If 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. 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.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #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. You should do your research to find out what’s best for you.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #2: Start taking a pre-natal multivitamin supplement
Because it can be difficult to get all the folate you need from your diet, it’s a good idea to take a prenatal multivitamin with high folate levels, which help prevent neural tube defects like Spina Bifida ” one of the most common of all birth defects.
Ideally, start taking these supplements three months prior to conception, but if you hope to conceive earlier than this, the sooner you start taking it, the better – it’s most crucial in the first trimester as the brain and spinal cord are developing. You’ll also find folate in the following foods:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Beef / Yeast Extracts (e.g. Vegemite)
- Bran Flakes
- Chick Peas
- Soy Beans
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #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.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #4: Stop Smoking
There is no safe level of smoking no matter if you are trying to conceive, pregnant or neither of those. Smoking impacts on your health and may affect your fertility – smokers also may have a harder time conceiving with IVF. Further more it may have health implications on your baby.
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^.
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.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #5: Stop alcohol consumption
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) recommends that men drink no more than two standard drinks per day 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. To find out more, check out our article on Alcohol During Pregnancy.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #6: Stop Taking Social Drugs
It goes without saying that recreational drug use is harmful to your body, this may also include your fertility. They may lead to birth defects and damage DNA.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #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 are not recommended to take when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #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 affect fertility.
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.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #9: Investigate 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.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #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 are not able to have the usual treatments you would if you weren’t pregnant. So making sure any potential problems are seen to before pregnancy is a good idea.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #11: Caffeine
There are so many differing conclusions made about the effect caffeine has on fertility.
One study which is discussed HERE from Macquarie University, which you may like to read.
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
- Percolated coffee 60-120 mg/250mL cup
- Tea 10-50 mg/250 mL cup
- Coca Cola 48.75mg/375 mL can
- Milk Chocolate 20 mg/100g bar
- Energy Drinks (e.g. Red Bull) 80 mg/250 mL can
Energy drinks like Red Bull are not recommended in pregnancy, so steer clear of those which are really bad for you anyway. All other drinks, keep to a minimum or find caffeine-free alternatives.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #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? Check out our article, Who Cares? Choosing A Model Of Maternity Care.
Knowing where you’d like to birth and who you’d like to care for you will be very useful, because waiting lists for hospitals and carers begin as soon as five and a half weeks of pregnancy for some places – around a week and a half from when many women find out they are pregnant.
Pre-Pregnancy Tip #13: Start Charting Your Cycle
BellyBelly has a detailed article on charting your cycle 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. Reference: Czeizel AE. CNS Drugs 1996, 6 (5): 399-412. Czeizel AE & Dundas I. New Eng J Med 1992; 327: 1832-5. Czeizel AE. Birth Defects Res (Part A) 2004, 70: 853-861).
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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-