What you eat, how much you exercise, and whether you smoke or drink alcohol are all important factors to look at when considering a family. Your chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy and baby are better if you and your partner are as fit and healthy as possible. Family planning clinics are available to help give advice on conceiving.
Before you try for a baby visit your local GP who will be able to advise you on pre-pregnancy and pregnancy healthcare. This advice will help improve your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.
Planning for a Healthy Pregnancy
There are so many things that you might think do not really have any bearing on whether or not you and your partner have a healthy baby. But more and more, research shows that what you do before you get pregnant or before you know you’re pregnant can have a huge effect on the health of your pregnancy and baby.
Your Reproductive Health
Both you and your partner should be sure to be seen by your GP. This helps you get any chronic conditions diagnosed and/or under control before getting pregnant, which in turn minimises their effects on your pregnancy and baby. It’s also important to:
- Have a preconception check-up. This includes finding a practitioner (an obstetrician-gynaecologist, family practitioner, or midwife) before you get pregnant.
- Vitamin with folic acid. Prenatal vitamins can help reduce the likelihood of certain types of birth defects, called neural tube defects (NTD), like spina bifida and anencephaly.
- Contraception. Some methods of contraception can be stopped right before you want to start trying to conceive, while others will require a waiting period. Your practitioner can help you decide when to stop using birth control.
- Education: Learn about the conception process and how to get pregnant. This certainly makes it easier to get pregnant when you both understand how the process works. What days you are fertile for example or even better positions.
Healthier Conception and Pregnancy
Even before you’re pregnant, begin eliminating hazards from your life (chemicals, x-rays, etc.). Whether it’s in your kitchen, where you work or play, there are potential hazards you encounter every day. Knowing what’s a hazard and how to avoid it can be helpful. In addition:
- Discontinue smoking before trying to get pregnant. Many people think that they will stop once pregnant, but smoking can damage both sperm and eggs. It’s much better for both partners to quit prior to conception.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol. There is some evidence that excessive caffeine use can increase the risk of miscarriage and possibly impair fertility in women. But moderate use of caffeine and alcohol seem to be safe prior to conception (once you are pregnant, no amount of alcohol is safe).
- Viruses and infections that may affect pregnancy. These include toxoplasmosis and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (also called LCMV). Toxoplasmosis is an infection you can get from eating undercooked meat or touching cat poop. You can get LCMV from caring for rodents, such as hamsters, mice and guinea pigs. If you have these kinds of pets or a cat, ask someone to care for them and to clean the litter box for you. Make sure any meat you eat is fully cooked.
- Chemicals: Don’t use harmful chemicals at home or work. Ask your provider if chemicals you use can affect your chances of getting pregnant or your baby’s health when you do get pregnant. Some chemicals can cause birth defects in your baby. If you work with chemicals, talk to your boss about changing job duties before and during pregnancy.
- Stress Management: Reduce your stress. High levels of stress can cause problems during pregnancy, so find ways to manage stress before you get pregnant. Being active, eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep can help you deal with stress. If you’re really stressed out, inform your GP. They can help you find a counsellor to help you reduce and handle your stress.
If you are having trouble conceiving or just want advice family planning clinics can help. Find your local NHS family planning service here.