There are important steps that women can take to help prepare for pregnancy
Planning to have a baby is an exciting time, although it can also be stressful. There are lots of factors that impact fertility and it’s important to prepare if you’re planning to start a family.
The list below covers some factors that will increase your chances to get pregnant and help your baby develop and grow well as soon as it has been conceived.
General health check
One of the first steps should be to have an overall health assessment. Making sure that you are up-to-date with your pap smear is important. You should have blood tests taken to determine if you have rubella and varicella antibodies. You may need to have these vaccinations if there is a perceived risk.
Assessing for sexually transmitted diseases is also recommended. Untreated diseases such as Chlamydia Trachomatis can spread throughout the fallopian tubes and cause hydrosalpinx and scaring, leading to infertility and a higher risk of ectopic pregnancies. Other sexually transmitted infections that can negatively impact fertility include:
- Hepatitis B
- Genital warts
At the latest, if you haven’t gotten pregnant within twelve months of actively trying and not using contraception, it’s important to speak with your gynaecologist or fertility consultant. This is an opportunity to seek advice and explore your options. In some cases, a few simple tests may reveal an underlying factor that is reducing your fertility. Once addressed, it may be easier to conceive.
Knowing menstrual cycle phases
There are lots of different methods that can be used to predict ovulation. Some of these include monitoring changes in temperature, vaginal mucus, saliva, and urine. These techniques are not always 100% reliable as they can be influenced by external factors. However, they can provide a good indication of fertile phases.
It’s important that your body is well nourished as this affects fertility. A healthy diet should include plenty of servings of fresh vegetables and fruit daily, plus and quality protein such as fish, lean meat, eggs, or pulses. Complex carbohydrates and calcium-rich foods are also important. Try to avoid high consumption of food additives such as flavours, preservatives, and colours. Foods rich in saturated fat are also not recommended.
Positive lifestyle adjustments
No alcohol consumption
While trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy, it’s important that women abstain from consuming any alcohol. If alcohol is consumed it can severely damage the health of the unborn baby and increase the risk of miscarriage.
Both male and female fertility is negatively affected by smoking. It contributes to erectile dysfunction and high levels of damage to egg and sperm DNA. When pregnant, the risk of miscarriage is much hire when exposed to cigarette smoke.
Other legal and illegal drug use
All illegal drugs can negatively impact fertility and should be avoided. There are also plenty of different prescription medications that can make conceiving difficult, such as blood pressure, thyroid, immunosuppressant, and steroid medications. It’s recommended to consult with your doctor about any medications you are taking prior to preparing for pregnancy.
Staying positive and having a healthy outlook can support fertility. While some stress is inevitable, helping to minimise and appropriately respond to stress can make it easier to conceive. There are many organisations that can help to provide you with techniques to deal with stress and anxiety surrounding pregnancy and/or trying to conceive.
Take foliate supplements
When preparing for pregnancy it’s important to take foliate supplements. This important B vitamin should be taken routinely for at least one moth prior to conceiving and for the first trimester. This will significantly reduce the risk the developing foetus having neural tube defects that can cause developmental congenital disorders such as spina bifida. Foliate may be taken independently or on conjunction with other pre-pregnancy supplements.
Pregnancy can be strenuous on the body, so it’s important to be at least moderately fit prior to conceiving. High impact, prolonged periods of intense exercise is not recommended as it can negatively affect ovulation cycles and make falling pregnant more difficult. Women who don’t participate in regular exercise may wish to have a program specifically tailored for them. Male fertility also benefits from fitness and should also be considered when trying to conceive.
Maintain a healthy weight
Healthy body weight has an important bearing on both male and female fertility. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of hormonal imbalances, diabetes, and heart conditions; all of which can contribute to infertility. Furthermore, women who are underweight are also at risk of impaired fertility as it can significantly disrupt menstrual cycles. If you are concerned about your weight, it’s a good idea to consult a dietician and work towards a healthy weight to support optimal fertility.
Improving fertility conditions
There are several medical conditions which can reduce female fertility. Some of these common problems include:
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Encompassing a broad range of symptoms, PCOS may be diagnosis if a woman has two of the following criteria:
- High androgen levels (male hormones)
- Cysts or follicles on the ovaries
- Irregular menstrual cycles
Women diagnosed with PCOS may require fertility assistance to conceive if they do not have regular periods. The treatment may range for interventional techniques such as IVF, through to simple tablets and timed intercourse.
This condition is characterised by symptoms of significant pain prior and during menstruation cause by tissue deposits forming outside the uterus. This can sometimes decrease fertility. Read more about endometriosis and treatments.
Blocked fallopian tubes
Blockages in the fallopian tubes will prevent or hinder the transfer of eggs to the uterus. These blockages can develop for a range of reasons and there may be treatment options. Read more about blocked fallopian tubes and treatments.
This is a condition where there is absence of menstruation despite being of reproductive age. There are a number of reasons why this may occur and various treatment options. Read more about amenorrhea.
Most women find that making positive changes to their lifestyle will help to enhance fertility. Eating well, staying fit, and avoiding negative influences on the body all support fertility. For women that have underlying medical conditions that reduce fertility, there are often practical and effective treatment options, which they ought to explore with their Doctor or Gynaecologist.