Preparing for Pregnancy

If You Are Trying To Conceive Then Changing Your Lifestyle Could Increase Your Chances Of Pregnancy

As a fertility doctor I have had the wonderful privilege of helping many couples who have been trying to conceive have a baby, however a day never goes by without  hearing the same question from my patients….. “what can I do immediately to help increase my chances of conceiving?”. So I thought I would write down for you some pregnancy tips that could help, that you can start to do or change immediately. …. so here goes.

Would you consider yourself to be generally healthy?  If you are trying to conceive or maybe having trouble conceiving, then sit down and evaluate your overall approach to your health and see if there are changes you could and should make.  The best start for a pregnancy is a very healthy mother and a healthy father. Recent evidence has shown that a fathers health and weight also has an important role in fertility.

So when trying to conceive, consider all aspects of your life and improve your pregnancy chances by changing to a healthy lifestyle. Look at the type of foods you are eating, the amount of exercise you may or may not be doing, are you getting enough sleep? Are you the ideal weight at present for fertility?

This is a positive time to look at yourself and then change what you can.

Below is a list of ways to help you change your lifestyle and increase your chances of a pregnancy

Start The Pregnancy Vitamin Called Folate

Folate ( also called folic acid)  is a vitamin all women who are trying to get pregnant should be taking on a daily basis at a dose of 0.5mg. Ideally you should be starting this 3 months prior to trying to conceive and continue into your pregnancy. The main benefit from this pregnancy vitamin is the marked reduction by 75% in the risk of producing a baby with neural tube defects such as spina bifida. You can get this vitamin in any pharmacy and is often associated with a multivitamin.

Folic acid is a mineral and is an essential part of your diet. It is present in green and leafy vegetables and fruits, meats and yeast. Together with vitamin B12 it is needed to help produce the protective myelin sheath for nerves and make Thiamine which is needed as a building block for the genetic of DNA.

Reduced body levels of these two important components of your diet can cause anaemia… which will reduce your pregnancy chances when trying to conceive.

Stop Smoking

This is a great time to stop smoking. Smoking is another big no-no when trying to conceive.  It increases free radical damage to your body and your eggs and your partner’s sperm by causing DNA damage, and uses nutrients that are essential for the production of viable sperm and eggs.

Yes, again this is information for both partners to know.

Smoking also leads to low birth weights and birth defects in babies and other poor obstetric outcomes such as caesarean section.  Ideally the time to quit is before you try to conceive. But stopping anytime is still a great achievement. Starting on patches or nicorette chewing gum can often help get the ball rolling in stopping smoking. Or getting in touch with your local quit smoking group who may have other supports in place.

Have Minimal or no Alcohol:

When you are trying to conceive the Government recommended guidelines are minimal alcohol and nil when you are pregnant. Look at the amount of alcohol you and your partner may be drinking, this should be less than 2 glasses per week. In large doses alcohol can be toxic to the unborn fetus causing fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol is also responsible for depleting your vitamin B levels.  It can also contribute to a poor diet.  It is high in calories and it is fattening. Reducing or stopping alcohol will help shed the pounds and lose weight.

Look At What Medications Or Drugs You are Taking

The only drugs you should be taking are those that are prescribed for you, or approved over the counter medications as indicated by your doctor. Recreational drugs are toxic to male and female reproductive organs…affecting proper sperm and egg development and production. As well as harmful to a developing baby. When you visit your doctor show him or her the medications your using, including any herbal remedies as some can effect or interact with each other.

Have The Appropriate Weight

Being overweight can jeopardize your fertility and reduce your chances of trying to conceive. It can also put you at a greater than average risk for miscarriage than a normal weight mother.

Several studies over the past 8 years on women trying to conceive and who are overweight have shown that by losing even just 5-10% of their excess weight can stabilise their hormones and, this can increase the chances of

  • better ovulation
  • better quality eggs
  • and allow you to carry your pregnancy more easily.

What is the ideal weight?. ….BMI stands for your Body Mass Index.  Healthcare professionals use your BMI to help you to establish your ideal weight with regard to your height for optimal health.  It helps to determine the effect of your weight on your overall health. An ideal BMI is between 20 and 24.  Studies have shown that it is much harder to conceive when your BMI is greater than 25.  Additional studies have demonstrated that by losing just 5% of your weight will improve your chances of ovulation and subsequent pregnancy.

You can calculate your BMI either in pounds and inches or in kilograms and meters.  Either method is equally accurate.

BMI - body mass index calculator

Get Good Sleeping Habits

Do you sleep well?  Do you practice good sleeping technique?  Is your bedroom for sleeping only, or do you work, watch television, read, talk, fight, and pay bills there?  If so, change that now.  Sleeping well is essential.  It allows your body to recharge, something that is essential during pregnancy.  Being able to sleep well will help your body to adapt to its new pregnant state. When you are tired you will tend to eat more or desire the wrong type of food.

Look At Your Stress:

Another common question I get from patients in my clinic is … ” Is stress playing a role in stopping me trying to conceive”. Stress seems to be a very constant companion in our lives, and with trying to conceive thrown in it can often aggravate those feelings of anxiety.

Recent studies have shown a relationship all be it weak,  between increased stress and increased infertility. It is thought to be related to elevated cortisol levels in the blood but the mechanism is not understood.

Infertility can be stressful, especially when everyone around you appears to be getting pregnant, or your getting pressure from family members to get pregnant. Learning to deal with this stress will help you cope with the daily ins and out your life.  Many of my patients take meditation classes,  or Tai Chi, or Yoga.  Exercise can also help with stress as well as improve your weight and fitness.

Get The Recommended Antenatal Screening Tests You Need:

Finally If you are trying to conceive you should have an initial check-up with your doctor. He or she will take a detailed medical history and physical examination, and organize blood and urine tests that will help to determine if you have any existing condition that could potentially stop you from conceiving or become a problem later in a pregnancy.

The current recommended pre-pregnancy tests you need to have done include the following:

  • Blood group and antibody screen
  • Full blood picture – to rule out iron deficiency anaemia. If you are anaemic you will have trouble conceiving
  • Rubella antibody status (also called German measles)- to make sure you are immune
  • Chicken pox antibody status
  • Syphilis screening
  • Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and HIV screening
  • Urine culture: This is a routine test where a sample of your urine will be sent to the lab to be tested for possible infection or glucose problems.
  • Don’t miss having a pap smear test & Infection Screen

If your PAP smear is not up to date, your doctor will likely conduct a pelvic exam at your first visit for both a PAP smear and a swab test for Chlamydia infection.

So, when trying to conceive, sit down and look at all aspects of your lifestyle and see which you may need to improve… this may be all you need to do to increase your fertility chances.

All the best

Dr Raewyn Teirney