Episode 26: The Importance Of Preconception Care With Kasey Willson
This week we kick off a series of fantastic interviews and joining us this week is a friend of mine, Kasey Willson. Kasey from Glowing Mumma Thriving Bubba joins us today to talk about the importance of preconception care.
She shares her tips on how to optimize your chances of becoming pregnant and having the healthiest baby possible. Listen in as we talk through these practical tips:
- Both parents should be involved in preconception care: improving the health of your baby’s father to enhance his overall health and nutritional status to healthy sperm, in order to support your hormone and egg health
- Focusing on a detox plan to just enhance the removal of toxins from your body through gut, kidney and liver health
- Building up the mum’s nutritional reserves with foods rich in folate, iron, vitamin A and more!
- Supplementing your diet with herbal medicine, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, essential fats
- Getting thorough blood tests to check for deficiencies in vitamin D, living a low tox lifestyle and more!
- Check out Kasey’s Preconception Guide here
- Learn how to use a Castor oil pack to detox
- Kasey’s Liver Pate Recipe
- Tune into Kasey’s podcast
Hello, hello! Welcome back to the Natural Super Kids Podcast, Jessica Donovan here.
Today, we’re taking it back a bit from kids’ health and we’ll be focusing on preconception care. The importance of preconception care, the things that you can do within those weeks and months. Leading up to becoming pregnant, that will help to optimise your chances of becoming pregnant. Having a healthy full-term pregnancy, and at the end of all that the healthiest baby possible. For this subject, I have brought on a friend of mine, a fellow naturopath, Kasey Willson, from Glowing Mumma Thriving Bubba. This is Kasey’s specialty. Now, Kasey and I have known each other for quite a few years, being fellow South Australian naturopaths. We have caught up a lot at seminars and workshops, we’ve collaborated a few times as well.
I really love Kasey’s approach. She is a wealth of knowledge, the picture of health, and today she is sharing her amazing knowledge in this area of preconception. Some really the practical tips that we can implement to, as I said, optimise the healthiest pregnancy. Healthiest child possible for us. So here’s Kasey…
Jess: Hello, Kasey! Welcome to the podcast!
Kasey: Hello. It’s great to be here, Jess! And on the other side of the mic for once.
Jess: Yeah, I know! It’s good to have a go at both sides, isn’t it? The interviewer and the interviewee?
Kasey: Yeah, lots of fun.
Jess: Oh, so I’m excited to talk to you today. Can you start by sharing I guess a little bit about your story? How you came to be doing what you’re doing today.
Kasey: Yeah, sure. Well, I haven’t been quite a naturopath as quite as long as you, Jess. But I did begin supporting patients over 10 years now. I began really with that passion for helping women to balance their hormones. Basically, over the years, I was getting really good results in that field and that led me to write my first book, Balanced. As these women progress through life that I was getting really good results for, a lot of them naturally wanted to bring a baby into their lives. And as I’ve already helped them on their gut and hormone health journey, I was asked to provide their support to optimise their health preconception. For both them and their partner for that healthy, conscious conception.
Kasey: Through that, I really gained a lot of experience and that deeper passion for preconception pregnancy and baby health. I was fortunate enough to witness just how powerful these preconception stages for bringing a healthy baby into the world. That’s what it’s all about. I could tell I could relive a lot of different stories. But I’ll never forget, Steph and Patrick, who were trying for two years when they come to see me. And really only after four months of my recommendations, they conceived and they actually just welcomed their fourth baby into the world just the other day! So, it’s stories like that, that make me teary. But also confirm that what I’m doing is actually changing lives.
Kasey: It’s really heartwarming to know that. So fast forward to today, after having a baby of my own. I’ve really combined that personal experience with my naturopathic experience over the years. Put together different guides and programs in this field of preconception pregnancy and baby health. So, yeah, my latest is the path to conscious conception. All about helping couples to gain this holistic health support to prepare them for optimal fertility.
