You have decided to get pregnant, that’s great! Before you start trying, here are some tips you may find useful….
- Schedule a visit to your gynecologist
- Start taking folic acid
- Give up drinking, smoking, drugs…
- Eat healthy
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Watch your weight
- Exercise, but not too much
- Don’t forget your oral health
- Reduce your stress levels
- Avoid certain infections
- Reduce exposure to environmental hazards
- Figure out your fertile days
1. Schedule a visit to your gynecologistIt is a good idea, before trying to get pregnant to consult your gynecologist. At that visit, you may want to discuss:
-any medical problem you may have. Some diseases may get better or worse while you are pregnant, some others may affect your baby.
-any medication you are taking. Certain medications are dangerous during pregnancy, and some have to be switched before you even try to conceive.
-your family history. There are diseases that run in families, and you may be able to do some tests to understand if you are at risk. Be sure to mention whether someone in your family has any health problem (e.g. Down syndrome, thalassemia or sickle-cell disease, cystic fibrosis, mental retardation), or if someone was born with a cardiac, neurological or other defect.
-your habits: diet, weight, exercise, any unhealthy habit (such as smoking, drinking, or taking drugs).
If it’s been a year since you had a checkup, you can also expect to have a pelvic exam, eventually an ultrasound and a Pap smear. You may also get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and other bacteria that can reduce your chances of getting pregnant.
Some couples may decide to undergo some prenatal blood exams, including genetic testing for specific conditions, such as hemoglobinopathies (e.g. thalassemia) or cystic fibrosis, based on their ethnic background or family history.
A folic acid supplement may be prescribed at that point.
2. Start taking folic acid
Taking a folic acid supplement is very important. By taking 400 mcg of folic acid a day for at least one month before you conceive and during your first trimester, you reduce your chances of having a baby with some births defects (such as spina bifida) by 50 to 70 percent.
You may also consider some multivitamin supplements that may help you get pregnant. Make sure though, not to exceed the recommended doses of vitamin A (unless it’s in a form called beta-carotene). Getting too much vitamin A can cause birth defects.
3. Give up drinking, smoking, drugs…
Tobacco use can affect fertility both in women and men, and this seems to be true even for secondhand smoking. Smoking or taking drugs while you are pregnant can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, low-birthweight babies and (according to recent studies) congenital malformations.
Alcohol can also reduce fertility, therefore it’s a good idea to cut back when you start trying to get pregnant. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects and other severe problems to you baby.
4. Eat healthy
It is now a good time to start eating healthy: plenty of fruits and vegetables every day, as well as whole grains and foods that are high in calcium – like milk and yogurt. Eat a variety of protein sources, such as beans, nuts, seeds, and meats.
While fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (which are very important for your baby’s brain and eye development), as well as proteins, vitamin D and other nutrients, it also contains mercury, which can be harmful. It is usually recommended that pregnant women eat up to 2 servings a week of fish that are not high in mercury (such as herring, trout, salmon, and sardines), and avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish. The consumption of white canned tuna should be limited to 1 serving per week.
5. Reduce caffeine intake
There seems to be an association between high caffeine consumption and reduced fertility. Too much caffeine has also been linked to a risk of miscarriage in some studies, but not in others. To be on the safe side, it is recommended to limit coffee consumption to 1 cup a day.
6. Watch your weight
7. Exercise, but not too much
You may consider walking or cycling or swimming, on most days of the week, for about 30 minutes. To increase flexibility, you may try stretching, Pilates or yoga.
But be careful not to overdo it. Very intense exercise seems to have the opposite effect, as it has been related to infertility in some studies.
8. Don’t forget your oral health
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make women more susceptible to gum disease, causing the gums to bleed easily while flossing or brushing. But if you take care of your oral health before trying to conceive you have less chances of experiencing problems while pregnant.
9. Reduce your stress levels
It is becoming clearer that stress is responsible for infertility; indeed, several studies reveal that relaxation techniques increase the chances of getting pregnant. Furthermore, a recent study confirms something we see in everyday practice: pregnancy is much more likely to occur during months when couples report feeling happy and relaxed and is less likely to happen during the months they report feeling tense or anxious. The influence of stress on infertility, though is not straightforward, and it may vary in different women.
10. Avoid certain infections
You’ll want to stay away from certain foods such as raw and undercooked red meat, fish and poultry, raw eggs, unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses. These foods can cause dangerous infections, such as listeriosis, salmonella and toxoplasmosis.
In order to avoid toxoplasmosis it’s also a good idea to wear gloves when digging in the garden or the cat’s litter box, if you have one.
11.Reduce exposure to environmental hazards
There is some evidence to support that routine exposure to certain chemicals or radiation may be harmful for pregnant women. If you work in such an environment, you’ll need to make some changes before you conceive. In addition, some cleaning products, pesticides, solvents, etc, can be dangerous during pregnancy.
12. Figure out your fertile days
First, you should understand when your ovulation occurs. For that, you may use an ovulation calculator, that is, a web tool or application where you write down your period days for some months and you learn when you are fertile; you will find several online, many are designed for smart phones. With these calculators, you get a rough estimate of your fertile days.
If you want to be even more exact, you may start recording your basal body temperature (BBT) and your cervical mucus changes. If you chart them over several months, you may more easily understand when you’re ovulating each month.
Ovulation predictor kits can also help you figure out when you’re ovulating by detecting a hormone (LH) in your urine.
Once you have a clear picture of your cycle, there’s only one thing left to do — get to work! It is advised to have sex every day or every other day beginning about five days before ovulation, and continuing through the day after ovulation. This is because, though sperm can live as long as five days inside a woman’s body, an egg’s life span is only about 12 to 24 hours. By having intercourse before you ovulate, as well as on the day of and the day after ovulation, you maximize your chances of getting pregnant.
Good luck! And hopefully soon with good news!