Physical health is just one of the things to consider when it comes to fertility and pregnancy, but it’s an important one. Your amazing body will undergo a lot of strain while it’s nurturing your baby, so it’s important that you're healthy and ready for the challenge.
Pregnancy and fertility health
Sure, being healthy includes eating your veg and getting plenty of exercise, but it’s about so much more than that. You’ll need good dental health, folic acid and iodine, up-to-date immunisations, and a good understanding of your family history and medications. Below you’ll find our top physical health recommendations that will maximise your fertility for the best chance of conception, and then keep yourself and your baby healthy throughout pregnancy and birth.
Before you start trying to conceive, take some simple steps to keep you and your future baby healthy.
1. Tell your GP your pregnancy plans
Have a general examination and make sure you’re up-to-date with your cervical screening test. Your doctor will discuss your own medical history as well as your family medical history, so try to be informed about past instances of high blood pressure, seizures, diabetes, blood clots and birth defects in your family.
You can also use this appointment to ask your doctor about genetic carrier tests to check for other potential health concerns you might need to be aware of while trying to conceive.
2. Assess your lifestyle
If you live a healthy lifestyle, you’re in a better condition to conceive and carry a baby. Maintaining a healthy weight will help both you and your baby; women who eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and optimise their wellbeing are less likely to experience pregnancy complications and issues during birth.
3. Consider your medication
If you’re taking any medication, talk to your GP about how it may affect your fertility and future pregnancy. Even some over-the-counter and herbal medications can be a problem. Mention everything, even if you think it won’t be relevant.
4. Take folic acid and iodine
Getting a recommended dose of folic acid (0.4-1.0mg) can decrease the chance of neural tube defects in babies by 50% or more. Iodine is also recommended at a dietary intake of 0.22mg per day. Talk to your doctor about folic acid and iodine for pregnancy, and other pregnancy supplements that might be important for you.
5. Consider reproductive carrier screening
Reproductive carrier screening is a test for rare but important genetic mutations in both parents before conception. Testing before pregnancy gives you time to review the results and make informed choices. Whether you're conceiving with a partner or with a donor, reproductive carrier screening gives you the opportunity to assess your risks. There are a number of options for women whose risk is higher. Those conceiving with IVF may consider pre-implantation genetic diagnosis before the embryo is implanted, while others choose to undergo prenatal diagnosis during their pregnancy. Some women or couples go on to use a donor egg or sperm.
6. Boost your dental health
This might seem like a strange addition to our list, but bad dental health and dental disease is linked to premature birth. It's better to have X-rays for dental health before you get pregnant, so make an appointment before you conceive. Ensure your teeth and gums are ship-shape before you conceive so your dental health compliments your overall health.
7. Check your immunity and vaccinations for pregnancy
Some immunisations aren’t an option during pregnancy. Make sure that you’re up-to-date on all your shots so you and your baby are protected. Particularly, ask your GP to check your immunity to Rubella; if you are not immune it's worth delaying pregnancy to be vaccinated, as Rubella can be dangerous for your baby.
8. Ditch the bad habits
No, we’re not talking about the chocolate croissant you have for breakfast on Sundays (actually, we definitely encourage little treats once you get pregnant). We’re talking about alcohol, cigarettes and other substances that can have an effect on your baby. There is no safe way to use alcohol or any other drugs during pregnancy, so before you conceive make sure you’re ready to go teetotal.
Pregnancy preparation — our conclusions
It’s not difficult to get all of these points in check, and it’s important that you do before you start trying to conceive. Improvements to your health will also increase your fertility and chance of getting pregnant.
Even if you’re not considering pregnancy just yet, we encourage all the women we care for to live a healthy lifestyle and prioritise their physical health. Pregnancy (and, eventually, your baby) will mean a lot of unavoidable changes to your life. Living a healthy and balanced lifestyle now, with a good diet and plenty of exercise, means you’ll have one less change to make when you decide to become a mum.
O&G is a team of obstetricians, gynaecologists and women’s health professionals based in Adelaide, Australia. However, the information in this blog is not a substitute for personal medical advice. We designed it to prepare and guide you, not take the place of a consultation. Always talk to your doctor or call O&G to arrange an appointment.