Jess: Oh, so good! And we will have a link to your preconception guide in the show notes for anyone who is interested in finding out more. Because that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. So first of all, I think, let’s get back to the basics. Talk about what is preconception care. Some of the reasons that you feel is so important.
Kasey: Yeah, well, whether you’re ready to bring a baby. Whether it’s a few years down the track, ideally a few months or even weeks. This preconception window, it’s a time where you can really set yourself up for a healthy conception. A nourished pregnancy and optimising that growth and development of your baby, which, as I said, is ultimately what it’s all about. But traditionally, most of that focus and to be honest, the pressure is spent on preparing the mum to be. We have to remember that at that time of conception, the health of your future children is actually determined equally on the health and genetics. Of both you and your baby’s father.
Kasey: Preconception care, I believe should include both parents and it’s that important time to spend just as much energy in improving the health of your fella to enhance his overall health and nutritional status to healthy sperm, as it is to support your hormone health and your egg health heading into conception. So really putting that at least three months time aside for that preconception care. That’ll allow you enough time to really support yourself for that new egg and sperm maturation. Three months is a good time, longer is excellent as well. Then you can do some extra things. But yeah, that’s sort of the ultimate time window.
Kasey: And in this phase I guide, whether it’s the readers or patients through detoxification. If it’s over three months, and de-stressing practices, dietary support. Of course, natural medicine is in there too. Just to enhance that health, hormone health, and just that real nourishment for fertility health. So that’s sort of what it’s all about. The nourishing side of things is really important to understand. It’s not just about boosting up the mum to be for egg health, but particularly for the mum to be. We want to really nourish her preconception to build up her reserves in her blood, bones, organs and tissues. This will actually help to prevent her looking and feeling depleted in her nutritional reserves as baby grows.
Kasey: And if we’re honest with those first few weeks of pregnancy. If there’s a less than optimal maternal diet with strong pregnancy, nausea, which may be weeks or months. And she’s having trouble to eat quite a good diet, then at least we’ve kind of build her up to that stage at conception. So yeah, that’s a few things to consider there. Also, that baby will continue to take from the mum during breastfeeding. It doesn’t just stop at pregnancy and those deficiencies states can occur in months and even years post pregnancy. So, I like to think of that, and the analogy of preconception phase as being this big bucket of water. It may or may not be filled with water. As baby grows throughout pregnancy, and she relies on your reserves that water level is drawn upon.
Kasey: On top of that, you’ll be working hard to continue your usual functions, which will require that water from your bucket. Then once bub is born, a great deal of energy and nutrients is required for healing post-birth and to provide breast milk. If that’s what you choose to do for your newborn. So even more water is being taken from your bucket, but if you think that’s that preconception stage. If you’d spent enough time to nourish your body with important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fats, to really boost your nutritional reserves, your bucket would have started out with being full. And that abundant supply of water to meet the needs and demands of that growing and breastfeeding baby.
Kasey: Also to allow of course, that healing and normal functioning of your body with all the changes that happen post-birth. That’s really why I believe you know, preconception care is powerful.
Jess: Yeah, so many good reasons, and I love that analogy. I often see mums on the other side of that with that sort of postnatal depletion. And when you look back, they haven’t done that work in that preconception period to really boost themselves up. So, they’ve got those reserves. So important so you have the healthiest pregnancy possible. But also, that you have the best kind of postnatal period possible as well. I love all of those points. So, let’s talk about some specifics – nutrients and foods. What are some that are particularly important to work towards, including more of in your preconception diet?
Kasey: Yeah. For the couples that do have that more than that three-month window before they want to actively start trying for a baby. Actually, firstly recommends focusing on a bit of a detox plan to just enhance the removal of toxins from your body through gut health, kidney and liver health. Because obviously, we don’t want those toxins floating around if we can get rid of them in preconception, that’s best. And so, in terms of detox sort of savvy foods, I think of things like cruciferous vegetables cooked for helping out your thyroid, of course. Things like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts and cabbage, they’re great for the liver. As I’m sure you’ve spoken about before, Jess, great for hormone balance and helping clear out excess estrogen.
