Health and Lifestyle Advice
Ready to start trying for a baby? The first step is to make sure you and your partner are in good health, and to start preparing your body for pregnancy.
- Visit your GP
A visit to your GP is a good place to start if you and your partner are thinking of starting a family. Your GP will most likely check your general health, as well as investigate some specific factors 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. For women, it’s important to be up-to-date with your 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, it's important to discuss this with your doctor too. Some medications can affect sperm production, and some should not be taken before or during pregnancy for women.
- Check your weight
If you are significantly overweight or underweight, it can affect your chances of getting pregnant by affecting hormone levels in women and sperm production in men. Use a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to check you have an appropriate body weight. If you have a high BMI, a reduction in body weight of just 5% may improve your fertility.
- Eat healthy food
- Keep up your folate – as well as taking a folate supplement, increasing your intake through the food you eat is also beneficial. Green, leafy vegetables and wholegrains are great sources of folate.
- Swap carbohydrates for wholegrains – eating too much sugar and too many processed carbohydrates can negatively impact insulin levels and fertility. Swap carbohydrates for lower GI, wholegrain food options. For example, make the switch to wholegrain bread and pasta, and choose brown rice over white rice.
- Embrace good fats – mono and poly-unsaturated fats are a good source of Vitamin E and have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce insulin resistance. Nuts, avocados, oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, whiting and tinned fish) and extra virgin olive oil are all good sources of good fats
- Optimise protein intake – protein is important while trying to fall pregnant, but remember, portion sizes do not need to increase until you fall pregnant. Try including lean red meat in your diet (which is high in iron and zinc), oily fish such as salmon (high in omega-3 fatty acids), and dairy foods (a good source of calcium).
- Exercise regularly
Walking, going to the gym and other forms of moderate exercise are good for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- 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 500ug (0.5mg) folic acid daily for at least three months before pregnancy and for the first three months of 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.
- 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 more likely to develop cancer in childhood.
We strongly recommend you do not smoke during fertility treatment or pregnancy.
- Reduce your alcohol intake
The 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 during this period.
- Reduce your caffeine intake
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.
If pregnancy is taking longer than expected, have your questions answered by one of our fertility advisors. Call 1800 111 483 or complete the form below.