Considering starting or extending your family can be an exciting and fun time for you and your partner.
But before you start trying, there are some basic, but very important, things you can do to get your body ready for conception, pregnancy and childbirth.
Stop all forms of hormonal birth control
This may seem like stating the obvious, but many women are not aware that hormonal birth control should be stopped for at least three months prior to when you want to conceive. It can take time for your body to flush out the effects of hormonal-based birth control such as the pill, hormone injections, a vaginal ring, skin implants or a patch. It pays to let your body have a few natural menstrual cycles before trying to conceive. Not only is this beneficial for your body physically, but it also reduces the likelihood of any confusion over irregular or missed periods, ovulation dates and estimated dates of conception.
Get to your ideal weight
Being underweight or overweight can interfere with your ability to get pregnant. According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 24.9 is ideal for women looking to conceive. Being outside this range can interfere with normal ovulation cycles, making it more difficult to fall pregnant. Obesity during pregnancy can increase the risk of potentially harmful complications, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, thrombosis, miscarriage, labour difficulties and stillbirth. Starting out at your ideal weight increases your likelihood of continuing to maintain a healthy weight throughout your entire pregnancy.
Cut out those bad habits
Smoking, drugs and alcohol should be eliminated completely as they can interfere with you and your partner’s ability to conceive. These bad habits can be difficult to stop, so give yourself plenty of time to get the necessary help to cut these out of your everyday lifestyle. It is widely known that continuing these bad habits into your pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, developmental problems for the baby and a range of other birth defects.
Start taking folic acid
Folic acid dramatically reduces the chances of your baby developing neural-tube defects, such as spina bifida. Many women are unaware that folic acid needs to be taken about four weeks prior to conception, as these defects occur in the very early stages of foetal development, when many women are not even aware they are pregnant. The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recommends women looking to conceive should take 500 micrograms of folic acid daily one month prior to conception and for at least three months into their pregnancy. Many over-the-counter pregnancy vitamin supplements include the recommended daily dose.
Take on a healthy diet
A balanced diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrain foods, fibre, calcium-rich foods and protein is ideal prior to conception. Get rid of processed foods, fatty foods and sugar-rich foods from your pantry and fridge. Starting out with a healthy diet helps to ensure you keep up with this throughout your pregnancy. Taking on a healthy diet also includes watching what you drink. At least two litres of water a day is best and be sure to reduce your caffeine intake. Coffee, energy drinks and many soft drinks contain significant amounts of caffeine in them. Diets high in caffeine can interfere with fertility, so cutting back on the daily caffeine intake will not only help to improve your chances of conception, but it also means you won’t suffer any withdrawals during your pregnancy.