Kasey: Then there’s detox-savvy herbs like coriander and parsley. Just going back to real basics here. They have really good properties in them to help us to detox from even heavy metals. So, making those into perhaps a really delicious pesto. Adding herbs like rosemary and turmeric in for additional liver support and that turmeric. Other spices like ginger, have anti-inflammatory support, which is great also for reproductive health. And of course, fermented foods for gut health. But I am a little bit picky with which ones, keeping out wild ferments initially. Just to really help gut health and then bringing them in after the detox. Things like homemade, controlled kefir and yogurt, and also that bone broth for gut healing.
Kasey: That detox phase is then followed by that nourishment phase. As I was talking about before, to really build up those nutritional reserves. I think if we’re looking at fertility foods and those nutrients, particularly preconception, a lot of us think about folate-rich foods. That’s because they help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, such as neural tube defects in early pregnancy. Folate is actually really critical for every stage of fertility from the egg development to ovulation and fetal growth. Supplying adequate folate also helps healthy growth and development of your baby throughout childhood. Normal DNA production, and red blood cell formation as well. So there’s lots of benefits for folate.
Kasey: We know that that’s found in abundance in dark, green, leafy vegetables, but also liver. So it’s time to embrace the liver pâté, preconception. And if she’s like squirming at this food, which I think a lot of people would, I do have a nice recipe across on my website. It can be a nice way of adding in. You don’t need a lot either with liver but that’s a really potent source of folate. We also want to use this preconception phase to build up her iron stores. So we can go into pregnancy with optimal levels. Pregnancy is really a time where we need up to 10 times the level of iron prior to pregnancy. An Australian study actually showed that 68 to 86% of Australian women don’t meet their daily required amounts in their preconception, in their pregnancy stages of life.
Kasey: We know people and women aren’t getting enough. So testing is really, really important to know where you’re at. Through foods, we know there’s heme sources and non-heme sources. Non-heme sources are plant sources of iron. Things like beetroot, green leafies, once again, mushrooms, seeds and nuts, but there really is limited absorption. So if you are perhaps vegan or vegetarian, absolutely getting that testing to know where you’re at. Otherwise the heme sources of iron like red meat, liver, chicken, fish, oysters and mussels, they have superior absorption. I will note so I only recommend ethically raised animal products. They are also sources of bioavailable copper. We need that copper.
Kasey: A little bit of that copper to mobilise iron and actually create the stored iron which is called ferritin. Also, a source of true vitamin A or retinal, and that further activates copper. It helps to make transferrin. Transferrin, I like to explain it as the taxi where it takes iron around the body where it’s needed. It also helps with hemoglobin production. So that really brings up an important point I do want to chat about. Because I believe that vitamin A doesn’t get the attention it deserves preconception and even throughout pregnancy. If you actually ask a lot of expecting mums about vitamin A, they’ll bring up the danger of it.
Kasey: I don’t know if you get that too, Jess. But what’s not clearly expressed with vitamin A is that: a) it’s critical for these fat-soluble antioxidants. Plays a really important role in reproductive health; and b) that upper limit is a whopping 10,000 IU. And it is actually, to be honest, still debatable based on one questionable study. So I do really like to educate women on making sure they’re getting enough vitamin A. As there’s lots of reasons why, preconception: 1) it plays that role in producing the first house sperm protective mucus, which of course is essential for that conception. That sperm to make the egg and conception to take place. It’s just crucial for reproduction, embryonic and fetal development.
Kasey: Sufficient levels preconception can also shown to reduce the risk of miscarriage. The thyroid gland requires more vitamin A than any other organ. And so healthy thyroid health requires vitamin A. We know thyroid health is also essential for healthy pregnancy and baby health and once pregnant. I think a lot of people understand that the role that plays in development of the eyes and vision and also skeletal. The nervous system development, prevention of deafness, internal organ displacement and prevention of birth defects such as cleft palate. So when it comes to vitamin A, we do need to understand those two different forms.
