Going into pregnancy with a clean bill of health and a weight that’s within the recommended range for your height and build, will give you peace of mind, and provide your baby with a great start in life.
1. Get fit
Pregnancy puts a lot of physiological demands on the body, hormones can cause ligaments to soften and loosen. Generally, women who are physically fit have easier pregnancies and births. Build up your fitness before conceiving and aim to maintain it through low impact aerobic exercise throughout the pregnancy. This will improve your circulation, increase the oxygen flow to the baby, boost your stamina and suppleness and promote better sleep. You should consult with your GP first before planning any exercise.
2. Consider your preconception health
Visit your GP to discuss any conditions you have, such as diabetes, asthma, or epilepsy and how they can be managed during your pregnancy. If you are taking prescription medication, enquire if you should continue with it while you are trying to conceive and during your pregnancy. Raise your own and your partner’s family health histories to assess any genetic risks you might have. Ensure you are immune to rubella or German measles as getting this disease during pregnancy might damage the developing foetus. Chickenpox can also harm the baby in early pregnancy, so it’s wise to check if you’ve had the disease. If not, avoid children with chickenpox while trying to conceive and up to the 14th week of your pregnancy. As part of an overall checkup, have your blood pressure monitored and a cervical smear test done if you haven’t had one in the previous two years.
3. Quit smoking
Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby’s health because smoking has been linked with miscarriage, birth defects and health problems later in life. Women who quit smoking reduce the risk of infertility and those who kick the habit early in their pregnancy lower the risk of their baby being born too early and with an abnormally low birthweight.
4. Be proactive with folic acid
Taking a supplement of 0.4 mg of folic acid per day can protect against neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Ideally, this should be taken from 14 weeks before you conceive until the 12th week of your pregnancy. If you already have a baby with a neural tube defect, it is recommended that you take a bigger dose of 4mg daily two months before conception and during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Increased doses are also recommended in the case of multiple births.
5. Involve your partner
Planning a baby can be a very romantic and bonding time for you and your partner. Try to get them excited about getting healthier and fitter in preparation for the pregnancy by going on a health kick together.