Although most women have a plan about where they want to live, or what job they are aiming for, the majority of women don’t have a plan for getting pregnant. And while many women become pregnant every day with little, or no, planning, preconception planning can increase the likelihood of having a healthy baby and a straightforward pregnancy. Pre- conception planning can also increase your chances of getting pregnant, if that is what you would like to achieve.
Logically speaking, if you are an unhealthy, overweight smoker, then growing and carrying another human will be harder for you, then if you were a fit, healthy non-smoker, so it’s a sensible strategy to focus on your health before you aim to get pregnant.
Eating a diet which is high in fruit and vegetables, grains and lean protein, will go a long way towards ensuring that you have a good supply of nutrients to optimise your health, which is important to give yourself the best chance of having a healthy baby.
Taking supplements, such as folic acid for a month before you conceive, and for three months into your pregnancy has been shown to decrease the risk of neural tube defects in babies. If you are likely to have low vitamin D levels, due to lack of sun exposure, vitamin D supplements are also recommended to decrease the risk of a number of pregnancy problems including gestational diabetes, preterm birth and pre-eclampsia. Some vitamins, such as vitamin A, need to be avoided in high doses while you are pregnant, so getting a pregnancy specific multivitamin and discussing your options with your health care provider is a sensible choice.
Before becoming pregnant, it is a good idea to ensure your immunisations are up to date, and to get boosters prior to becoming pregnant if necessary. One of the commonly needed boosters is the rubella vaccine booster, which cannot be given in pregnancy. If a woman contracts rubella while pregnant, this can have a number of unfortunate effects on her growing baby, including deafness or even still birth. Having a rubella booster at least one month prior to conceiving protects Mum and baby from these issues.
Depending on what type of birth control you have been using, it may take some time for your body to become fertile again. Generally, your fertility returns quite quickly if you have been using the oral contraceptive pill, but if you have been using the depo injection, it can take a number of months before your body is ready to get pregnant again.
Regular exercise should be part of your pre-pregnancy planning for a number of reasons. Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight, which makes it easier to get pregnant. Regular exercise works towards helping you achieve good mental health and being fit will help you in both carrying an extra 10 to 15 kg throughout your day while pregnant, as well as ensuring you have the stamina for labour- which is not called “labour” for nothing.
If you are a smoker, quitting smoking will increase your lungs ability to supply your body with oxygen and will decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for your baby.
And there is no known safe alcohol limit in pregnancy, so the safest option is to not drink at all while you are pregnant. Considering many women aren’t aware that they are pregnant for a number of weeks after they conceive, thinking about cutting alcohol out as soon as you start trying to get pregnant is something you can seriously consider.
If you are taking any medications for an existing medical condition, some of these may be harmful to a developing baby, so you should see your doctor or midwife about the suitability of any medications you are taking before you become pregnant. Some medications cause birth defects but there are generally other medication options you can use in their place while you are pregnant.
Considering your maternity leave, health insurance and entitlements early can mean the difference between returning to work when you are ready, or before you want to due to financial necessity. Many health insurance companies will only cover a stay in hospital for birth if you have had maternity cover for 12 months prior to baby being born, so if you have private cover, you should look at what you will need to pay for, and what is covered with your existing plan.
And planning your support team prior to, or early in your pregnancy, can decrease your risk of postnatal depression. For these reasons, and many more, preconception planning can ensure that you have a positive pregnancy, birth and parenting experience.
If you would like to discuss a pre-conception planning session, contact Dauntless Birth for more information.