Ready to start trying for a baby? It’s important to prepare your body for pregnancy first. Here are some ways to maximise your chances of conceiving naturally, and avoid any problems during pregnancy:
Step 1. Visit your GP
If you (and your partner) want to start a family it’s important that you are in good health. Your GP will most likely check your general health as well as investigate some specific issues that can affect your fertility. Many infectious diseases can cause problems with the baby’s development - including rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Make sure you are tested for these, and check your blood group and Rh factor at the same time. Have your regular pap smear too.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) can also affect male and female fertility. These include Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Syphilis, and unfortunately they can remain undiagnosed for many years. Your GP can arrange tests and treatments for these types of infections.
If you (or your partner) take any medication, discuss this with your doctor. Some medications can affect sperm production, and some should not be taken before or during pregnancy for women.
Step 2. Take your daily vitamins
Folic acid is really important in the very earliest stages of pregnancy, to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (most commonly spina bifida). The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia recommends women take 500 ug (0.5mg) folic acid supplements daily for at least three months before pregnancy and for three months into the pregnancy.
Other supplements are usually not necessary if you have a healthy diet, but taking a multi-vitamin specifically for pregnancy or ovulation may benefit your overall health. Some of these multi-vitamins also include folic acid.
Step 3. Eat healthy food
A balanced diet is important for your overall health – make sure you include plenty of leafy green vegetables, which are a great source of folic acid.
Step 4. Check your weight
If you are significantly overweight or underweight, it can affect your chances of getting pregnant. Use a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to check you have an appropriate body weight. If you have a high BMI, you can improve your fertility with just a 5% reduction in weight.
Step 5. Exercise regularly – but not too strenuously
Walking, tennis and other moderate exercise are good for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, there is evidence that you should not do strenuous exercise more than four times a week during pregnancy. Also, frequent strenuous exercise, such as some athletic training programs, can have a negative effect on ovulation and fertility.
Step 6. Quit smoking now
Smoking affects fertility in both men and women. Women who smoke tend to reach menopause earlier than non-smokers. There is also strong evidence that female smokers have a higher miscarriage rate.
Smoking during pregnancy has adverse effects on the growing baby, and can contribute to many childhood illnesses. There is also strong evidence that a child born to a male smoker is four times more likely to develop cancer in childhood.
We strongly recommend you do not smoke during fertility treatment or pregnancy.
Step 7. Curb your alcohol intake
The National Health Medical Research Committee (NHMRC) recommends no more than two standard drinks per day for women and four for men, with at least two alcohol-free days per week.
The impact of alcohol on a woman’s reproductive system is unknown, but heavy intake in men is known to affect sperm production.
The weeks following a positive pregnancy test are an important stage of development for the baby, and it is recommended that women abstain from alcohol completely.
Step 8. Reduce your caffeine
High caffeine intake has been linked with female infertility in some research studies, but the reason for this is not clear. A moderate coffee intake is no more than two cups per day – remember that caffeine is present in other beverages and food, such as cola drinks and chocolate.
Step 9. Have sex regularly
Unprotected intercourse two or three times a week during your fertile period, or ‘pregnancy window’, will increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Estimate your chance of falling pregnant each month with our pregnancy predictor.
Step 10. Monitor your monthly cycle
The most fertile time for a woman is between days 8 and 13 of a 28-day cycle. Remember, you ovulate 14 days before your next period, not 14 days after your last one, so your fertile period will be later if you have a longer cycle than 28 days.