Taking steps to support the thyroid and adrenals before pregnancy is very important for the health of the mother and baby. Many of you who read my articles struggle with adrenal imbalance and/or thyroid disease, so I want to give you some tips on how to support the adrenals, thyroid and overall health of the body to support a healthy pregnancy.
I realize this can be a delicate topic for many, so please know I’m sharing this to help you on your journey, and as always, talk to your practitioner about what’s best for you. When I was having kids, I didn’t know any of this information and I really wish someone had shared it with me. So, I hope you read this as a note from a mom who’s passing along some helpful information she wished she knew over 20 years ago when she was preparing for pregnancy.♥️
Before we dive into specific steps, let’s get a 30,000 foot view of why the adrenals and thyroid are important for a healthy pregnancy.
What is the role of the adrenals?
The adrenals are two glands that produce hormones to help regulate metabolism, the immune system, blood pressure, blood sugar, and response to stress.
The adrenals are responsible for sending the hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream during times of stress. They make hormones such as DHEA and aldosterone, and they also make hormones that your body then uses to make other hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
The adrenals are also part of the HPA axis. The pituitary, hypothalamus, and adrenals constantly communicate with one another throughout the day. When the body perceives stress – emotional, mental, physical, environmental, etc. – the hypothalamus tells the adrenals, via the pituitary, to work harder to put out additional cortisol, and it tells the pituitary to produce more TSH. This tells the thyroid to slow down, and sometimes it can actually cause TSH to lower, causing the thyroid to produce excess thyroid hormones.
As you can see, supporting the adrenals is foundational to hormone balance!
What is the role of the thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland that produces hormones, including T3 and T4. It plays a major role in the growth and development of the human body. It helps regulate many functions like temperature, metabolism, and heartbeat.
If the body needs more energy in certain situations – such as during pregnancy – the thyroid gland produces more hormones.
How long do you suggest to prepare for pregnancy (e.g. preconception)?
If possible, I recommend taking about 6 months before conceiving for both spouses to work on their overall health. Of course, we are all biochemically individual, so your practitioner might recommend taking more time than this.
It’s also especially important for the woman to support her liver for several months before conception (if possible!). Morning sickness is often rooted in liver congestion, so if you can support your liver for several months ahead of time, it can make the pregnancy so much easier!
Can adrenal imbalance lead to decreased fertility?
Yes. Progesterone is a building block for cortisol. If the body is stressed and the adrenals need to use progesterone to make cortisol, this can decrease progesterone levels in the body.
Furthermore, chronic cortisol output can negatively impact both thyroid health and free testosterone levels, which are both very important for healthy conception.
Can thyroid disease lead to decreased fertility?
Again, yes! Thyroid disease has been attributed to such problems as irregular cycles, polycystic ovarian syndrome, anovulatory cycles, estrogen-progesterone imbalance, and shortened luteal phase.
All of these issues can unfortunately pose major challenges when it comes to fertility.
Does the father’s adrenal and thyroid health matter?
Absolutely. Although thyroid disease is often considered a women’s issue, about one-third of hypothyroidism cases arise in men.
If left untreated, an underactive thyroid can lead to male infertility.
Studies show that low thyroid hormone levels in men can cause poor semen quality, low sperm count, reduced testicular function, erectile dysfunction, and decreased libido.
Furthermore, adrenal imbalance and chronic cortisol output can also impair semen quality.
Here are 12 ways to support thyroid and adrenal health during the preconception phase:
1. Eat a nutrient dense diet.
Cut out sugars, processed foods, and inflammatory oils.
Aim to fill your plate with high quality protein, complex carbohydrates, organic vegetables, and healthy fats.
High quality proteins include grass-fed beef, pastured chicken or pork, pastured eggs, or wild-caught fish.
Complex carbohydrates include potatoes, sweet potatoes, properly prepared legumes, and root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and beets.
Swap out inflammatory vegetable oils such as corn, soy, peanut, sunflower, safflower, or canola oil for butter, lard, ghee, tallow, coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil.
It’s also a great idea to eat plenty of fermented foods and cultured dairy such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, or yogurt to improve the health of your microbiome.
Try to purchase these from farmer’s markets and local health food stores. Eatwild.com is a fantastic resource for sourcing high quality meats, dairy, and produce.
Here’s more info on the diet I recommend to support your thyroid.
2. Get a full thyroid panel. Pregnancy places a lot of stress on the thyroid, so it’s paramount to ensure thyroid health prior to conception.
The production of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 increases by almost 50% during pregnancy. During the first trimester, while baby’s thyroid gland is still developing, he or she completely depends on your supply, which is delivered through the placenta.
