How to Get Pregnancy Ready
15th February 2022
Most people know that some healthy lifestyle changes are recommended for women during pregnancy. However, if you are thinking about trying to conceive, there are some things you can do beforehand to help prepare your body for a pregnancy that is as straightforward as possible.
Start Taking Folic Acid and Vitamin D
The NHS recommends that women take certain supplements when they are trying to conceive, and throughout pregnancy, too.
Folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9, increases maternal folate levels. In pregnancy, folate supports the development of a baby’s skull, brain and spinal cord. Taking folic acid therefore helps to prevent problems with the spine or brain, also known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
Folic acid should therefore be taken when you first start thinking about trying to conceive, right up until the 12th week of pregnancy. If you are already pregnant but are not yet taking folic acid, simply start taking it now. Any folic acid that you take will help the development of your baby.
Vitamin D plays an important role in the health of your bones, but in pregnancy it can also help to reduce the risk of early birth, low birthweight, and pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy).
The body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight in the summer. However, many people struggle to get enough vitamin D this way. Taking a vitamin D supplement is therefore an easy way to ensure you have plenty of this vitamin on board before conception. You should then continue taking vitamin D throughout your pregnancy, and if you choose to, while breastfeeding.
Take supplements formulated especially for conception
It’s a great idea for both men and women (of reproductive age) to regularly take a fertility supplement.
Female fertility supplements will provide you with an advanced boost of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants to support not only female fertility, but also your general health.
The baby's neural tube, which becomes the brain and spinal cord, develops during the first month of pregnancy, which could be before you are even aware you are pregnant. It is therefore recommended to prep the body at least 3-6 months prior to trying, to help increase the chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy.
It is just as important for men to take a fertility supplement to help increase the likelihood of conceiving. This will encourage healthy sperm quality and production, which is incredibly important for couples trying for a baby. Not only will it benefit male fertility, but also their overall health too.
Beware of Multi-vitamins
If you already take a multi-vitamin or another supplement, check the information carefully as many standard preparations contain vitamin A. While this vitamin usually supports the health of numerous cells within the body, taking vitamin A in pregnancy can be harmful.
To avoid the risks to a developing foetus, switch to folic acid and Vitamin D supplements, or a preparation formulated especially for pregnant women, before trying to conceive.
Stopping smoking could be one of the best things you do to boost your fertility. Men and women who smoke are more likely to have fertility problems, and the risk of infertility increases with the number of cigarettes smoked each day.
Prior to trying to conceive, set a stop date, and stick to it. If you think you will require a helping hand to stop, the NHS has services to support you in stopping smoking. Pharmaceutical products are available to increase your chances of quitting, too.
Stopping smoking could not only increase your chances of conceiving, but will also improve the health of your pregnancy, too.
Be Patient After Stopping Hormonal Contraception
If you are aged under 35 and have just stopped using hormonal contraception, such as the contraceptive pill or hormonal coil, you may wish to wait a little while before you try to conceive. This break gives time for your natural hormone levels to return to normal. Waiting just a few months before actively trying to conceive could mean that conception happens more easily for you.
However, if you are aged 35 or older, it is not advisable to delay trying to conceive. It is recommended that women in this age group start trying as soon as they stop using hormonal contraception.
Book a Sexual Health Screen
Before trying to conceive, some couples choose to attend for sexual health screening. Some sexually transmitted infections can remain silent with no symptoms. However, some infections may make it harder to conceive.
Getting a sexual health screen with your partner is a quick and easy way to ensure that you do not require any treatment prior to a pregnancy.
If you are given the all-clear at the appointment, you may feel reassured. If an infection is detected, you can begin treatment to optimise your health and your chances of conceiving naturally.
Consider Lifestyle Changes
There are some lifestyle changes that can improve your chances of conceiving. Implementing these changes before trying to conceive also means that you will have formed healthier habits that will benefit both you and your baby during pregnancy.
Eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables will increase your intake of fibre and essential minerals and vitamins. Increasing the amount of green, leafy vegetables is a great place to start!
Cook meals that are high in lean protein, such as grilled chicken or fish, or plant-based alternatives including soya or lentils. Protein helps the body’s cells to repair, supports the immune system, and is crucial for the growth of a baby during pregnancy. Getting into the habit of ensuring you eat plenty of protein pre-conception is therefore a wise move.
Although it can be tempting to reach for a chocolate bar, reducing refined carbohydrate and replacing it with a natural treat will help you to nourish your body. Complex carbohydrates including fruits contain more nutrients and fibre than a sugary treat. Healthy carbs also provide your body with a superior form of energy than a sugary snack.
It is recommended that we spend 150 minutes each week on moderately intense physical activity. This is equivalent to completing five 30 minutes sessions each week. Going for a brisk walk, jog, run, cycle or swim can all count towards your goal.
Exercise helps to maintain good heart health, improves the mood, and may even improve your chances of conception.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you are overweight, you may want to try to lose some weight. Eating a healthier diet and exercising more regularly is likely to lead to weight loss. You may also find it helpful to follow a healthy eating plan online, or join a weight loss group locally. Losing weight may help you to conceive sooner.
Cut Back on Alcohol
Alcohol is not advised during pregnancy, but you may also want to abstain while getting ready to try to conceive. To get your body at its healthiest, avoid or limit alcohol prior to conception.
Alcohol can be harmful to a developing foetus. Once you start trying to conceive, it is wise to become teetotal. This mitigates the risk of consuming alcohol in the early days of conception before you know that you are pregnant.
Male partners should also cut back on alcohol. This is because studies have shown that even before conception, paternal alcohol consumption may increase the risk of birth defects.
Before trying to conceive, it is worth thinking about how you can help to get your body ready for pregnancy. Making sensible lifestyle choices and taking good care of your health is not only recommended to support a pregnancy, but to give you the best chance of conceiving in the first place.