Many of us don’t put a whole lot of thought into conception, and when we think we are ready (or sometimes not) we get pregnant. However, it is a huge advantage to your own health and the health of the baby if you plan ahead to have your baby, so you can ensure that you have a smooth pregnancy.
By ensuring your body is ready for conception you not only get pregnant faster, but you will also have a lower chance of miscarriage and will ensure that your baby is born as healthy as possible.
Vitamins & Supplements
Many women are surprised to find out that after they become pregnant and visit a doctor that they are suppose to be taking a regular prenatal vitamin. If you are planning to get pregnant any time in the future you should ensure that you are getting enough of the following nutrients and vitamins:
- Folic Acid: women should be getting 400 micrograms or 0.4 milligrams of folic acid (also called folate) each day. Folic acid is vital for a developing fetus and helps to reduce the risk that they will develop certain neural tube defects like spinal bifida. If these types of defects run in your family you may need to take a higher dose, so consult your doctor.
- Calcium: if considering getting pregnant it is recommended to up your daily intake of calcium to 1,000mg, or three 8oz glasses of skim mild. You can also get calcium from cheese, yogurt, canned salmon, sardines and even rice.
- Vitamins & Supplements: consider a good prenatal supplement to help ensure your body is in optimal health. Also discuss with your doctor whether there are other supplements or vitamins that you should be taking.
- Caffeine: drinking more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day can reduce fertility by up to 27 percent, so before you plan to get pregnant you will probably want to cut back on the coffee, tea and chocolate. Reducing caffeine also increases the body’s ability to absorb iron and calcium.
- Give your pregnancy a good start by kicking the following items out of your life: artificial sweeteners, alcohol, drugs (other than prescription) and cigarettes.
Before you conceive, develop a routine of healthy habits so you can keep them up throughout your pregnancy. Exercise, a decent amount of sleep and a good diet are all important parts of creating a healthy home for your baby to grow. Here are some pointers on where to start:
- Exercise: try to establish a routine of regular exercise and set goals to give you something to strive for. Talk to your doctor about what types of exercise would be best for you, and try to choose at least one type of exercise, like swimming or yoga, which you can continue through your pregnancy.
- Relax: any kind of stress can have a detrimental effect on your health, including your menstrual cycle. Take time every day to relax, and if you need assistance consider taking a meditation class.
- Sleep: an adequate amount of sleep will improve your energy levels and help you cope with the biological changes of your upcoming pregnancy. Aim for at least 8 hours of solid sleep per night.
- Track your cycle: it will greatly help your chances of conceiving if you start keep track of your menstrual cycle early on. Mark the start of each cycle on a calendar and it will help you find your window of ovulation.
- Eat well: improve your diet by adding lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and proteins. This will give you energy, and improve your chances of conceiving quickly, as well as giving your baby a healthy start.
- Target your weight: aim to achieve an ideal weight before you try to conceive, as this will give you a healthier baby and pregnancy. Whether you are overweight or underweight discuss a plan with your doctor to help you get where you want to be.
A Good Start
The best way to get prepared for pregnancy is to ensure that you are in perfect health before you begin. This means a trip to your doctor to go over any health issues you may have. The following conditions should be discussed with your physician as they could affect your pregnancy:
- High blood pressure – this must be closely monitored during pregnancy to ensure that it doesn’t cause complications.
- Diabetes – pregnancy can make diabetes more difficult to manage, so you must ensure that it is under control before you start trying to get pregnant.
- Anemia – blood tests can measure your blood counts and hemoglobin to ensure that you have healthy blood and adequate iron in your blood. Otherwise you may feel fatigued and weak during your pregnancy.
- Thyroid conditions– blood tests can be done to determine if you are over producing or under producing thyroid-stimulating hormones, leading to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Too much thyroid hormones can result in premature birth or low birth weight, while too little can result in miscarriage or even infertility.
- Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)– different types of STDs can present different types of problems associated with fertility, conception, pregnancy and delivery.
Medical & Family History
By taking a thorough family history your doctor may be able to detect other conditions that should be tested for before you begin trying to get pregnant, such as:
High blood pressure
Additionally your doctor will want to know details about your own medical history, including:
Medications you are taking
Previous pregnancies and potential complications
Diet & exercise
Possible medical conditions
By having an overall picture of your health and history your physician can order the appropriate tests and adjust your medication if required to prevent any pregnancy complications and to ensure that both of you are as healthy as possible.