Pre-Pregnancy Checklist – Preparing for Pregnancy
Pre-Pregnancy Checklist – Preparing for Pregnancy
So you’ve decided that now is the time to prepare for pregnancy – congratulations! You’ve probably been thinking about babies for some time and can’t wait to get started.
It’s important to bear in mind that it’s completely normal for you to conceive anytime in the first twelve months of trying – 90% of couples will conceive in the first twelve months of trying. After this time, your fertility can be investigated should you be concerned that you haven’t yet conceived.
So, what’s the next step? In no particular order, below are some things to think about now that you’re ready to prepare for pregnancy.
1. Visit your GP
Visit your GP for a full check-up, including a pap smear and breast check.
Your doctor will likely ask if your vaccinations are up-to-date, particularly:
- Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR)
- Chicken Pox
- Whooping Cough
- Pneumococcal Disease
Remember its a personal choice to vaccinate or not, BellyBelly recommends you do your research to find out what’s best for you. Some vaccines have additives, preservatives and side effects which you may not be happy to have in your body.
2. Start taking Folic Acid (folate)
Because it can be difficult to get all the folate you need from your diet, it’s a good idea to take folate supplements, which help prevent neural tube defects like Spina Bifda – one of the most common of all birth defects.
Ideally, start taking folate three months prior to conception, but if you hope to conceive earlier than this, the sooner you start taking it, the better. A dose of 400ug until the 12th week of pregnancy is ideal – it’s most crucial in the first trimester as the brain and spinal cord are developing.
Most pregnancy / pre-natal multi-vitamins should contain folate so you can even start taking those instead of folate on it’s own – just make sure you read the label so you know how much folate you’re actually getting (ideally not too small amount).
You’ll also find folate in the following foods:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Beef / Yeast Extracts (e.g. Vegemite)
- Bran Flakes
- Chick Peas
- Soy Beans
A vitamin to make mention of is Vitamin A, which can be harmful to the baby or may cause birth defects when taken in excess amounts. This is no reason to panic about the foods you eat on a daily basis. According to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration website, “the recommended adult daily allowance of vitamin A from all sources is 2500 IU per week”.
You will find a Vitamin A in most multi-vitamins and this is okay as it’s an important vitamin – a deficiency can also cause health problems for your baby. Provided you don’t exceed the above intake per week, Vitamin A is safe to ingest. This is why it is important to make sure you have a multi-vitamin suitable for pregnancy as this should be factored in already.
3. Investigate / Check Your Private Health Cover
If you intend to:
- Attend a Private Hospital,
- See a Private Obstetrician or
- See a Private Midwife (some funds contribute towards Midwives, contact your fund to see)
.. you’ll need to make sure your Private Health cover is up to date and that you have the level of cover you need.
Most Private Health funds require you have appropriate cover for at least 12 months prior to your baby being born. Most will also cover your baby if he / she is to be admitted for any reason during this time, however some funds have exceptions and limits so it’s important to check with them first.
4. Get Help To Stop Smoking
There is no safe level of smoking no matter if you are trying to conceive or pregnant or neither.
If you are a female smoker, you will likely have lowered fertility compared to that of a non-smoker. Smoking can also result in less success with fertility treatment and a higher miscarriage and stillbirth rate.
Men who smoke may have reduced semen volume and sperm count and more abnormal sperm compared to non or ex-smokers. Toxins found in tobacco smoke, such as cadmium, nicotine, lead and radioactive elements may be directly toxic as they circulate in the blood and reach the testes. It is not yet known whether this affects the fertility or health of the children of men who smoke.^1^
Smoking during pregnancy and exposing the infant to tobacco smoke in the first year of life is one of the major risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or cot death).^2^ Over one-quarter of the risk of death due to SIDS is attributable to maternal smoking.^3^
So if you are a smoker, now is a great time to stop. You can discuss this with your GP, pharmacist or you can call support organisations like Quit on 137848. You can read more about smoking in pregnancy HERE.
5. Stop Alcohol Consumption
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) recommends that men drink no more than four standard drinks per day, with at least two alcohol-free days per week and for women, recommends no drinking at all during pregnancy. This is due to the difficulty in knowing what is a safe level for a pregnant woman to drink.
Excessive drinking can result in miscarriage or stillbirth and puts baby at risk of disabilities, behavioural problems and slow growth.
