Planning your pregnancy: Nine ways to help get your mind and body baby ready
Planning for a baby is exciting, emotional, yet often overwhelming. And it’s so much more than just getting your body and environment ready for conception, birth and the new bundle of joy in your life. There is the type of birth you want to have, budgeting the costs from medical to all the bits and pieces you’ll need when your baby arrives, and ensuring you have all the right support systems in place around you from conception to arrival. But the journey starts well beforehand.
About one in six couples in Australia struggles with fertility issues or have difficulty conceiving
With healthy ova and sperm taking around 90-120 days to develop, it’s important to start your preconception health strategy at least four months prior to trying to conceive. Consider these nine tips to getting pregnancy ready.
- Chart for conception: Charting your menstrual cycle is extremely helpful as it helps you to understand your body and can be used to identify changes in cycle, when you ovulate and when you’re most fertile. Charting also involves measuring your basal temperature, cervical mucous and cervical position daily. Ask your medical practitioner for a suitable menstrual cycle chart and instructions.
- Watch your weight: Aim to be at a healthy body weight around three months before trying to conceive. Being overweight or underweight may pose difficulties with conception and a healthy pregnancy. Overweight males often have reduced sperm quantity and quality and women with a BMI over 38 have reduced rates of conception
- Clean up your diet: Clean, natural and unprocessed is key but look for organic, free-range and grass-fed where possible to minimise exposure to toxic pesticides and herbicide residues, which can have negative effects on your fertility. And don’t forget that smoking affects both female and male fertility, while alcohol may reduce chances of conception by causing a lower sperm
- Stay well hydrated: Staying properly hydrated supports the production of healthy reproductive fluids. It also means minimising caffeine as too much coffee, cola or chocolate has negative impacts on your hormone balance, liver function and increases the risk of miscarriage.
- Clean out your cupboards: One of the most common sources of chemical exposure is household cleaning and personal care products. Many pesticides are associated with reduced sperm counts and increased numbers of damaged sperm in males, while phthalates and parabens common to personal care products may affect your hormone balance and reproductive health. Reduce your exposure by using organic, natural products; natural compost and organic fertilisers in your garden; minimise your use of plastics and clean your indoor air with plants.
- Write a birth plan: Write down your wishes from having a doula to when you want an epidural. Consider music, support people, clothing, instructions for labour and delivery, and what your wishes are if any complications arise. And ensure everyone involved in your birth has a copy.
- Get app savvy: There are lots of great apps that can help you through all stages of the pregnancy journey. For example, ‘What Were We Thinking’ from the Jean Hailes Centre for Women’s Health provides evidence-based, tried and tested parenting advice from leading Australian experts.
- Educate yourself: Even if this isn't your first baby, attending a prenatal class will help you feel more prepared and you can ask specific questions, while mothers groups facilitated by the hospital or council can provide you an instant network post-birth and voice any concerns. Also talk to your family to find out any medical history that is worth sharing with your doctor and birthing team.
- Supplement with right nutritional support: In addition to eating a healthy diet, you may benefit from supplementation – speak to your practitioner to ensure you’re getting all the nutritional support you need. Look for a supplement with iodine and choline to help support foetal and infant neuro-development; Zinc – vital during periods of growth and cell differentiation experienced in pregnancy and supports a healthy immune system; activated folic acid (as 5-MTHF) to assist in maintaining normal blood; and Calcium and Vitamin D3 for the development, growth and mineralisation of bones.
Don’t forget to allow yourself time each day for relaxation and rest because if you’re stressed, then so is your baby. Slow breathing is a great way to help calm and relax the two of you. And taking some time out to plan now may help alleviate some anxieties along the way.
References available on request