If you are thinking about pregnancy, you can book in for pre-conception consultation where you'll receive expert advice on planning your pregnancy.
The preconception period (three months prior to pregnancy) is the time to make life changes that can help boost fertility, reduce problems during pregnancy and assist in recovery from birth.
Watching what you eat
It is important to have a well-balanced and nutritionally sound diet. Freshly prepared low fat, high fibre diet is the basis of good health. Women should aim for normal weight before conception.
Folic Acid If you and your partner are planning to conceive, you should start taking folic acid before you get pregnant. Folic acid helps to provide the best health outcomes and growth for your baby during pregnancy. Folic acid also reduces the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. If you have diabetes, are taking anti-epileptic medication or have a family history of neural tube defects, you may be at a higher risk and should discuss this with your doctor. Iodine Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones are vital for the development of the brain and nervous system of the fetus, and in babies and young children. Evidence shows that many Australian women do not get enough iodine from food alone. Women should take 150 micrograms of iodine daily if they are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or breastfeeding. Women who have thyroid problems should talk to their doctor prior to taking a supplement.
Vitamin D Your body needs Vitamin D to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorus, which help build your baby's bones and teeth. A Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can cause growth retardation and skeletal deformities. It may also have an impact on birth weight. A deficiency of Vitamin D has also been linked to a greater risk of pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia, and a higher likelihood of an expectant mother needing a caesarean section.
Check your rhesus factor
Your doctor will check your blood group so the Rhesus factor is known. If you have rhesus negative (Rh-) blood, your fetus may be at risk of health problems. Rhesus negative blood in the expectant mother requires medical attention throughout the pregnancy.
Research shows that being significantly overweight during pregnancy has potentially detrimental affects on the health of both the mother and their unborn child.
Maintaining sensible, regular, non-contact exercise is important. Being fit and healthy will not only prepare you for the strength and stamina required during pregnancy, but it will also increase your chances of conception and make for a generally easier pregnancy, labour and most importantly birth.
Quitting smoking before pregnancy is the single most effective means of protecting your baby and yourself from the development of serious complications during pregnancy. By quitting smoking you are more likely to conceive naturally and without delay, less likely to suffer a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy and less likely to deliver your baby prematurely.
Alcohol and other drugs
There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy; therefore, for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option. Alcohol can affect the health and development of an unborn baby for life. If you take recreational drugs, you need to stop these immediately and discuss over-the-counter drugs with your doctor or pharmacist.
Some infections before conception and in pregnancy can present a risk to the fetus. These infections include rubella, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, listeria, cytomegalovirus and HIV. Having a fever in pregnancy can also be harmful to the baby so taking paracetamol may be advised.
Rubella Rubella (German measles) infection in pregnancy is a big concern. Most women have been vaccinated against rubella and are immune, but this immunity can wear off over time. It is advisable to be tested for your rubella immunity status before becoming pregnant. You can be vaccinated if your immunity is low, but you should take care to avoid getting pregnant within 28 days of your vaccination.
Varicella Varicella (chicken pox) infection in pregnancy can also be harmful so you should consider vaccination before becoming pregnant. Your GP can check if you need this. But you must take care to avoid getting pregnant within 28 days of your vaccination.
Listeria Listeria can cause fetal death if contracted during pregnancy. It is caused by common bacteria which can contaminate food. It has been found in many fresh and unprocessed foods such as unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses, cold processed meats, pre-cut fruit and salads, pâté, raw seafood and smoked seafood.
To avoid a listeria infection in pregnancy, it’s best to:
avoid the foods listed above
carefully wash raw vegetables
thoroughly cook all foods of animal origin
thoroughly clean utensils after preparing uncooked food
Toxoplasmosis This infection can have a similar effect to listeria. It is acquired by close contact with infected cats or eating uncooked or undercooked meat. Pregnant women should get another person to clean cat litter boxes daily, wear disposable rubber gloves for handling soil likely to be contaminated with cats’ faeces, and carefully wash hands after gardening or handling raw meat. All meat should be well cooked through before eating.
How Long Should it Take to Conceive?
Most healthy couples should achieve a pregnancy within the first 12 months of trying. Every month that a couple is trying to get pregnant there is about a 20% chance of being successful. Women over 35 may take twice as long to conceive.
The best time to get pregnant
You’re most likely to get pregnant if you have sex within a day or so of ovulation (releasing an egg from the ovary). This is usually about 14 days after the first day of your last period. An egg lives for about 12-24 hours after it’s released. For pregnancy to happen, the egg must be fertilised by a sperm within this time. If you want to get pregnant, having sex every couple of days will mean there’s always sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes to meet the egg when it’s released.
Sperm can live for up to seven days inside a woman’s body. So if you’ve had sex in the days before ovulation, the sperm will have had time to travel up the fallopian tubes to “wait” for the egg to be released. It’s difficult to know exactly when ovulation happens, unless you are practising natural family planning, or fertility awareness.
The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of a woman’s period (day one). Some time after her period she will ovulate, and then around 12-14 days after this she’ll have her next period. The average cycle takes 28 days, but shorter or longer cycles are normal.
If you have had a child with a genetic disorder, have a family history of genetic disorders, or if you’re over 35 years of age, you are at higher risk.
Genetic disorders include Down’s syndrome, thalassaemia, cystic fibrosis, haemophilia and Tay-Sachs disease; some of these are more common in certain populations. Your doctor can provide advice about genetic testing and counselling for yourself and your partner. Your doctor can also advise you about the tests that are available during pregnancy to detect abnormalities.
You may be at a higher risk of having a baby with a genetic disorder if you have previously had a baby with a genetic disorder, have a family history of genetic disorders or are more than 35 years of age. It is advisable that you discuss any of the risk factors that apply to you with your doctor before conceiving.
Other considerations before conceiving:
See your doctor for routine blood tests and a health check
Reduce caffeine intake
Review current medications
Have a Pap Test
Consider health insurance cover
Visit the dentist
Obstetrician Gynaecologist and Laparoscopic Surgeon in Hurstville, Kogarah, Northern Beaches, Wahroonga. Obs & Gyn Hurstville Private Hospital, St George Private Hospital, Northern Beaches Hospital, Sydney Adventist hospital. Excellent care in Obs & Gynae