opinions, answers, and research usually vary significantly within this topic, and it seems like a never-ending cycle of information that we can barely tap into. So, how do we simplify this? And where should we even begin?!
We hear you! In this article, we will discuss the roadblocks that get in the way of preconception and fertility, as well as explore the root cause of these challenges. We will also discover the first and most important steps to take when preparing for pregnancy, which starts with the nervous system’s role and how HRV plays a big part in both partners.
WHAT IS PRECONCEPTION?
Preconception is the period before a couple actively tries to conceive a child. It involves preparing the body and creating the best environment for a healthy pregnancy and baby. This can include factors such as regulating the nervous system, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing pre-existing medical conditions, addressing nutritional needs, and reducing exposure to potential toxins and risks. Preconception care aims to enhance the chances of a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON HEALTH CHALLENGES FACED DURING PRECONCEPTION?
During the preconception period and while dealing with infertility, individuals or couples may face various health challenges. These challenges can include but are not limited to:
Reproductive Health Issues: Many individuals experience difficulties related to their reproductive health. This may involve irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal imbalances, detoxing from birth control, etc.
Nutritional and Dietary Concerns: Maintaining proper nutrition and addressing specific dietary needs can be challenging. A balanced diet and adequate vitamin and mineral intake are vital for a healthy pregnancy.
Psychological Stress: The emotional and psychological stress of trying to conceive can be overwhelming. The uncertainty and the desire to conceive can lead to anxiety, depression, or strained relationships.
Lifestyle Factors: Smoking, alcohol consumption, and excessive caffeine intake can negatively affect fertility and overall health. Quitting or reducing these habits may be challenging.
Underlying Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, and endometriosis, can impact fertility and require effective management.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a common cause of infertility in women. It’s characterized by hormonal imbalances and may lead to irregular periods and difficulty ovulating.
Low Sperm Count or Quality: In men, low sperm count or poor sperm quality can contribute to infertility. It may be linked to lifestyle factors, medical conditions, or genetic factors.
It’s important to remember that each couple’s experience with preconception and infertility is unique, and they may face different combinations of these challenges.
WHAT CAUSES ALL OF THESE FERTILITY-RELATED HEALTH CHALLENGES?
Your doctor may have given you a variety of causes for these struggles… or maybe they couldn’t provide you with an answer because they just didn’t know! As PX Docs, we have finally found the true root cause of preconception and fertility struggles: a dysregulated nervous system. Let’s dive deeper.
Now, here comes a word that you may have never heard before, but I’m guessing its definition will solve a lot of questions that your previous doctors haven’t been able to answer… and that special word is dysautonomia.
Dysautonomia is a condition that affects the autonomic nervous system, which controls many involuntary functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and more. It can have various effects on the body that may impact preconception and fertility. Here’s how:
Hormonal Imbalances: Dysautonomia can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body. Hormones play a crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle and ovulation in women. Imbalances in hormones like luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), progesterone, and estradiol can affect the release of eggs, the ability of eggs to implant, and the outcome of conception as a whole.
Irregular Menstrual Cycles: Dysautonomia-related struggles can lead to irregular menstrual cycles. Irregular or absent periods can make it challenging to predict ovulation, which is essential for achieving pregnancy.
Ovulatory Dysfunction: Dysautonomia may interfere with the regular release of eggs from the ovaries, a process known as ovulation. Ovulatory dysfunction can lead to infertility, as without ovulation, fertilization cannot occur.
Stress and Anxiety: Long-term stress and anxiety can lead to dysautonomia symptoms and vice versa, which activates the sympathetic side of the nervous system. This causes the body to be stuck in a fight-or-flight response, which does not allow a relaxing state to create a baby.
Blood Flow and Uterine Function: Dysautonomia can affect blood flow throughout the body, including the uterus. Proper uterine blood flow is necessary for embryo implantation and a healthy pregnancy. Reduced blood flow can impair fertility.
Weight Fluctuations: Some individuals with dysautonomia may experience weight fluctuations due to dietary changes, medication side effects, or digestive problems. Significant weight changes can affect menstrual regularity and fertility.
