Want to fall pregnant? Everything you need to know BEFORE trying to fall pregnant.
Are you hoping that this year may involve poo-filled nappies and the sounds of a crying baby?
What an exciting time ahead for you and your family!
It can be difficult to know (especially if you haven’t been pregnant before) what you should do prior to trying to conceive to ensure you are fully prepared and ready for pregnancy.
Whether you are already giving it a red hot crack.. or just contemplating the idea of growing your family sometime in the future… it is important to make sure you are as healthy and prepared as possible.
By preparing well, you will improve your chances of a smoother, healthier pregnancy.
I have compiled a comprehensive list of everything you need to think about before trying to conceive!
What should I do first when trying to conceive?
Book an appointment with your local doctor/health care practitioner to discuss the following:
- Your current medications and whether they need to be altered or discontinued as certain medications are not compatible with pregnancy.
- Management of any current chronic conditions (ie. diabetes, Crohn’s disease or genital herpes) which may affect pregnancy.
- Blood test to assess for immunity against diseases such as rubella or chicken pox.
- General blood test to check all your health markers i.e.. iron levels and vitamin D
- Ensure you are up to date with your papsmears.
- Book in for a dental health check. Not only are healthy gums and teeth essential to a healthy pregnancy but there are certain procedures you may not be able to have whilst pregnant.
Do I need to change my diet?
Well it really depends on what you’re already eating… but generally yes, most people will need to make slight changes.
Firstly it is important to aim for a healthy BMI range (between 18.5-25).
Being over or under weight can affect your hormones and fertility, possibly making it harder to conceive.
Make sure to consult with your doctor or a qualified dietician to discuss appropriate methods for weight management.
Is there anything I should add to my diet?
Folic acid intake is important during pregnancy to prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects (eg. spina bifida) in the newborn.
It is recommended to have between 0.6-0.8 mg/day of folic acid during pregnancy.
Foods rich in folic acid are lentils, leafy greens, beans, oranges, asparagus, sunflower seeds, peanuts, avocado and brussel sprouts.
Try and add some of these foods into your diet to increase your intake today.
What about prenatal vitamins?
It is recommended to start taking prenatal vitamins at least 1 month prior to conception through to the end of pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins will slightly differ depending on the brand but it is important to select supplements which contain folic acid, iron, iodine, calcium and vitamin D.
These minerals are essential for normal brain and neural tube development in the baby. They are also important for the mother’s energy levels and thyroid function.
Is there anything I should stop having?
It is recommended to limit your consumption of highly processed sugars and ensure you are eating a wide variety of healthy fats, good quality meat, fruit and vegetables.
Limit caffeine intake to 200mg/day, which equates to approximately 2 cups of espresso coffee.
Alcohol is not recommended during pregnancy or when trying to conceive.
Cease all smoking and drug use.
OK so now my diet is in check.. what about exercise?
Depending on your current levels of activity, you may need to slightly alter your fitness routine. Generally speaking exercise is great for your health, and we all should be aiming to be active every day in some way.
Aim for 150 mins of exercise per week (30 minutes, 5 times/week).
This can improve your fertility, reduce your risk of gestational diabetes during pregnancy, prevent aches and pains once pregnant and reduce your risk of incontinence or prolapse.
Exercise pre-pregnancy should include a component of pelvic floor muscle training (the sooner you start, the easier your pregnancy will be!) and aerobic and resistance training.
Your exercise routine may need to change once you fall pregnant but we can talk about that another time.
For the moment…whatever floats your boat… most importantly exercise should be enjoyable for you!
If you don’t like running, don’t run. If you don’t like yoga, don’t do yoga.
Find something you enjoy doing which keeps you active and uses a variety of muscles.
Diet and exercise. Tick! What about my mental state?
It may be easier said than done, but focusing on reducing stress levels is paramount to good health whilst trying to conceive.
Whether you are stressed in your current job role, have personal issues or conflicts or are worried that you still haven’t fallen pregnant yet… any stress for prolonged periods is detrimental to our health.
Stress wreaks havoc on all bodily systems, but specifically our hormones.
And we need healthy and happy hormones for babies to be made!
I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of the couple who have been trying to have a baby for years. They finally decide to have a break and go on a holiday to relax. And bam! Pregnant!
Now obviously conceiving is a lot more complex then just being zen every day. But relaxation is a very important component and the process of making a baby should be an enjoyable one, not stressful.
There are some great mindfulness and meditation apps to help you so you don’t have to work it out on your own.
Try Calm, Smiling Mind or Headspace apps. They are great!
How can I stress less and relax more?
Focus on your breathing. Try to take mindful, long and deep inhales and exhales.
Do more of the things you love.
Read a good book, catch up with a friend, get creative, have a nice warm bath, go for a walk, listen to your favourite music, watch a movie… whatever it may be, it doesn’t have to take long.
Now your body and mind are primed for baby making.. don’t forget about the financials!
Think about how and where you might like to birth. Private? Public?
Most insurance companies will have a 12 month waiting list for obstetric cover so make sure to give them a call and upgrade your insurance if you need to.
Even though it feels so far away…It is also important to think about your ideal birth plan as many obstetricians, hospitals and birth houses will be in high demand.
If you make a decision early, it means that once you do fall pregnant the decision is already made and you can make birthing arrangements before you miss out on a place.
For some couples you may want to think about budgeting and financial planning to allow room for baby expenses and time off work.
Speaking of time off work… it is worthwhile researching your workplace policies on maternity leave, return to work options etc.
Finally…when you get a chance start researching life insurance, it is recommended to have this once you have children.
That’s a lot for me to consider.. but what about my partner?
It is important for your partner to also be in good health.
This means aiming for a healthy BMI, staying active, eating a well balanced diet and reducing their stress levels.
It takes two to tango! Not only to aid in conception but also to be at your best once the baby arrives.
It is also worthwhile discussing with your partner expectations and values around parenting and the different roles that are involved and the support network you will have access to.
Now you are ready to go, equipped with the best knowledge to improve your health to optimise your chances of conceiving and enjoying a healthy pregnancy.
And remember, for women younger than 35, it is normal for conception to take between 6-12 months. If you still haven’t fallen pregnant after 12 months then consult with your doctor for further investigation and treatment.
For those women over the age of 35, it is recommended to try for 6 months prior to seeking help.
Now sit back and enjoy this special time!
xo Physio Laura