Kasey: There’s the retinal, which is the preformed which your body will use straightaway or the pro vitamin A. The beta carotene sources, and that does need to be converted. There’s quite a lot of factors that can impact that conversion as well. If your thyroid is not working really well, or if you’ve got poor digestive health or having a lot of low-fat foods in your diet, you won’t be getting that conversion happening. So for that reason, I do really recommend some daily retinal food sources of preformed vitamin A in your diet. The recommended intake is actually 800 micrograms per day. If you look that up, it can be quite challenging through foods alone. Some big foods that are high in that vitamin A include liver once again.
Kasey: Getting out that liver pâté. Cheese, butter, so if you’re not dealing well with dairy that might be a challenge. Eggs, trout and caviar, so salmon roe. So what instead I actually recommend is cod liver oil, because that’s a really good source of vitamin A. It has some omega-3s in there, some vitamin D as well.
Jess: Yes, such a great tip because those foods that you mentioned that are high in vitamin A. They’re not very common in our Western diet, are they?
Kasey: Yeah, and that’s really a big issue, because we do need that vitamin A. So yeah, cod liver oil is an easy way of getting that in. I do recommend that for most women and men leading up to conception. Also understanding just fat soluble vitamins in general, really important. A, D and K as well. This is just a little snippet. Hopefully that gives you an idea of the important role nutrition can play in that preconception health.
Jess: Yeah. So much information there. And I think, if anything like you said, it just raises that awareness of how powerful food can be. How many things that nutrients can impact in that preconception period and throughout pregnancy. I think the takeaway is we all need to eat more liver. I’ve been getting into the pâté recently, because I haven’t had a blood tests for about six months. But I’m feeling like my iron levels are heading in the downwards direction. So yeah, it’s such a good way, and I feel those immediate results. And so, so much nutrition in that chicken liver pâté. That’s a really good tip. Okay, so foods and nutrients we just sort of talked about. When would you recommend sort of turning to supplementation in the preconception stage?
Kasey: Yeah, well, I think it’s really important on top of the diet just to really optimise their fertility. That heightened physiological demands of your body heading into pregnancy. Just as I gave with the example of the cod liver oil for supplying the vitamin A. There’s many cases where I feel that food alone isn’t sufficient. Or maybe the foods that we generally have in our diet aren’t high enough in the nutrients that we need in that critical preconception window. So that’s the time I would recommend all people to be looking at high quality, well-absorbed forms of nutritional supplementation. I do recommend through the guidance of a naturopath or nutritionist who’s specialised particularly in preconception care.
Kasey: That’ll help to ensure that: a) you’re not wasting money. B) they’re in the forms that you’ll be able to use in your body for the beneficial effects we need for fertility health. And c) you don’t overdose because more is not always best. I guess a good example would be the mineral iodine. Having adequate iodine status preconception and throughout pregnancy has a really positive impact on your baby’s behaviour and cognitive development. Iodine deficiency we know leading into and throughout pregnancy can increase the risk of hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. In both you and your baby. It can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and lead to an increased infant mortality.
Kasey: Something that we really want to be making sure that you’re getting enough preconception ready for pregnancy. It can also cause irreversible mental retardation and cretinism and your baby if you’re not getting enough. And also, once you can see that need goes up even more because as I said before, it’s really important for your thyroid hormone production. It’s needed for basically up to the first half of your pregnancy. Your baby will rely on your thyroid hormone production. Then after that they use your iodine to make their own. So it’s going to be important for the whole pregnancy basically.
Kasey: A minimum of 220 micrograms of iodine per day is really needed preconception. Which is once again quite difficult through foods alone because we have such iodine deficient soils. So you may be getting enough through if you’re having a lot of seaweeds. Even a little bit of seaweed, salt, and smaller amounts are found in dairy and eggs. Once again, it’s not huge amounts. I always recommend an iodine supplement. On top of that, if you have a history of say, an under-active thyroid, or perhaps you’ve had a urinary iodine test, and it’s been more in the past, then extra iodine is really needed.
