So you’re thinking about having a baby, and want to get super prepared before you start trying to get pregnant?
Here’s our guide to getting your body in tip-top condition for conceiving and enjoying a happy, healthy pregnancy.
At a glance
- Start taking folic acid
- Eat a pregnancy-friendly diet
- Talk to your doctor if you're taking prescription or herbal medicines
Start taking that folic acid
The first thing you need to do is start taking a daily 400 micrograms folic acid supplement. Ideally you should start three months before you conceive and keep taking it until you’re 12 weeks pregnant. This greatly reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. Don’t worry if you get pregnant before you start taking it, just start now.
Take vitamin D supplements too
Vitamin D is important - right through pregnancy and breastfeeding. You get it from two sources – exposure to some lovely summer sunshine, or foods like oily fish and fortified breakfast cereals. The Department of Health recommends you take supplements - 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day.
Eat a pregnancy-friendly diet
You don’t need to go on a special diet while you’re trying to conceive, but it's important you eat a variety of different foods every day to get a good balance of nutrients. Then when you do get pregnant, it’s time to give your baby the best start with a healthy pregnancy diet.
We know it’s not easy to quit smoking, but it can affect egg quality and is one of main causes of low birth weight babies. It also brings the menopause forward and damages the ovaries. Men need to kick the habit too – smoking affects sperm quality and quantity. It feels tough now, but when you’re holding your baby, it will all be worth it.
Quick check for rubella
Immunity to rubella (German measles) can wear off and it’s harmful to unborn babies. So it makes sense to ask your GP for a quick check of your status before you conceive. You can easily have another jab to top you up.
Prescription medication and herbal medicines
If you take any medication or herbal remedies - prescribed or not - it’s best ask your pharmacist if they could affect your fertility or your baby’s development. As always, if you’re taking prescribed medication, don’t stop taking them without talking to your doctor first.
Have a chat with your doctor if you have a condition that may affect your ability to conceive or carry a baby normally. These include Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, thyroid dysfunction, inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy and diabetes. While you should be able to have a lovely, smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby, some health conditions do need careful management to minimise risks to you both. It could affect the decisions you make, for example, how to boost your chances of conceiving, right through to where to give birth. So book a pre-conception chat with your specialist or GP.
Cut back on the booze
Excess alcohol isn’t great for sperm and egg quality. This means the Department of Health now recommend women avoid alcohol completely if they are trying to conceive or are pregnant.
If men put away too much booze they’re risking chromosomal damage, decreased motility (the swimming rate of the sperm), and erectile dysfunction. Some is fine, but it’s best your man doesn’t go mad!
Avoid recreational drugs
It’s obvious, but drugs aren’t a good idea. They can seriously impact fertility, while studies have shown there’s a high correlation between drugs and miscarriage, low birth-weight and premature babies. They can affect sperm quality too. So best give the lot a wide berth.
Take note of your ovulation cycle
Begin keeping a record of your monthly cycle and important dates with our ovulation calendar. You can then put these into our ovulation calculator to give you a good idea of when you are most fertile. This is the best time to get pregnant and when you should be having the most sex.