Preparing for Pregnancy
Understanding your Reproductive Health
In order to maximise the chances of conceiving and a healthy ongoing pregnancy, it is important that the health of both you and your partner is as good as it can be. This might involve making some lifestyle changes individually or as a couple.
Weight, diet and exercise
A healthy body mass index (BMI) in the range of 18-25kg/m2 is a goal for both partners to maximise fertility and minimise pregnancy complications. The best ways to aim for a BMI in the healthy range involve a combination of dietary changes and regular exercise. Minimising intake of processed food and replacing these with fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and lean proteins are a great start. A dietician can also be a valuable partner in assisting you to make healthy diet changes. Exercise of moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week would be a good aim to assist with maintaining an ideal weight and improving physical wellbeing
Folic acid supplementation is recommended prior to attempting conception in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects. The neural tube develops very early in fetal development, before many women would recognise that they are pregnant. For this reason, a supplement which contains at least 0.5mg of folic acid should ideally be started more than one month prior to conception and continued throughout pregnancy. Women at an increased risk of neural tube defects due to diabetes, some anti-epileptic treatments, a previously affected pregnancy or family member or increased body mass index (>30kg/m2) should take a supplement containing 5mg of folic acid for the first three months of pregnancy.
Smoking and alcohol
Smoking has a detrimental effect on male and female fertility and increases the risk of miscarriage, early labor, low birth weight and stillbirth. This is in addition to the risks it poses to general health. Although not easy, preparing for pregnancy is a great time for both partners to stop smoking. Quit Victoria has great resources to assist you in giving up smoking as would your general practitioner.
There is no established safe limit for alcohol consumption in pregnancy so it is advised not to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol use may also have a detrimental effect on fertility so cutting out alcohol is probably the safest option when trying to conceive.