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Planning a pregnancy

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Pregnancy

Am I ready for pregnancy?

Deciding to have a baby is one of the biggest, exciting and frightening decisions you’ll ever make and so it should be given lots of thought. When you start thinking about becoming pregnant it is essential that you look at your health and that of your partner. The majority of us enjoy having sex, so becoming pregnant should be one of the most natural things in the world. Try to give yourselves three months to prepare for pregnancy, during which time you should try to be as healthy as possible and cut down on all your bad habits.

Your partner will also need to be careful. Sperm take around three months to develop and you will want to ensure they’re as active as possible. Having a child is the most important decision you will ever make, so a little preplanning will help get your baby off to the best possible start.

Preparing for pregnancy

Your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy are better if you and your partner are as fit and healthy as possible. You should look at all the following in preparation for having a baby.

Medical conditions

If you have any medical conditions that might be affected if you fall pregnant then you should discuss these with your doctor. Medical conditions that might impact you or your pregnancy could include any of the following:

Diabetes

Epilepsy

High Blood Pressure

Asthma

Endometriosis

Heart Problems or thrombosis

It is important that if you have any of these conditions you speak to your doctor and get them under control before falling pregnant. You can also ask your doctor to be tested for Sickle cell disease (SCD) and thalassaemia, both are inherited blood disorders. These tests are offered to pregnant women but you can ask to be tested before you try for a baby, if you believe you may be at risk.

Medications

If you are taking medicines for any health conditions you will need to talk to your doctor to make sure they are safe to take when pregnant.

Sexual Health

If there is any possibility of you or your partner having a sexually transmitted infection then it is recommended you have a full sexual health check, even if neither of you have symptoms. If you have a sexual infection it might affect your chances of getting pregnant or cause problems during pregnancy, it can also be passed to the baby. We sell a range of sexual health tests on this website, for more information or to purchase click here.

Diet

To increase our chances of conception it is a good idea to be at a healthy weight, being overweight or underweight can make getting pregnant more difficult. Every year babies are born with unnecessary health problems, these problems are usually due to the fitness and nutrition of the mother. Paying attention to nutrition before and during your pregnancy will benefit your unborn baby by giving your body a store of nutrients. You shouldn’t eat more food when you are pregnant but you should be aware of the nutrients present in the foods that you choose to eat. You can improve your health almost immediately by taking folic acid tablets until you are in the 12th week of pregnancy.

Suggestions for a healthy diet :

  • Fresh fruit, salad and vegetables are all excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre so try to eat at least 5 portions every day. Remember do not over cook vegetables, as this destroys the vitamin C content.
  • The basis of your diet should be starchy foods like wholemeal bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and cereals. They provide important vitamins and fibre but don’t contain many calories.
  • Lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs and pulses are all good sources of protein and you should try to eat 2 portions of these each day.
  • Oily fish such as kippers, herring and sardines contain vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.
  • Eat some calcium rich dairy products each day – cheese, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and yoghurt.
  • Try to consume less sugary foods. Extra calories will not provide any valuable nutrients.
  • Cut down on salt and fatty foods.
  • High levels of vitamin A can cause birth defects so it is best to avoid liver, liver products and cod liver oil.
  • Processed foods contain a lot of sugar, salt and fat so should be avoided.

Exercise

If you are fit before you fall pregnant it will stop you feeling tired as your pregnancy progresses and will keep your weight gain within a sensible limit. Just because you are pregnant does not mean you should stop taking exercise. Some exercise is good for you during pregnancy. Exercise will help keep your body in good physical condition and improve muscle tone and posture.

Immunization

Before you attempt to become pregnant, you should visit your doctor to make sure you have had all your necessary immunizations. Ensure you have had a vaccination for German measles before you try to conceive. German measles is a viral illness that can cause a miscarriage or disabilities (e.g. blindness) in your baby. If you do need a German measles immunization it must be done at least 3 months before you try to become pregnant.

Smoking, alcohol and drugs

The most important thing you can do for your baby’s health is to stop smoking. If you smoke you may triple your chances of not being able to conceive. Smoking in general is a major health hazard but if you smoke during pregnancy or inhale smoke from others, you are depriving your unborn baby of oxygen. Babies of smoking parents are more likely to be born prematurely and have a low birth weight, which can make your new born much more vulnerable to infections in the first few weeks. Smoking also increases the chances of you having a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a baby with malformations. Doctors have also found that smoking is one of the single most important risk factors involved in cot death. There hasn’t been enough research carried out on the affects of e-cigarettes so it might be safer to not use one.

Many women often say that they go off alcohol whilst pregnant. Even if you have an occasional drink it won’t do you or your baby any harm. However, regular heavy drinking will cause problems. As no one knows how much is a safe amount to drink it would be best to give up alcohol all together. If you do like to have an alcoholic drink, try to drink no more than two units of alcohol once or twice a week.

Many drugs pass into your baby’s blood stream from your own. Some antibiotics are quite harmless and can be used to treat your baby for certain conditions, but don’t take any medicines that haven’t been prescribed by your doctor, who knows you are pregnant.

If you were taking the oral contraceptive pill you should wait 3 months before trying to become pregnant. Paracetamol and simple indigestion remedies are safe to take, but it is always best to speak to your mid-wife, doctor or pharmacist beforehand. Recreational drugs (drugs of abuse) should always be avoided when trying for a baby and during pregnancy. Taking these drugs can affect ovulation in women and reduce sperm quantity in men. Smoking cocaine can cause a serious decrease in your baby’s oxygen supply and babies born to mother’s who are addicted to heroin, may also be addicted at birth. If you need help to stop using drugs speak to your doctor for advice.