The best tips for planning for pregnancy are know your body, and try to have a healthy lifestyle
When planning for pregnancy, taking small steps to improve your health and lifestyle can go a long way to improving your fertility and getting pregnant. It can also reduce the risk of problems during pregnancy, assist in recovery after the birth of baby and give you the energy you’ll need when baby comes home.
Your amazing body will soon be creating life. Doing the best you can to be prepare for this miracle can give your baby a great start to their development.
Lifestyle factors of nutrition, exercise and sleep all play a role in fertility – for both women and men.
While we all like to enjoy life, moderation is our focus here. That might be cutting back on alcohol or food. For others it might be less intensive exercise to re-establish regular periods.
Being underweight or overweight can affect your hormones and fertility. Having your body weight within the correct Body Mass Index (BMI) is helpful when trying to become pregnant. Your BMI is based on your height and weight. It’s just one way to see if you’re at a healthy weight for your body.
There are so many benefits to exercising regularly, and it’s a move in the right direction when it comes to conceiving.
Regular exercise helps prepare your body for pregnancy by strengthening and toning muscles, increasing oxygen in your blood and increasing flexibility. This all helps prepare the body for the demands of pregnancy and childbirth.
Exercise is linked to the release of endorphins, known as the “feel-good” hormone. These hormones can reduce stress, which is favourable when you’re trying to become pregnant.
I’ve teamed with Gold Coast Champion Iron-Woman Hayley Bateup to create a series of free videos demonstrating a range of exercises that can be used now, and throughout each stage of your pregnancy.
For men, a moderate exercise regime that leads to a healthy body can also lead to healthier sperm. Being overweight can affect male fertility.
For both males and females, moderate regular exercise can improve fertility, reduce stress and anxiety, improve health-related quality of life and assist with the physical and mental demands of parenthood once baby is born.
Where possible, reducing the risk of exposure to toxins, infections or radiation for both you and your partner in the home and workplace can benefit your overall health, and your pregnancy.
Travel can also expose you to a variety of infections. If you are planning for pregnancy, checking vaccination requirements and any specific travel warnings for an area would be advisable. For example, if you are travelling to a Zika virus infected area specific medical advice should be sought prior to trying to conceive.
There are some vitamins and minerals that are especially important before and during pregnancy. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will help you to get all the vitamins and minerals you need, but there is now evidence of other supplements that optimise egg and early embryo development.
I recommend that women start taking folic acid at least three months before conception. Folic acid is probably the simplest thing you can do to help your baby. Spina bifida is intimately related to low folic acid intake and if you take folic acid (contained in most antenatal multivitamins) you can almost eliminate Spina bifida.
For men who want to be fathers, some micronutrients such as zinc and selenium may help improve sperm quality and reduce the damage to sperm caused by free radicals.
During pregnancy, there are certain infections and illnesses that can be harmful to you and your developing baby. Immunisation is a simple and effective way to protect yourself and your baby from certain infections.
Before becoming pregnant, check that you have protection against diseases such as tetanus, hepatitis B, rubella, chickenpox, whooping cough and influenza.
All women are encouraged to get vaccinated before pregnancy as not all of these vaccines are recommended during pregnancy.
However, if you were unable to receive these vaccines before your pregnancy, it is recommended you get influenza vaccination throughout pregnancy, and pertussis in the third trimester. The other immunisations are recommended as soon as possible after your baby is born.
All vaccines can be given to breastfeeding mothers, and having immunity will reduce the likelihood of passing on illnesses to your baby.
Studies show that smoking can lead to delayed conception, miscarriage and affect the environment in the uterus where baby will grow. In men, the chemicals in cigarettes can damage the sperm quality; decrease semen volume and sperm numbers. While stopping smoking is good for your overall health, there are particular benefits when it comes to conceiving and pregnancy.
Now is the time for pre-conception screening. Many patients ask about other options to decrease pregnancy risk. We recommend preconception screening of either partner so you are fully aware of possible genetic disease risks.
Ask your GP for a referral to Dr Michael Flynn - print this Referral Request and hand it to your GP.