Thinking about getting pregnant? 10 things you should do
- Schedule a pre-conception visit
- Start taking prenatal supplements
- What to eat and what to avoid
- Get up and move
- Common household toxins to avoid
- Get off contraception and have more sex
- Keep your stress levels low and get enough sleep
- Plan out your finances
- Act like you already are pregnant
If you’ve decided the time is right to prepare for pregnancy - congratulations! This decision can give you all sorts of excitement and stress levels, sometimes causing anxiety in hopeful moms and couples attempting to conceive for the very first time.
There are several things you need to do to prepare yourself for conception.
Schedule a pre-conception visitEmbed from Getty Images
This visit is important because it allows you to discuss your health with your doctor, midwife or a health practitioner. Your doctor will want to know if you have any medical conditions that could complicate your pregnancy, such as diabetes, blood clotting disorders, asthma, high blood pressure and also any medications you may be on since some drugs and supplements are unsafe during pregnancy, and some may need to be switched before you start trying to conceive.
Certain over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies when taken on a regular basis, can put you at a higher risk of having a complicated pregnancy or put your unborn child in danger. Your diet, exercise routine and lifestyle will also be up for discussion.
Start taking prenatal supplements
By taking good quality prenatal vitamins, you will not only be helping to prevent any possible health problems for your baby, but you will also be avoiding suffering from a deficiency yourself. Babies naturally take what they need from you while in the womb so if you are low on some essential vitamins and minerals you risk becoming nutrient deficient. There are different supplements recommended for pre conception:
- Folic Acid - During the earliest weeks of pregnancy, before you may even realise you are pregnant, the embryo’s neural tubes (the earliest version of the brain and spinal column) develop. Taking Folic Acid before you conceive and during your first trimester can help prevent birth defects of your baby's brain and spinal cord.The recommended daily dose is 400 micrograms, you could also add for foods fortified with Folic Acid such as fortified cereals to your diet.
- Zinc - Contributes to ovulation and fertility in women and also testosterone production in men. A deficiency in zinc can correlate with impaired sperm production.
- Other vitamins and minerals you should have enough of are Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Iron and Calcium
Always seek professional advice before using any supplements. Supplements must not replace a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
What to eat and what to avoidEmbed from Getty Images
Diet and lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on your fertility. Eating well and developing healthy habits are important before and during pregnancy.
It’s very important to start taking in nutritious foods so that you can stock in nutrients you’ll need for a healthy pregnancy and during conception. The healthier we are physically before pregnancy, the better the environment to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Try and eat more;
- Organic, hormone-free, GMO-free, whole foods such as beans, legumes, fresh fruits, 100% whole-grain breads, oatmeal etc. As a general rule of thumb try to keep to foods in their natural state.
- Good fats, these can be found in Avocados, nuts, seeds, plant based oils such as olive oil and some type of fish (once you do get pregnant make sure you check what type of fish you should avoid, certain types of seafood are high in mercury so steer clear of swordfish, tilefish, shark and mackerel, which are all known to be high in mercury, and eat instead more shrimp, tilapia and salmon)
- Fertility foods like yams, eggs, salmon, leafy greens, dairy, almonds
- Natural vegetarian sources of iron, these include spinach, beans, legumes, prunes, and cashews
Try and avoid or limit;
- Processed foods- in general, limit processed carbohydrates such as white rice, bread, and pasta, and most crackers, chips, cookies, and other packaged foods. This is beneficial for any woman trying to conceive, and especially important if you have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
- Food containing trans fats- an easy guideline is to avoid processed fats such as vegetable shortenings, some margarines, baked goods, frostings, and fried foods. Check the ingredients list for “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oil.
- Caffeine, while it may not be necessary to give up your daily fix of coffee, too much caffeine has been linked to miscarriages, therefore, your consumption should be limited to 200 to 300mg a day.
- Alcohol, although the jury's still out on this, drinking may delay the amount of time it takes to get pregnant. Also it is best to avoid it completely if you think you may be pregnant.
- If you are a smoker, stop before you start trying to conceive. Smoking is harmful to your health as well as your fertility. Smoking increases the time it takes to get pregnant, and when you do get conceive, smoking increases the risk of miscarriage and birth defects.
