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The Importance of Monitoring Health Before Conception

Jul 24, 2015 12:53PM ● By Silvia Panitch

The nutrition and lifestyle that women adopt long before considering pregnancy will have a major impact on their babies and generations to come. Due to the rise of diabetes, hypertension and obesity all over the world, our descendants might not live as long as their parents did. One in 10 Americans has diabetes, but that number is even more sobering when we consider pre-diabetes.

We know that many chronic diseases start in the womb, so maternal over- or under-nutrition, infections, smoking, stress and hormonal imbalances force the fetus to adapt, and those adaptations can lead into chronic illness in adult life. More women are entering pregnancy overweight or obese, which can lead to gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth, cesarean sections, birth defects and chronic diseases in their children.

For example, babies born with low birth weight are more likely to develop diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and obesity compared to babies of average weight. Babies of quite large birth weight are also more likely to develop diabetes.

The field of preconception medicine is growing because we have become aware of the impact that health choices of mothers and fathers make will have on their offspring. The emerging field of genomics (the genes we have) and epigenomics (factors that can affect our genes) will allow us to make even more specific recommendations about nutrition.

Many companies offer gene testing either via medical offices or online that can help us know our life story. Some genes that are not functioning well can have a huge impact on the mother and baby’s health, so this information can empower them to make the right nutritional choices.

Some gene tests (MTHFR, MTRR, CBS, COMT, MTR, TCN2, FUT2) can give women the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments even before considering pregnancy. If certain genes are not functioning properly (SNP), the availability of vital nutrients like vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin B6 and others is impaired, with consequences for the mothers and babies.

Dr. Silvia Panitch, M.D., is the medical director of Lakeview Integrative Medicine, located at 3344 N. Ashland Ave., in Chicago. For more information, call 773-525-6595 or visit

Tips for Good Prenatal Health
1. Find nutritional deficiencies long before considering pregnancy.
2. Maintain a healthy body weight and practice good dental hygiene.
3. Eliminate as much stress as possible, as well as toxins from cosmetics, personal care products and cleaning supplies.
4. Avoid simple sugars (better complex carbohydrates), artificial colors, preservatives, flavorings, alcohol, smoking, caffeine and prescription medications (unless necessary), conventional produce (use organic) and fish that contain mercury (shellfish, tilefish, shark, swordfish, mackerel).
5. Use omega-3, -6, and -9, especially DHA (omega 3), activated B vitamins  multiple minerals (magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, iodine, and copper), making sure they are in your prenatal diet or may be taken separately and organic protein sources.
6. Vitamin D levels should be 60 to 80 ng/ml.
7. Use probiotics (good bacteria), as that will improve baby’s gut flora.
8. More than anything, enjoy the journey.