Kasey: There’s such an abundance of research that shows that herbal medicine, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, essential fats – that all play such a big role in optimising hormone health and fertility health, such as, egg quality, sperm health. So utilising high quality supplementation on top of a nourishing diet, I feel is really recommended for everyone.
Jess: Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of people, you know, it’s not talked about. It’s not sort of mainstream to be talking about this preconception period. It’s like, “Oh, I’m pregnant, I better get on the pregnancy multi. But as you’ve illustrated, there’s so many things that are so important in this period. So hopefully, that’s really just raising awareness amongst people who are listening. Aside from food and supplements, what are some examples of other areas that you recommend paying some attention to in the lead up to trying for a baby?
Kasey: Yes. Firstly, getting thorough blood tests, that’s a really good starting point to know where deficiencies lay. Where extra attention may be needed leading up to conception. So a good example here would be vitamin D. We know vitamin D receptors are found in both reproductive organs of mum and dad to be. So optimising those levels is a really important step for fertility health. Once you have that blood test, then you’ll be able to fine tune that dosage in if you need it. On top of course, a big one, preconception is healthy sunlight exposure. So I’m big on that. But preconception is also a time to focus on that low-tox lifestyle. To really give you that environment that minimises toxin exposures, and sets you up for that healthy fertility and doesn’t impact your sperm and egg health.
Kasey: One example is that toxins can disrupt the function of your cells’ mitochondria. Jess you’d know this. But for the listeners, that’s the energy powerhouse within each of your cells and can also deplete your body of fertility supportive antioxidants. We know that mitochondrial function and antioxidants are both crucial for the health of your eggs and sperm. So that exposures to the toxins can impact your chances of a healthy conception. Environment does matter, as well. Some ways just very briefly to look at, like reducing hormone disrupting chemicals, plastics, fragrances and drinking filtered water. If you know that you’ve got amalgam fillings in your mouth, it’s a good time preconception.
Kasey: Well before conceiving, to head to your dentist and get any major work done, including the removal of amalgams, which you really want to be doing under a specialist dentist to does that regularly. But also things like protecting yourself against electric magnetic fields. Things that we don’t probably think about in our lives, usually. But these can all impact sperm and egg health and just generally hormones. So doing things to create that protective low toxin environment along with of course, reducing stress, that’s another big one. It can really help to play an important role in your fertility health.
Jess: Yeah, so many things to think about. And I find in the work that I do, lots of people start to think about the environment and the toxins and chemicals once they have kids. If we can start to think about it in this preconception stage, it’s going to have huge benefits for our future kids’ health and well-being. So love lots of those areas. As you can hear, from what Kasey’s talking about, there’s a lot to be thinking about. I’m really glad that you’ve put together a guide, an easy kind of reference guide for us. You did mention detox earlier. Can you maybe just touch on, maybe just one powerful detox practice that someone could do in their preconception years, months or weeks.
Kasey: Yes, yeah. That’s also another big area that I didn’t touch on with the last question. Detox practices are important to lead up to get rid of those toxins. Something I’ve been recommending for years for all patients, really. Because they can help with not just adding them into preconception plan but helping with hormone health. Just general detoxification – are castor oil packs. So the 101 of actually doing a castor oil pack, I won’t go through today, but I have instructions across on my website. Basically, they help to nourish all cells of your body. They promote blood and lymphatic circulation, reduce pain and inflammation. And of course, enhance detoxification by providing healing to the tissues and organs underneath your skin.
Kasey: So basically, what you’re doing is you’re applying castor oil topically to your skin, mostly over the liver area. Sometimes you can do preconception especially you can alternate between the abdomen up to that reproductive area and the liver. And when you apply that castor oil topically and put our heat pack over top. The oils absorb through the top layer of your skin and it has this beautiful relaxing action on the smooth muscle beneath that we will reach as the blood and lymph circulation travels around the body. Where it helps to nourish, detox and heal those organs below. That includes things like your uterus and fallopian tubes and your bowels, liver, all of that gall bladder.
