Early Prenatal Care May Be Too Late!

By AnnElise Hatjakes, M.A.

Is early prenatal care too late?


According to an article published by The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, alarmingly the answer is often times “yes.”


The article’s author, Mary-Elizabeth Reeve, Ph.D., explained that early prenatal care is too late to prevent many adverse birth outcomes because “organogenesis is completed during the critical first weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows that she is pregnant.” Consequently, Reeve said that there is a “clear need to strengthen preconception health services.”


Many couples know that their future child’s health is impacted by their own health (for better or worse), which is why many women quit smoking and drinking alcohol and begin to take a prenatal vitamin once they become pregnant.  However, according to David Berger, M.D., FAAP, for the best health outcomes, women should begin to work on their own health up to one year before conceiving rather than waiting until they become pregnant.  “If there are heavy metals in a woman’s system, it may take that long [one year] for those substances to clear out,” Berger said.  “If there’s detoxification necessary, this process could take longer.”


According to the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, at the turn of the 20th century, 7.28 women and 96 infants died for every 1,000 babies born alive.  By the end of the year 2000, the maternal mortality rate had decreased to less than 0.08 and infant mortality had decreased to less than 7 deaths per 1,000 live births.  While advancements in medical technology have greatly lowered the risk of mortality for infants and their mothers throughout the 20th century, Hani K. Atrash, M.D., M.P.H., explained that “improvements in maternal and infant pregnancy outcomes slowed down significantly, and in some cases, outcomes deteriorated” in the last two decades.


In his paper entitled, “Preconception Care for Improving Perinatal Outcomes: The Time to Act,” Atrash attributed this slow down to a lack of effective preconception care services.


According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “All health encounters during a woman’s reproductive years, particularly those that are a part of preconception care, should include counseling on appropriate medical care and behavior to optimize pregnancy outcomes.”


What is Preconception Care?

Preconception care includes two primary elements according to Dr. Berger. “It’s a matter of testing to see if there are things missing like zinc, iron, or the thyroid hormone.”  Also, Berger said it is not enough to see if the woman has a sufficient amount of folic acid; she should also consult with her physician to make sure that her folic acid is being activated by her body.  “The idea is to optimize all of that nutrition,” Dr. Berger said.


When working with his own patients, Dr. Berger tests for heavy metals like mercury and lead, Bisphenol A (BPA) and pesticides.  He recommends that women avoid any molds in the house and high fructose corn syrup, which can inhibit the absorption of zinc.  “I recommend that my patients begin taking a good multi-vitamin and essential fatty acids to support the baby’s brain development.”  Put simply, Berger said that preconception care entails “removing that which is a problem and giving that which is missing.”


Toxin removal is a pivotal part of preconception care.  The majority of prenatal supplements available to women are not tested for heavy metals and other toxins, which can negatively impact those women’s unborn children.  Kirkman® recognizes this risk, which is why it provides supplements that undergo the rigorous testing required by its Ultra-Tested® protocol.


What Could Effective Preconception Care Mean for You?

Based on Dr. Berger’s observations in his own practice, he believes that effective preconception care can mean the difference between having a child born with autism and having a child born without it.


“I’ve been developing this philosophy for approximately 12 years and it’s much more robust at this point,” Dr. Berger said.  “I haven’t had a child born into our practice develop autism.”


During the 1980’s, research from Foresight, a non-profit organization, was published in a peer-reviewed journal. The methods used in this study were very similar to those used in Dr. Berger’s preconception program.


Researchers at The University of Surrey followed the progress of 367 high-risk couples and audited the findings. The program included nutrition counseling, removal of toxins including mercury and electromagnetic radiation pollution, lead and other heavy metals and treatment of allergies and parasites.


By the end of the study, 89% of the couples had given birth. There were no miscarriages, perinatal deaths or malformations. No child was born with autism or any other developmental disorders. Only one child was born preterm.


Currently, according to Dr. Berger, few doctors recommend a specific regiment for preconception care because they don’t feel enough evidence has been presented in support of preconception care for the American Medical Association (AMA) to approve it.  “If we always waited for the AMA to act, we would be behind in several different areas of medical care,” Dr. Berger said.


In line with Dr. Berger and other scientists’ findings, Kirkman® has developed a line of preconception care products to help couples who are planning to have a child.  These products are currently available exclusively to doctors, so ask your doctor today.