As promised in the last post - here are 10 tips to prepare for the preconception journey ahead to enable you to be in the best possible health, this is a plan for both natural, IVF and donor eggs:
1. Look into your diet
Start by doing a food diary, its amazing what we all unconsciously put in our mouths when watching Television. This puts a magnifying glass on our long term bad eating habits such as skipping breakfast or lunch as we are too busy and then grabbing a chocolate bar on the way out of the door. Also how many veggies are you having a day and are you having enough protein? If you are a vegetarian are you careful about what you eat and mindful of your nutrient intake? If you eat meat, do you rely on processed bacon and sausages to keep your protein levels up? I mentioned in previous posts a surrey university study where changing diet and lifestyle had an 80% impact on conception rates. This it where it all starts. Food diaries are always a fascinating read for me and the beginning of a ‘Eureka’ moment for many couples.
2. Start Taking a Prenatal
There is a wealth of information about taking folate in pregnancy. Folate is an important supplement to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. The dose you need depends upon your family history, If there is no family history of neural tube defects, a decent prenatal supplement should be sufficient. However, if you have been trying for a while taking folate or folic acid can counterbalance your other B vitamins so make sure you are taking a good prenatal. Not all prenatal supplements are created equally. Be sure not to go to your nearest chemist and pick up the most popular brand and ‘self prescribe’ as these can sometimes contain nasty fillers and binders in them and the dose is so low it is almost not worth it ( don’t get me started on RDA!). Consult a nutritionist to help you choose the best one! Using a prenatal with the active form of Folate is a better option ( methylfolate) than one with folic acid in it also, as this is assimilated better in your body.
3. Make an appointment so see your Doctor about preconception
A really important 1st step to get your journey off to a flying start is to get a pregnancy MOT before you start trying. Schedule a visit to your Dr especially if you have a family history of pregnancy complications or genetic diseases. It is also a good time to speak to a Dr if you have been trying to conceive for more than 6 months, especially if you are over 35. The surgery can arrange some hormonal checks for you to make sure all is well.
4. Stop Smoking, Drinking Alcohol and drinking caffeine
The risks of drinking while pregnant are well-documented with foetal alcohol syndrome. Smoking in early pregnancy raises the chance also of having an early miscarriage. More recent studies of caffeine intake in pregnancy have also suggested that this will have a harmful effect on the baby and it can restrict growth if you are having any more than 200mg of caffeine a day
5. Drug awareness
The use of drugs in pregnancy are incredibly harmful to your growing baby. However beyond that, if you're on medication for a chronic condition it's important to check with your Dr before becoming pregnant to make sure that the drugs you are taking prior to trying are safe for the baby.
Exercise is recommended during pregnancy to help stimulate blood flow and prepare yourself for the 9 months ahead. Regular, non-strenuous exercise during and after pregnancy is recommended. However it isn't recommended to start a regime that you haven’t done before as this will be taxing on you and the baby.
Pregnancy is not a time to go through a raft of immunisations and ‘flu’ jabs. Despite Doctors insisting they are safe during pregnancy. Doctors advise against even taking paracetamol during pregnancy, so to advise on giving you a dose of attenuated virus during pregnancy to stimulate your immune system is a little strange! The newer versions of vaccines have not been around long enough to see long term results. Any substance that enters the bloodstream of the mother will go directly into the placenta. In particular literature from all of the Flu vaccine manufacturer’s I have read note that safety and effectiveness have not been established in pregnant women or nursing mothers. If you do go for a few shots leave enough time before having the shots and trying for a baby such as 1 month for any effects to die down. Make a choice about what to have before pregnancy and do your research on the figures and facts on the disease versus the immunisations. I to 2 months. I would also get the advice of an open minded Doctor on this subject and one that has done lots of research on this subject and don’t be bullied into this or make a decision based on threats. Information is power!
8. Start to Chart Your Cycles
Charting your cycle is a really good way for you to get to know your body and when you ovulate.Using a thermometer that records a daily figure and taking this before your feet touch the floor in the morning is the best way. Many online websites will help you to chart your cycle using the basal body temperature method. This will show when you ovulate. Many women don’t follow the traditional 14 day ovulation rule and by using this method you will also really help your doctor to assess when you got pregnant. By charting your cycles this will also help your other practitioners such as naturopaths, nutritionists or herbalists to see if there are any fertility issues.
9. Watch Your Weight
Women in the obese category when looking at BMI are more likely to have problems such as gestational diabetes. In addition, if the mother is overweight before pregnancy this will also increase issues potentially giving the mum varicose veins, fluid retention and swelling and circulation issues. The baby is more likely to have a higher birth weight and be a heavy baby and child also. Being underweight will also have an impact as this can have issues with conception and maintaining pregnancy
10. Involve your partner!
This isn't just about you as the primary carrier of the child. It takes at least 70 days for sperm to be mature and ready, so make sure your partner is also doing a lot of these steps with you, particularly looking at weight management, diet, alcohol, smoking and caffeine as well as immunisations and taking a supplement.