Kasey: There’s lots of benefits just from helping with reproductive health to detoxing, promoting nice, calm digestive function. It actually helps to your efficient elimination as well. It promotes proper pooing basically, which is great. So we know that helps to get rid of our toxins especially if you’re focusing on your liver health. You want to be making sure that you’re getting rid of your toxins through the bowels as well, so castor oil packs do both. It’s actually really important to get if you’re doing castor oil packs and organic hexane free extra virgin castor oil. Wonder foods, I think it was a brand that I found here in Australia.
Kasey: It’s a really potent source if you’re getting that good quality, one, of polyphenols, vitamin E. Then, we know that that helps to recycle the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione, which is hugely important for fertility health. So that and it helps to promote that circulation, and actually reduces pain and inflammation in the body. It’s something that I definitely recommend for any women. Getting painful periods doing this regularly can really help to reduce that inflammation. And if you’re feeling stressed, it’s a beautiful way of de-stressing because it promotes doing a castor oil pack actually promotes oxytocin. Lots of benefits there, but that’s something that I would definitely start with for detoxing.
Jess: Yeah, and quite a simple thing to do. Like, quite a feminine practice, self-care practice. So maybe I will link to the… do you have a blog post on this?
Kasey: Yeah, I do, actually. Yeah. So you can link to that in the show notes.
Jess: I’ll make sure I pop that link in the show notes. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a castor oil pack. Thank you for reminding me because I could do with some of those benefits as well. I will have to give that a go. Thank you so much. Wow, such a wealth of information and knowledge you are, Kasey. So tell our listeners where they can hear more from you.
Kasey: Yeah, well, I have my own podcast as well. Glowing Mumma, Thriving Bubba. You can search me on your favourite podcast app. A lot of the recipes, like the liver recipe and the castor oil pack info, that’s across on glowingmumma.com. Otherwise, I am on Insta, glowingmumma.thrivingbubba. So yeah, come and say hi across there.
Jess: Yeah, awesome! Thank you. Tell us a little bit more about this preconception health guide. Because this is something new that you have created fairly recently. So can you tell us a little bit more about what that includes. As I said, I’ll make sure that I pop a link to more information about Kasey’s preconception health guide in the show notes too.
Kasey: Yeah, excellent. Path To Conscious Conception basically covers all of the preconception questions that I was getting over the years. It answers all of those things like what tests to do that are really will give you that vital preconception health info. How to safely detox before trying for a baby, what foods will be fertility friendly. Also build up those nutritional reserves that I was telling you about. And how to create that hormone health, reproductive healthy environments. What nutritional and natural medicine supplements are well-researched and to reach for in that preconception journey. Even if you’re working with a naturopath, it’s good to know because I do list practitioner products within there that you can then go back to your practitioner and talk about if they’re good for you.
Kasey: Also, if you are suffering any or have challenges with any issues like endometriosis, PCOS, ovulation issues. Perhaps irregular cycle, thyroid function imbalance, autoimmunity, or have been told that you have diminished ovarian reserve or loop sperm quality. Any of those things I talk about at all and really give you some good advice of what you can do to overcome that. It’s all pretty simple and doable things. So, it’s a guide that covers both mum to be and dad to be as well. I think that’s really important.
Jess: Perfect. That sounds just amazing. And yeah, even though there’s lots of information like, I mean, we’ve just touched the surface today. I love that you kind of make things simple. So, you know, you’re great at presenting the information but then, this is what you need to do to address these things. And I know from your Introducing Solids Guide, which we’ve talked about previously, I think we did a Facebook Live together.
Kasey: Yeah, we did that.
Jess: Yeah, that I’ve had lots of people click through and purchase your Introducing Solids Guide, and have had really good feedback. So, I know that your guides are really actionable and practical and give people the information that they’re not getting from their doctor or their specialist. All-in-one sort of convenient place. So, if you are looking at getting pregnant anytime in the future, I would highly recommend checking out Kasey’s Preconception Care Guide. Thank you so much for joining me, Kasey. And I’m sure I’ll talk to you soon!
Kasey: Thanks so much, Jess. It’s been lots of fun.
Jess: Thanks so much. Bye!