How can we set our future kids up for healthy lives, while getting ourselves in tip-top shape prior to conception? Expert Sheree Beaumont – the holistic nutritionist and wellness coach behind Sheree Hannah Wellness – shares how to get your body (and microbiome) ready to become a mom.
Wellness is important enough when it’s just your body you have to think about – but what about when we’re ready to bring a baby into the world? How can we make our body – from our microbiome to our mental health – into the optimal conditions for pregnancy?
Sheree Beaumont, the wellness and women’s health expert from Sheree Hannah Wellness, touches many different disciplines: from hormone to gut health. Passionate about getting aspiring mothers ready for conception, pregnancy, and beyond, she’s just the person to speak to on this topic. Here’s her advice on starting motherhood from the healthiest place possible.
When do you suggest aspiring mothers start preparing their bodies for conception?
It’s best to start looking at this at least three months prior, if not years before conception.
We go on a hormonal journey for our whole lives as women. We want to make sure we’re reaching contraception from an optimal place. The main reason we’re looking at that three month window as a minimum is because it takes around 100 days for the egg to mature.
The egg that you ovulate with now would be the one that will be forming a baby at the end of those three months. Ultimately, the longer the window to start, the better – if you’re preparing your body for two to three years, that’s amazing. But that 100 day window is really pertinent.
If we can optimize your health – and hubby’s as well – during those three months, we’ll be able to get the egg and sperm optimized. This creates the best conditions to create the happiest and healthiest little baby.
How should we go about getting our bodies in tip-top shape during this period?
It’s important to remove things like alcohol from your lifestyle. You also want to be making sure to be putting in key nutrients that the body might be deficient in. Get in your vitamin B’s and take Folate and Iodine – making sure you’re getting them from reputable sources.
Mental health is also crucial. We often spend a lot of the time in super-high stress. Just think about what we’ve been through as a collective in the past few years – many of our bodies are quite burnt out.
If you’ve been on hormonal contraceptives – or even if you’ve just been experiencing high levels of stress – the body can take a while to get back to baseline.
When we look at fertility or we look at conception, the focus is on ensuring that ovulation happens. A lot of women that I work with nowadays anyway aren’t even ovulating consistently. Some might not even be getting their period. They may have transitioned off hormonal contraceptives in the hopes of trying to have a baby, but they haven’t actually got proper ovulation or a good quality ovulation.
We are seeing, as unfortunate as it is, increased rates of miscarriage. A woman might fall pregnant, but they haven’t got the surplus of hormones to actually keep the baby or to be nourishing the body as effectively as they could be.
The biggest thing I say to women is to monitor your stress, because we have two systems within our nervous system: we have our sympathetic nervous system and our parasympathetic nervous system.
If our body is living in our sympathetic state, which is fight or flight and constantly on the go, the body has to prioritize survival at that point. It actually shuts down things like ovulation. It shuts down anything that’s not deemed 100% necessary. If it thinks you’re fighting for your life by the amount of emails you have in your inbox right, it’s not going to want to bring a baby into the world.
How do you suggest people navigate this stress while preparing for motherhood?
Like I mentioned, you’ve got the sympathetic nervous system, which is quite often where I find women. They’re living in the dominant state of that. The other side of that is your parasympathetic nervous system.
If you trace us back to our caveman days, we were the gatherers, right? The men would go out and they would hunt. The chances of us running into a lion in the woods was rare. But nowadays we’re encountering that lion every single day. We’re accounting it multiple times a day, whether that’s a traffic jam or your email inbox.
I work to bring women back into their bodies and back into that parasympathetic state as much as we can. We can do that through food, exercise, and even by breath.
Simply dropping into some deep belly breaths, it’s an instant switch for the body to be like, oh, we’re safe. We need to create that safety if we want to be able to bring a baby into the world.
What role does gut health play in all of this?
What a lot of people don’t realize is that the mum’s microbiome is passed on to the baby. If you’ve had poor gut health for a lot of your life – which a lot of women initially come to me for – and you then get pregnant, you’re passing that down. This could impact food intolerances and the state of your microbiome to the baby. This sets them up for the rest of their life.
If we can optimize the gut health in those three months, that’s really going to support a happy life for the baby.
Your gut is the center of your health. “All disease begins in the gut”, as Hippocrates said about 2500 years ago. Your optimal health as a mum starts there. As soon as you conceive, your gut health will be starting to affect the baby’s cells and how their microbiome will develop.
Jumping ahead to after conception, how does pregnancy affect the microbiome?
It’s really interesting how it can vary for women, because everyone’s pregnancies are different.
During pregnancy, our hormones can get completely reset. For some women, this can be a difficult experience – resulting often in postpartum depression, or postpartum anxiety, or other issues like hair loss.
Others could get their hormones completely reset and feel amazing. They may have had a whole host of period issues prior or problems every time their monthly cycle came about, but they feel so much better now that they’ve conceived – the same sort of thing can happen with the microbiome.
It’s an individual thing and I think if you’ve taken care of your gut health prior, then you’re going to be on the positive side coming out of pregnancy. One of the supplements I do recommend for women is to be taking a probiotic that’s specifically designed for supporting the flora of the mom and baby. This aids both during and after the pregnancy: even while breastfeeding you’ll be passing on a lot of good nutrients.
To the mothers reading who have had their kids – and have never really thought about gut health. Is it too late to start building up their microbiome and teaching their kids new wellness habits?
It’s never too late.
It might take you a little bit longer than someone who starts off earlier in their journey, but it’s really never too late to start prioritizing your gut health and rebuilding your microbiome.
For those who aren’t aware of what the microbiome is, it’s the makeup of the good bacteria and some of the bad bacteria that live inside our body. We actually have about 10 – 100 trillion cells inside of our microbiome, so in many cases we actually have more of them than we have human cells, which is a little bit crazy when you think about it.
It’s definitely not too late at all – for you or your kids. Getting a baby or child probiotic, and taking a probiotic yourself, is a great way to give yourself and the kids a boost.
Sometimes women breastfeeding will get mastitis or they’ll go through issues where they need antibiotics – which wipes out everything. Kids get a lot of sicknesses, and run into the same problem. If we can avoid them having antibiotics, especially in those first two years because they’re trying to build their microbiome up, great. But sometimes we need them because they’re in a life threatening situation. So afterwards, pop in some probiotics to make sure that the baby is rebuilding their microbiome.
It’s also great to feed them a variety of foods, once you reach food introduction.
Your clients have learned lots from you – what have you learned from the mothers and women you’ve worked with?
So much! I think one of the biggest things is really realizing we come into this with the idea that we’ve got to change our behavior and we’ve got to change the way we’re eating. If it really were that simple, then people would go and diet on their own. They would go and do these things on their own with all the information they have access to. But seeing that there’s generally so much more to the equation, there are emotions that come with it. There are mental blocks that pop up, and this affects our physical body and our results.
I aim to hold space for people and really allow them to be seen and heard on their journey. That is one of the biggest gifts of being in this industry.
Wanting to start the journey of motherhood from a place of wellness? Sheree Beaumont can be your expert guide along the way! Reclaim Your Radiance is her 12 week program to unf*ck your hormones, heal your gut, and step into your optimal health.
Interview has been condensed for clarity.