This is a short list when it comes to what dysautonomia and a dysregulated nervous system can affect when discussing preconception and fertility. It’s important to note that dysautonomia and its specific effects on fertility can vary widely among individuals. If you are experiencing fertility challenges and have dysautonomia or suspect you may have it, it’s crucial to consult with a PX Docs office, which can provide a thorough evaluation and personalized guidance when it comes to a dysregulated nervous system and dysautonomia.
THE ROLE OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM IN PRECONCEPTION
As we hinted at in the previous paragraph, a regulated and well-balanced nervous system is of utmost importance during preconception, as it profoundly influences both the expectant mother and the expectant father. The nervous system acts as the master control center, coordinating and regulating all body functions, from basic physiological processes to complex hormonal interactions.
During preconception, the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for involuntary actions, plays a crucial role. The ANS consists of two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is what comes to life when you are under duress and experiencing stress. You might have heard it referred to as fight or flight. The PNS is the branch that helps us calm down, relax, and function once again after the stress has passed. To learn more about the parasympathetic nervous system and the Vagus Nerve that controls and regulates most of it, check out this additional article here.
But this wildly important parasympathetic side of the nervous system is not just responsible for rest and relaxation; it’s in charge of growth and development as well, making it perhaps the single most important system to pay attention to during the entire perinatal period, including everything from preconception to postpartum. If both partners’ nervous systems are not in optimal growth and development mode, the baby’s nervous system wouldn’t be either, and a successful pregnancy is unlikely.
When the nervous system is in a state of balance, it promotes better hormonal regulation, blood flow, and immune function, creating an optimal environment for the creation, growth, and development of a baby. It also contributes to the mother and father’s overall well-being, reducing stress levels, promoting relaxation, and improving sleep quality.
THE ROLE OF STRESS AND SUBLUXATION IN PREGNANCY
So why do we care about stress so much? Let’s review. With preconception, the goal is for both partners to be their healthiest selves so they can create a healthy baby. The number one cause of preconception and fertility struggles is a dysregulated nervous system. Unfortunately, an imbalanced or dysregulated nervous system can lead to various health challenges like the conditions discussed previously. Experiencing occasional stress is as normal as it gets. Unfortunately, today, too many men and women experience moderate to high levels of stress far too often. And sadly, our current medicalized system of perinatal care only adds to that stress, fear, anxiety, and disempowerment. It seems that with each and every visit to the doctor, additional testing, surgeries, exams, and even normal test results can immensely add to that stress for both husband and wife.
This ongoing and overwhelming stress is called subluxation. When subluxation is present, the entire nervous system shifts into an excessive sympathetic dominant state, increasing the tension on not just the nerves and muscles but also organs, glands, digestive system, and more. It even leads to its own “perfect storm” vicious cycle where stress and anxiety are increased once again; other health challenges and concerns set in, and more trouble brews as the preconception and fertility journey goes on.
DRUG-FREE CARE OPTIONS FOR FERTILITY-RELATED HEALTH CHALLENGES
Fortunately, there are care options available to help men and women manage their stress and greatly improve their quality of life while their bodies are adapting to these new changes.
Often, by the time couples learn about the things we just covered with subluxation and the nervous system, they have tried all of the medications, homeopathics, teas, nutrition hacks, and physical therapies to get their bodies where they need to be to conceive.
As most of these things are great, they aren’t fully addressing the root causes of health challenges related to reproduction. If you want to tackle these issues head-on and not only reduce the symptoms and health challenges you’re experiencing but also optimize your entire body and nervous system throughout this journey, then Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic is perfect for both of you!
CAN YOU MEASURE THIS STRESS AND SUBLUXATION? INTRODUCING HRV TO PRECONCEPTION AND FERTILITY CARE
It’s quite an exciting time to be at the forefront of Perinatal Care like we are within the PX Docs Network! In the past few years, we’ve not only seen more and more research prove how important neurological health is during the preconception journey (for both partners), but also, some incredible technology has been developed to help us track and measure your neurological health all along the way in just a matter of minutes!
