When you buy a car you usually road-test a few vehicles and when you buy a house you probably go to a few auctions. Just like most other major decisions in life, pregnancy is something that benefits from some careful planning.
To provide the best care for both yourself and your baby, being well-informed and prepared can make the experience much more enjoyable.
Your best chance at conception and safe gestation is providing a healthy body.
- Have a checkup at your doctor, including breast check and pap smear.
- Pregnancy can cause some dental concerns so it is wise to have a full check-up at the dentist before conceiving.
- Use contraception (condoms) until you are ready to start trying. Even after stopping the contraceptive pill, it can take up to six months for ovulation to resume.
- Learn to understand your body’s signs of ovulation and, if needed, monitor yourself to maximise your chances of conceiving at the right time.
- If you smoke, give up. Women over-35 who smoke can take twice as long to conceive. As well as causing harm to you, smoking also puts your developing baby at risk.
- Alcohol and caffeine intake should also be cut or reduced before, and especially during, pregnancy. Remember, caffeine is not just in tea and coffee. It can be found in chocolate, cola products, energy drinks and many over the counter medications.
- Prescribed medication should also be reviewed by your doctor.
Save money each month in a high interest bearing account. Be realistic about what you can afford to save and try to stick to it. At the end of your pregnancy, use the money to help with those extra ongoing expenses, such as nappies, baby wipes and baby clothes.
Having a well-balanced and nutritious diet is great for you and your baby. Remember: a high-fibre, low-fat diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, is the best basis for great health.
Getting into the habit of regular, non-contact exercise is a good thing to do pre-pregnancy. Try to avoid high-level workouts that leave you over-heated and exhausted. Aim to be as close to your recommended ideal weight as possible before conceiving.
In the very early stages of pregnancy, your developing baby can be affected by infections and food-borne illness such as rubella, syphilis, toxoplasmosis and listeria. Safe, hygienic food preparation is essential. Your doctor can advise you regarding checking your rubella immunity levels. If your levels are low and you do need to be immunised, you will need to wait at least 28 days before conceiving.
Folic acid reduces the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. Those at high-risk include anyone who has been previously affected, as well as anyone with a family history, diabetes or on anti-epileptic medication.
Folic acid supplements are advisable for all women. Those at risk should take 5mg daily at least one month before pregnancy and ideally for three months. All other women should have 0.5mg tablets daily three months before conception, continuing for three months after.
Genetic or developmental disorders need to be considered if there is a past obstetric history, a family history or advanced maternal age (generally considered over 35).
Genetic disorders include thalassaemia, cystic fibrosis, haemophilia and Tay-Sachs disorder. If you have concerns or questions about getting yourself and your partner tested, speak to your doctor for further advice. Read more on genetic testing.
It is also a good idea to know the blood groups of both yourself and your partner. If your blood group is negative but your partner’s is positive, conception will need careful attention.
- Stop smoking
- Stop alcohol and other social drugs
- Reduce or stop caffeine intake
- Review current medications
- Follow a healthy diet
- Take folic acid for three months before conception
- Develop a good exercise routine
- Ensure rubella immunity
- Have a breast check and Pap Smear
- Eat freshly cooked and prepared food
- Consider genetic and family history
- Consider health insurance cover
- Visit the dentist