Planning for Pregnancy
Whether you intend to have a baby in the near future, just starting to think about pregnancy, or are curious about the important steps you should take, this guide will give you a full run-down of what you need to know when planning for pregnancy.
Stop Smoking and Drinking
Evidence shows that lifestyle can have significant effects on the health of your baby. You’ve probably heard it a million times before, but you should never drink or smoke during your pregnancy.
Smoking is particularly dangerous, as it can significantly disrupt the development of your baby in the womb. It can lead to low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and miscarriage, for example.
When it comes to alcohol, there is no safe amount to drink. During pregnancy, you should avoid it completely. Of course, the more alcohol you consume, the greater the effects.
Take Folic Acid Daily
Unfortunately, companies know that pregnancy is big business and that parents worry about pretty much everything. They use this to their advantage to sell you supplements and vitamins you don’t really need.
However, if there is one vitamin you can’t ignore, it’s folic acid. It’s a B vitamin and it is absolutely crucial that you get a dose of 400 micrograms every single day, both before pregnancy and 12 weeks into your pregnancy.
The reason for this is that folic acid helps prevent potential brain and spine birth defects, including anencephaly and spina bifida. We recommend buying a supplement containing a minimum of 400 mcg of folic acid, plus 15 mcg of iodine (which aids brain development).
Know Your Cycle
Before you attempt to get pregnant, get to know your body and your cycle. To figure out the ‘best’ time to conceive, we recommend figuring out when your body ovulates.
Start by keeping track of your period’s start and end points, noting your flow, plus symptoms like breast tenderness or cramping. Ovulation comes paired with physical signs, such as an increase in your base temperature and a change in the consistency of your cervical mucus (it will generally be clearer and more ‘stretchy’).
Check Your Family History
Your genetic makeup affects your baby’s health, with certain medical conditions having a much higher chance of being passed on.
For example, certain conditions are also more prevalent amongst certain groups. For example, sickle cell disease (SCD) and thalassaemia tend to affect people from Mediterranean, African, and Southeast Asian descent, amongst others.
There are also some pregnancy-related conditions that you may have a higher chance of experiencing, particularly if close relatives have also had them. For instance, gestational diabetes, prenatal depression, and preeclampsia tend to run in families.
Knowing your family history can help mitigate risks and help you consider your health choices before, during, and after pregnancy. Even if you find out that a serious condition runs in the family, don’t despair just yet. There is every chance your baby will be completely healthy, or that it can be managed with proper medical treatment.
Keep a Healthy Weight
There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to weight and pregnancy. Here is the basic truth: if you are currently clinically overweight, it may be more difficult to get pregnant. It is also far less likely that fertility treatments will have the desired effect.
So what is a healthy weight? In terms of BMI, it is generally recommended that you sit between 18.5 and 24.9. Of course, BMI has its flaws, as muscle weighs more than fat, for example, but it is still the best general tool to determine a healthy weight range.
Having a healthy BMI isn’t just important for the mother, but the dad should also keep an eye on his weight. This is because being overweight is linked to male infertility, and it affects sperm function.
Talk to Your Doctor
Our final bit of advice is to talk to a medical professional if you plan to get pregnant, ensuring optimal preconception health care. This ensures you take your own personal health history into account, in addition to the general advice given here so far.
For example, you should discuss all of your medical conditions and significant health events – do not omit information, even if you believe it is irrelevant to your pregnancy.
Preparing for pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also lead to a lot of worry. We’ve mentioned a lot of conditions that may sound a little scary, but just remember, most pregnancies result in fully healthy babies and there is every chance yours will too.