6. Stop Taking Recreational Drugs
It goes without saying that recreational drug use is harmful to your body, this may also include your fertility. Studies suggest that certain drugs may have effects including a reduction sperm count and quality, preventing ovulation, causing abnormalities and an increase in general fertility problems. Some drugs may cause bleeding, miscarriage and low-weight and underdeveloped babies.
7. Visit Your Pharmacist
If you are taking any medications, check with your pharmacist or GP to see if they are still appropriate for conception and / or pregnancy. Many medications including over-the-counter painkillers and other drugs are not recommended to take when pregnant or breastfeeding (paracetamol is fine when you do not exceed the daily dosage instructions).
8. Healthy Eating & Exercise
You don’t need to follow a strict regime that’s impossible to keep up with, but aim to be in the healthy weight range for your body – being underweight or overweight can effect fertility.
Being underweight or overweight can result in problems with ovulation. You are also more prone to high blood pressure in pregnancy if you are overweight, which can be dangerous if left untreated.
Drink plenty of water, eat a balanced diet from the five food groups, including lots of fresh fruit and veggies and exercise regularly. Going for a walk everyday with your partner is a great idea – perhaps to motivate yourself, you can make up a little game where you’re not allowed to talk about babies for the day until you go on your walk! Alternately you might like to sign up at the local gym or for a fitness class – there are plenty of things you can do to work with your body towards conception. The fitter you are, the better you will be able to cope with pregnancy, which places extra demands and strains on your body.
9. Family Health History
If your family has a history of genetic disorders or health problems, you may like to bring this up with your GP who can refer you to a genetic counsellor or you are able to contact one directly.
If you aren’t aware of any previous health problems in your family, it doesn’t hurt to have a chat to your family about it, as sometimes they don’t think or remember to tell you. For example, a good friend of mine had terrible complications with pre-eclampsia and it wasn’t until she had her baby that her family revealed the long lineage of pregnancy complications from pre-eclampsia.
10. See Your Dentist
It’s a good idea to have a check up with your dentist to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy before you get pregnant, as once pregnant, not only can you be more prone to teeth and gum issues, but you may not be able to have certain treatments when pregnant. So making sure any potential problems are seen to before pregnancy is a good idea.
11. Cut Your Caffeine Intake
There are so many differing conclusions made about the effect caffeine has on fertility, some studies claiming that higher caffeine consumption can delay the chance of conception and some saying it has little effect.
One study indicated that moderate caffeine intake of 150-300 mg (approx one to two cups of strong coffee per day) is an established risk factor in human fertility. They noted that women who drank more than one strong cup of coffee per day were half as likely to conceive in any given menstrual cycle, compared to those who drank less than one cup per day, and those who consumed 2.5 cups per day were 4.7 times less likely to conceive.
According to the The Australia New Zealand Food Authority’s report on on the safety aspects of dietary caffeine (2000), the below foods contained the following amounts of caffeine:
—Instant coffee (1 teaspoon/cup)
60-80 mg/250 mL cup
60-120 mg/250mL cup
10-50 mg/250 mL cup
36 mg/375 mL can
20 mg/100g bar
—Energy Drinks (e.g. Red Bull)
80 mg/250 mL can
Any caffeinated drinks with energy stimulants should be completely avoided as they are not recommended in pregnancy and are particularly bad for your health anyway.
12. Investigate Options For Pregnancy Care
While you are thinking about your private health cover, you might like to investigate the different options available to you – private? Public? Homebirth? Shared care?
Knowing where you’d like to birth and who you’d like to care for you will be very useful as a headstart, with current waiting lists for hospitals and carers starting when women book in at five and a half weeks for some places.
13. Chart Your Cycle
BellyBelly has a detailed article on charting your cycle here which may all seem complex at first, but it’s as easy as riding a bike! Online charting is so easy to do and gives you a great advantage when trying to conceive, as you can see right in front of you your most fertile times and least fertile times. Another article you might find useful is our article on mucus observations here which is another great help when looking for fertility indications.
All the best for a successful road to conception!
1. United States. Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking: A report of the surgeon general. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2004.
2. US Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking for Women. A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office on Smoking and Health, 1980.
3. Blair P, Fleming Pet al. Smoking and the sudden infant death syndrome: Results from 1993-5 case-control study for confidential inquiry into stillbirths and deaths in infancy. BMJ 1996;313:195-8.
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