This technology is called HRV, which stands for Heart Rate Variability, and it is an absolutely essential exam for all couples to take regularly because it provides valuable insights into the health and function of their autonomic nervous system (ANS) function and overall health.
As stated above, the ANS controls and regulates every vital function in the body, including heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion, hormones, reproductive organs, thyroid function, and more. With “fight or flight” and “rest and relax” being the two main branches of the ANS, it’s important to track how it is functioning and whether things are out of balance or not.
HRV is a measure of the variation in time between consecutive heartbeats. A higher HRV indicates a more flexible and adaptable nervous system, which is associated with better overall health and resilience to stress. This also means reduced stress, better sleep quality, improved cardiovascular health, and enhanced immune function.
Additionally, maintaining a balanced ANS is essential for hormonal balance, regulated menstrual cycles, sperm count, and egg regeneration.
On the other hand, a lower HRV suggests an imbalanced or stressed ANS, which can lead to various health issues, commonly leading to preconception and fertility challenges.
Therefore, any professionals working with couples who are in the preconception phase or are actively trying for a baby need to be using HRV technology as the foundation of their care protocols and programs, allowing them to not only establish a baseline at the onset of care but also to track and monitor progress via actual neurological change and improvement.
Measuring and tracking true Autonomic Nervous System and Vagus Nerve functions are the foundation of our work as Perinatal PX Doctors. Each and every couple who walks into our offices first get an HRV test to measure their overall adaptability and parasympathetic or vagal nerve tone.
Below is an image of a male and female couple’s HRVs who are focusing on preconception health. The first scan on the far left shows the small white circle to the left side of the HRV plot, indicating her parasympathetic nervous system and vagus nerve are both suppressed and shut down, allowing her sympathetic fight or flight system to run out of control. The male’s HRV shows the white circle being a little more balanced and midline but still lower, meaning that he is “out of gas” and his nervous system is worn out. As their care plan progresses, the subluxation and dysautonomia will begin to disappear, helping the nervous system regulate, and the white circle will be closer to the center of the green, which is right where we want it to create a healthy baby!
In addition to HRV, we ALSO run two (2) additional tests, NeuroThermal and NeuroSensory EMG, to complete the overall INSiGHT Scans and neurological exam. Together, these three (3) collective scans can function as a preconception and fertility test that actually looks beyond symptoms and dives deep into the nervous system and how perinatal chiropractic can help both partners prepare for a healthy conception.
Once we have these incredible INSiGHT Scans done, we can then put together a fully customized and personalized Care Plan made uniquely for both the husband and wife. Once care begins, every Neuro-Tonal Adjustment our doctors are trained to make is designed to address subluxation and dysautonomia directly.
By activating and stimulating the Vagus Nerve and Parasympathetic Nervous System repeatedly over a period of many weeks to months, we then start to see an incredible decrease in the sustained sympathetic storm so many couples are stuck in.
The first improvements both partners typically notice are with sleep, digestion, fewer aches and pains, less brain fog, more energy, and more focus. From there, the brain and nervous system can get back on track developmentally and benefit the couples’ overall health, leading to a healthy environment where optimal development can occur for a baby and can help seek to prevent The Perfect Storm.
HOW TO GET THE HELP YOU NEED
Preparing for a child can be one of our lives most rewarding, exciting, and joyous times. But it can also feel very scary, frustrating, and overwhelming. Just remember that you are not alone, and you have choices when it comes to your preconception and fertility journey and to the type of healthcare that you want supporting you along the way.
The earlier you can optimize and improve your neurological function, the better your preconception, pregnancy, and birth outcomes will be for both you and your future child. The best place to start on this journey is with a consultation and HRV Test with us today! If you are not local to San Diego, check out our PX Docs Directory here and get scheduled for an empowering consultation, INSiGHT Scans, and HRV right away!
Remember, you are not alone in this pregnancy journey; we’re on your team! Take the first step and find the doctor, the care, and the community your future family deserves.