Preparing For Pregnancy

How to get your body ready for pregnancy

Preparing for pregnancy, and getting your body ready are essential for the health of both you and your baby. Prime your body to give yourself the best chance of conceiving and your baby the best start to life.

If you're considering getting pregnant soon, you might want to think about getting your body baby-fit. Here's what women can do to get ready for pregnancy.

Before trying to conceive, Dr Kelton Tremellen, deputy medical director at IVF clinic Repromed and creator of the new men's fertility-boosting vitamin Menevit, suggests going to your GP and making sure your general health is good. "Make sure your Pap smear is up-to-date, and have a blood test to see if you're immune to rubella," he suggests.

If you're on any medication, discuss this with your GP - you may need to go off it or try a new treatment before conceiving, as some types of medication can be detrimental to your unborn baby. For details on what medications can be taken around conception, most states have a hotline.

Taking folic acid supplements and making sure that your diet contains foods rich in folate can help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, developing in your unborn baby. Medical professionals suggest women take supplements, such as Elevit, for at least a month before conceiving and then throughout the pregnancy.

"A woman trying to fall pregnant has to stop smoking," warns Dr Tremellen, adding that there's a great deal of evidence that smoking decreases the chance of conceiving. "In the IVF program, if a woman smokes more than 10 cigarettes per day, the chance of her conceiving is about half compared to a non-smoking woman," he says. He recommends that a woman quits smoking all together or, at the very least, cuts down to well below 10.

Dr Tremellen says alcohol is another big no-no if you're trying to conceive. While many women may think it's okay to have a drink or two during this time, he says there is no safe minimal amount you can drink. "A Danish study found that even one glass a day increases the time it takes to conceive," he says.

To increase your chances of conceiving it's a good idea to learn how to recognise the signs that you're ovulating. Noticing changes in your mucus is a good way to pick when you're most fertile (it will be thinner and more slippery during this time). You can speak with your GP or get more information from a natural family planning clinic to help you identify your fertile times.

Dr Tremellen says it's vital that women planning to fall pregnant maintain a healthy weight. "If a woman's underweight, she's less likely to ovulate. If she's overweight, she's less likely to ovulate. She should aim for a normal BMI [body mass index - work it out by dividing your weight in kilos by your height in metres squared] between 20 and 25," he says, adding that the miscarriage rate also goes up if you put on too much weight.

Now is the time for moderate, not excessive, exercise. A recent study found that three or less hours of physical exercise a week doesn't affect IVF outcomes. However, four or more hours of exercise weekly resulted in an increase in pregnancy loss and a reduction in live birth rate.

There's no magic diet guaranteed to make you super-fertile but it's worth eating a healthy range of foods - including fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats - in preparation for pregnancy. Make sure your diet includes foods that are a good source of folate, such as green leafy vegetables. It's also a good idea to cut back on the cappuccinos: studies have shown that a high coffee intake can stop a fertilised egg from implanting, meaning that you can have a miscarriage and not even know it.

Diseases such as toxoplasmosis are relatively harmless to adults but can be dangerous to a developing baby. Toxoplasmosis is most often transmitted through cat poo or undercooked meat, so while trying to conceive, put your partner in charge of emptying the cat litter tray and make sure you wash your hands well after handling raw or undercooked meat.

While it's obvious you need to stop taking the Pill before trying to get pregnant, you don't have to quit it months in advance. "The Pill doesn't have a negative effect on fertility," explains Dr Tremellen, adding that today's Pill comes in such a low dose that as soon as you come off it you're fertile within the following month.

In fact, in some ways the Pill can actually boost fertility. "It can help protect women against endometriosis and ovarian cysts, which can interfere with fertility," says Dr Tremellen.

On the other hand, other forms of contraception, such as the Depo-Provera injection, do linger in your system - speak to your doctor if this relates to you.

What is Spina Bifida?

What is Spina Bifida?

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Article content written and reproduced from 'Making Babies', published by ACP Magazines, a division of PBL Media Limited