I suggest getting labs of the following thyroid markers:
I wrote an article on these markers, how to have them tested, and what the optimal levels are.
3. Ditch endocrine-disrupting cleaning products, beauty products, and personal care products. Did you know the ingredients in your bathroom cleaner, your face moisturizer, or your hand soap could contain chemicals that tax your liver, create hormone imbalance, or pose a threat to egg and sperm quality?
For these reasons and so many more, the preconception period is the perfect time to clean up the chemicals from your personal care routine and your home.
Here is a short list of chemicals to avoid:
Ethanolamines (DEAs, TEAs, MEAs)
All of the above ingredients have been linked to reproductive toxicity, cancer, organ system toxicity, and endocrine disruption among others.
If you’re curious about the safety of a product you already own, use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website to determine for free whether or not the ingredients are okay.
You can find my favorite non-toxic products for cleaning, beauty, skincare, and more in my Complete Healthy Product List.
4. Get 8-9 hours of quality sleep. This one is free and it’s one of the most impactful changes you can make to support your thyroid, adrenal, and overall health.
Aim to get a few minutes of natural sunlight outside upon waking and at sunset in order to help sync your circadian rhythm and improve your sleep.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, here are some tips.
5. Exercise consistently and gently. When the thyroid and adrenals are not working optimally, high intensity workout such as Crossfit or HIIT can actually be counterproductive. They can move your body into a state of exhaustion making it difficult for the body to recover. If you’d like to learn specifically more about how to best exercise for your thyroid and adrenals preconception, I recommend reading this article.
6. Cut back on caffeine. I know, this one can be difficult, but caffeine stimulates the release of cortisol by the adrenals. As we know, consistently elevated levels of cortisol in the body can lead to adrenal fatigue, thyroid imbalance, and decreased fertility.
Here’s a post about how I quit coffee with step-by-step instructions on how to wean without the crazy withdrawals.
7. Reduce stress and/or find better ways manage the stressors in your life. There are few things more detrimental to your health over time than stress that is not dealt with properly. Stress can create hormone imbalance, reduce sex hormone production, and much more, so this is an important step when preparing for pregnancy.
Everyone deals with stress differently, but the important thing is to make sure you’re proactive in managing stress before it becomes disruptive to your health. Some good ways to decompress can include: a walk outside, prayer, a conversation with a friend, meditation, breath work, or ensuring extra rest.
8. Go outside daily. Spending time outdoors is beneficial for countless reasons. It can help sync your circadian rhythm and lead to better sleep. It has also been shown to naturally decrease cortisol output. And, outdoor air quality has been found to generally be far superior to indoor air quality.
9. Drink plenty of filtered water daily. I suggest drinking half your body weight in ounces of filtered water. Proper hydration is important for so many reasons, from ensuring good daily detoxification, to helping stabilize blood sugar, to helping get hormones distributed throughout the body.
If you’re looking for an easy and inexpensive option for filtered water, I have this water pitcher that is fantastic. It removes fluoride, lead, BPA, glyphosate, PFOAs, hormones, & over 365 of the most harmful tap water impurities while retaining the natural minerals and nutrients found in the water.
10. Incorporate gentle detox to support the liver. As I mentioned earlier, one reason for morning sickness can be rooted in liver congestion. Proper detoxification of the liver before pregnancy can lead to a better pregnancy experience.
Some simple ways to promote gentle detoxification of the liver before conception include drinking 4 oz of beet kvass daily, taking epsom salt baths, using castor oil packs, and eating a nutrient dense diet while cutting out sugars and processed foods.
11. Avoid skipping meals, intermittent fasting, or super low-carb diets (such as keto) – All of these things can put excess strain on the adrenals, cause them to produce additional cortisol, which can lead to hormone imbalance, blood sugar imbalance, etc.
Eating within an hour of waking, 3 meals a day, and protein, fat and healthy carbs at each meal is a great way to fuel the body.
12. Make sure your body is digesting your food properly so it can use the nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy.
The first way to digest your food properly is by eating in a relaxed state and making sure your stomach is producing enough stomach acid so it can properly break down and utilize the nutrients in your food.
Stomach acid (also known as hydrochloric acid or HCl) is a necessary part of the digestive process. This acid is our first line of defense against pathogens, bacteria, parasites, etc., and helps us digest our food properly.
This may sound like a trivial step, but low stomach acid is a very common issue these days. Here’s an article I wrote that explains the steps to take to increase stomach acid.
Here are some preconception resources for you:
Weston A. Price
Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to give an overview of how to support the body from a holistic perspective. This information is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s advice.
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