New Year, New Beginnings, New Baby?
The New Year is all about new beginnings, new possibilities, planning for a better future; and there truly could be no better time to plan for a pregnancy than now.
It’s true: properly preparing your body for your next pregnancy will improve your chances of success and a healthy outcome for both you and your baby; but believe it or not, women are more likely to ‘fall’ pregnant by surprise than to become pregnant by planning, therefore missing out on a vital opportunity to improve health and well-being beforehand.
Trying to conceive can be pretty stressful, easily leading to feelings of anxiety and depression as months go by without a positive pregnancy test, but don’t become disheartened if you don’t conceive within the first few months, as statistics show that most women have a 90 per cent chance of conceiving within a year (Parker-Littler 2008).
Here are some top midwife tips for parents-to-be planning for a baby:
• Keep a note of your menstrual period dates which makes it much easier to track and calculate the fertile time of your cycle.
• The best time for “baby making sex” is just before ovulation, so if you have an average monthly cycle of 28 days, then expect to ovulate around day 14 (from the first day of your last period); though this may need to be adjusted depending on your cycle length.
• See your doctor if it takes longer than a year to conceive, or earlier if you are aged over 35 years
as fertility tends to decline more rapidly from then. Your doctor may run basic tests to monitor hormones, screen for STDs, or perform a semen analysis for your partner.
Making dietary changes are a key element to your fertility. Is your diet well balanced? Could you cut back on the amount of sugar, salt or fast/processed food you eat? Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, particularly green leafy veggies, will give you an important boost in vitamins and minerals – especially folic acid.
Try a ‘preconception diet’. Certain foods in particular contain essential vitamins and minerals that may benefit eggs and sperm and the health of the future embryo; these include foods rich in vitamins A, B ,C, and E,folic acid, calcium, essential fatty acids omega 3 & 6,zinc and selenium.
Exercise is vital. If you have an exercise regime that you’re used to, it’s safe to continue with that. If not, consider taking up gentle exercise activity such as walking, swimming or yoga which are ideal before, during and after pregnancy.
Having a baby and creating a family is something you want to do right from the start, so here is your chance, the time is now!
If you smoke and/or drink alcohol, you should definitely try giving up both. Doing so will reduce your risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, low birthweight and sudden infant death.
Contracting Rubella (German measles) during pregnancy can cause foetal abnormalities if you aren’t immune, so it’s worth checking your immunity. You may be offered a vaccine if not immune, and should then wait three months before trying to get pregnant.
If you’re on any medication or have a pre-existing medical condition, speak with your doctor about how your pregnancy may be affected by these sooner rather than later.
Stopping contraception and preparing for conception doesn’t have to be complicated, but may involve some planning depending on your method. Barrier methods such as the diaphragm or condom can of course be stopped immediately, but an IUD (inter-uterine device) like the coil will have to be removed by your doctor. For hormonal methods like the pill,you should complete the packet before stopping. Your cycle may take a few months to settle back in, but some women conceive right away.
Conditions like endometriosis (when cells from the lining of the uterus spread to other areas such as the fallopian tube, ovaries and pelvis causing scarring and blockages) and PCOS (where cysts in the ovaries mean that the follicles are unable to mature and produce ripened eggs) may affect fertility. Seek medical advice sooner rather than later, and also consider the evidence suggesting that diet can play a part in alleviating the symptoms of these conditions, therefore improving fertility.
• Let’s not forget the importance of mental and emotional preparations towards conceiving with success. Preparing mentally by having faith in your ability to conceive and each day, visualising your upcoming pregnancy, will put you in the best emotional space towards achieving your dream.
Andrea Bonita Jordan is a registered (freelance) Midwife, Breastfeeding Specialist and co-founder of two charities: The Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Foundation (The BCNF charity# 1169) and Better Birthing in Bim.