Taking good care of your health is essential at every stage in life, but never more so than when preparing to become pregnant. As well as making sure you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, think about these steps to help you and your body prepare to conceive:
Visit Your Doctor
Before trying to conceive, make sure you talk to your doctor. This is an opportunity to discuss your current and past health, as well as any medical conditions in your family history. Your doctor will also be able to offer advice on any medication you take that may affect a pregnancy and any vaccinations you might need.
Take Folic Acid
It’s recommended that women planning a pregnancy take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day from before they are pregnant until 12 weeks into pregnancy. Folic acid is a B vitamin and can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folate, the natural form of folic acid, is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables and brown rice and you should make sure you eat plenty of these foods before and during pregnancy in addition to taking a folic acid supplement. If there have been any cases of neural tube defects in your family or the family of your partner, or if you have diabetes, you may need to take a higher dose of folic acid. It is important to discuss this with your doctor.
Tobacco smoke contains chemicals which are harmful to reproductive health for both men and women. In women, smoking can affect estrogen and other hormones which can lead to problems in conceiving, so giving up smoking is an important step in giving you the best chance of pregnancy. Smoking is also bad for the health of a developing fetus and is associated with low birth weight and other problems, so now really is the best time to stop. Talk to your doctor if you are struggling to give up smoking.
Check Your Weight
Being either underweight or overweight can cause problems when it comes to trying to conceive. Being underweight may cause irregular menstrual cycles (periods) and may cause the release of an egg from the ovaries (ovulation) to stop. Being overweight can also disrupt periods and ovulation.
Find out more about weight and fertility here.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about any health issues when getting ready to conceive and stay tuned for the second part of our pregnancy health series where we will focus on health during pregnancy.