If you are at the point in your life where you are thinking about falling pregnant you might be wondering if there is anything you can, or should, do to prepare?
If you are hoping to fall pregnant it can be a good idea to start getting your body ready as soon as possible – whether that’s 12 months, 3 months or even 1 month. Every little bit helps – but we know that like so many things in life sometimes we can’t plan these things.
So even if you’re pregnant you can still use these tips, and remember you will have 9(ish) months to get on top of things.
1. Start taking a prenatal vitamin with Folic Acid
Typically it is advised to start taking folic acid 12 weeks before conception – and right through your pregnancy.
Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate which can also be found naturally in numerous fortified foods and supplements. Foods like leafy green veggies, nuts, citrus fruit, and legumes pack a whole bunch of folate, making them important to eat during pregnancy. However, it’s extremely important to take it in supplement form in order to get the necessary nutrients for your baby for conception and during pregnancy.
Folic Acid helps your body to create DNA and new cells and to develop your baby’s nervous system, especially their neural tube. The neural tube is what develops into the brain and spinal cord around 28 days after conception.
Cases of neural tube defects where the baby’s neural tube did not close correctly can lead to issues like spina bifida or encephalocele which require surgery and may lead to paralysis or disability.
Doctors recommend taking a supplement with 400 micrograms per day.
2. Organise a pre-conception check-up
Before you plan to fall pregnant it can be a good idea to check in with your GP or obstetrician or midwife (if you already have one) to make sure all your health checks are up to date.
They will give you an overall check-up looking into things such as medical and family history and review any medications you are taking to ensure they are safe to continue as well as making sure your immunisations are up to date.
They will recommend a prenatal supplement that includes folic acid if you aren’t already and depending on your personal circumstances your doctor may recommend a specific fertility check-up as well.
Depending on your personal circumstances they may request a blood test to check your levels and for any other possible red flags or anything that may require closer monitoring during pregnancy.
They will also discuss health and lifestyle with you, so things like a healthy diet, smoking, drugs and alcohol.
This is also a great opportunity to ask any questions and get their advice on birthing options, hospitals, support groups and any other concerns you might have.
3. Consider preconception genetic testing
Pre-conception Screening is a great way to determine whether you or your partner are at risk of passing on a genetic disorder to your children.
If you have a family history or a medical condition your doctor may encourage the test however anyone can undergo testing.
A genetic counsellor can help you understand the process and explain the results to you and what they will mean for your plans to conceive.
4. Quit any bad habits
Yep, it’s time to stop smoking and doing drugs and cut out or limit your alcohol intake. Smoking and drugs can not only affect your ability to fall pregnant they can lead to higher rates of miscarriage and can have life-long health implications for your child.
5. Get yourself fit and healthy
That doesn’t mean go on any strict or restrictive diets or go hard on exercise! Quite the opposite! You want to go back to basics when it comes to your diet – pack it full of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish.
As for exercise, don’t go deciding on running a marathon or putting on excessive physical distress on your body. Stick with what you are doing currently if that works for you – and if you’re not doing anything currently then now is the time to start. Even just a daily walk is better than nothing, so speak with your doctor if you’re not sure where to start.
6. Do a mental health check
Having a baby is a massive step, and regardless of whether you are planning it or not – finding out you are pregnant is a hugely emotional time.
If you have the time to plan before you find out you are pregnant it is a good idea to spend some time focusing on your mental health. Whether that is seeing a professional pre-conception counsellor or focusing on your mental health yourself is extremely important.
7. Communicate with your partner
If you have a partner, making sure you are on the same page and can be a support for each other is very important. Remember this is a big step for them too, so allowing each to have the ability to share how you are feeling is going to help you navigate this process together. You don’t necessarily have to be at the exact same point but you should try to be aligned with what you want.
Don’t forget, many men are unable to process having a baby until they hold that baby in their arms. Some men just don’t have the ability to connect through the pregnancy process as they don’t have the physiological connection women experience between the body and baby.
Your relationship with your partner plays a huge role in both conception, pregnancy and when you bring home that little baby. So try to keep the lines of communication open and be respectful of each other’s feelings.
If you are struggling with communication it may help to speak with a counsellor either together or yourself and they can help you navigate this time together.
8. Start budgeting for baby
Budgeting is a big part of having a baby. There’s no denying they come with some unavoidable expenses, so sitting down before you fall pregnant and coming up with a plan can be a great idea to help take a little pressure off once you do fall pregnant. And if you can, start putting some money aside.
Taking into consideration things like your work situation, who will take time off and how long it will be, whether you will need to go back to work and when as well as what types of daycare you might need.
Also taking into consideration things you will need to purchase and working out how you will manage those costs can be a huge help.
It can also be helpful to have a conversation around assisted fertility, incase the conversation comes up it can be good to see where you are at from a financial perspective before the heightened emotions are involved in any decision-making.
9. Know your cycle
Getting in tune with your body and knowing your cycle can not only help you conceive and know the best times to try. It can also help when you do fall pregnant to recognise the signs.
You can track your ovulation in a number of ways. Whether it’s through your own observation of symptoms such as the appearance and texture of discharge or via ovulation trackers this can help to know when your body is most fertile and likely to conceive.
10. Don’t be afraid to seek help
If you have been trying for a long time to have a baby (typically over a year but this will vary depending on your own circumstances) and are having trouble conceiving you should speak with your doctor who can help you understand with a little more clarity. They will take your medical history and personal situation into consideration and help you know if and when it is time to look at other options.
Remember, there is no shame in infertility and many people don’t even realise they have a condition that can affect their fertility until they start trying to conceive. And it’s only when further investigations are made. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Deciding to have a baby is a huge step and one that is filled with not only excitement but also fear and anxiety, so remember to allow the mix of emotions that are all normal and speak with your partner, a friend or an experienced professional about how you are feeling.