Get up and moveEmbed from Getty Images
It’s very important to start exercising before you get pregnant as this can help you to have more stamina for labor and delivery, shed baby weight faster and improve your mood and confidence throughout your pregnancy. Exercise can also help improve fertility rates amongst women who are overweight or dealing with (POCS) Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Strengthening your core before getting pregnant helps a lot because when your belly starts growing you have an extra weight that you’re carrying that’ll strain your muscles and change your center of gravity. Strengthening your abdominal back now minimizes the chances of having back pains while pregnant.
Your aim while exercising should be maintain or achieve a healthy body mass index (BMI). Some women have difficulties getting pregnant due to a high or low body mass index. Women with a high BMI are more likely to have pregnancy or delivery complications, while women who start with a low BMI and fail to gain enough weight are more likely to deliver underweight babies.Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to achieve your weight goals. To check where you stand through a BMI calculator Click here.
Once pregnant, have your doctor approve your exercise routine so that you don’t engage in strenuous activities that could harm your baby.
Common household toxins to avoidEmbed from Getty Images
Being exposed to toxic chemicals, harmful gas, radiations or even hazardous substances could make it more difficult for one to conceive as well as pose a danger to your baby during pregnancy.
Try to avoid coming in contact with harmful substances, by wearing protective clothing and ensuring you’re always in a well-ventilated area. Some of the toxins to avoid include;
- Lead - exposure can occur through contaminated tap water, inhaling it from chipping Lead based paint, even some cosmetics like certain lipsticks have lead in them.
- Mercury - exposure to mercury can occur from consuming certain fish like tuna, shark, swordfish, mackerel etc.
- Formaldehyde - this environmental pollutant can be found in some household products, including carpeting, cabinets and furniture made from pressed wood, couches and other furniture, and fabric softeners. It can also be found in cosmetics, shampoo, and nail polish. Read labels carefully and choose formaldehyde-free personal care products
- Toluene- Avoid nail polish that has Toluene. Don't refinish furniture, banisters or cupboards while pregnant. Avoid painting or handing paint thinner.
- Bisphenol A (BPA) - BPA is commonly found in hard plastics like bottles, food storage containers, baby bottles etc. Fetal exposure to BPA is linked to developmental and reproductive harm even in low doses. To reduce your risk of exposure to it buy BPA free plastics, don't heat food in plastic storage containers, or put hot food in plastic; use glass bowls and jars instead.
Get off contraception and have more sex!
It’s very important to ditch your birth control a couple of months before you start trying for a baby so as to figure out how your normal menstrual cycle is like and when you’ll be ovulating. This also helps in getting your hormone levels back on track.
Having sex keeps the energy in your reproductive area moving and open and the more sex you have the more chances you give your body to conceive. People often ask if there’s a right time to have sex in preparation for conception, the fertility window (a period in each month where sex is most likely to lead to pregnancy) is usually two to three days before you ovulate. After ovulation, the egg can only be fertilised for about 24 hours. Downloading a period calendar app on your phone can help you know when your fertility window is here.
Keep your stress levels low and get enough sleepEmbed from Getty Images
The connection between conception and stress doesn't seem to be clear, but studies show that couples are more likely to get pregnant when have low stress and anxiety and are relaxed. Unfortunately couples who have been trying to get pregnant without success are more likely to get stressed or anxious about it.
Sleep is one of the most important yet often ignored keys to good health. Sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalance which interfere with your monthly cycles and hence your likelihood to conceive. Your aim should be to sleep between 7 and 9 hours on most nights of the week. Sleep is also very connected to stress and anxiety lack of it or not enough can mean higher stress levels. So it will pay off to start taking your sleep very seriously.
Also if you do get pregnant you have many sleep deprived days coming your way so although it doesn't quite work out that way you should stock up on enough sleep while you can.
Plan out your financesEmbed from Getty Images
Babies come with a lot of responsibilities and money needs. They are not necessarily expensive (it all depends on what you choose) but they do require proper planning. You now have to start thinking about money for diapers, baby clothes, antenatal visits and maternity fees, maternity clothes, nursery furniture and eventually medical bills and school fees. It pays off to start planning out your finances early, they say "mungu akileta mtoto anleta sahani yake" but it's not quite that literal so plan plan plan!