So, you’re ready to take the plunge and become a parent. There are a few things you and your partner need to do first to make sure you’re both on fertile ground.
Be your best self
Conception should be viewed as a joint effort. The healthier both partners are, the healthier the foetus will be. “Optimum nutrition levels in both partners can help ensure good fertility, a healthy pregnancy and reduce possibilities of miscarriage and certain birth defects,” advises nutritionist Melanie Alpers. She recommends a diet that includes:
- Lots of dark green leafy vegetables, raw nuts, brown rice, seeds and olives for magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, folic acid, selenium, manganese, essential fatty acids and Vitamin E.
- Natural dairy products such as Bulgarian yoghurt with fresh fruit – particularly berries (which are high in antioxidants and Vitamin C).
- All the orange, red and yellow varieties of vegetables and fruit plus sardines, avocado, lentils, eggs and chickpeas for Vitamin A and B complex.
- Include ample water in your daily diet. “It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and cut back on the junk food,” advises Dr Jana Rossouw, specialist gynaecologist and obstetrician at Tygerberg Hospital. “Maintain a healthy body weight with a BMI (body mass index) between 20 and 25. Being underweight is not good, nor is being overweight,” she cautions. Moderation is the key word.
A folic acid supplement is advised while you’re trying to conceive. “Folic acid is most important before conception as folate helps to develop a healthy egg as well as during pregnancy to avoid birth defects such as spina bifida, cleft palate and mental disorders. Assuming that you’re following a healthy balanced diet, supplementing with 400mcg of folic acid is recommended,” says Melanie.
No more wine (YES, REALLY!)
Yes, we know that you look forward to that glass of wine at dinner, but if you’re serious about boosting your fertility, it’s time to say goodbye to alcoholic drinks.
“When you’re trying to conceive, everything is so sensitive to any type of insult from the outside, so we ask people to abstain from alcohol – don’t have even a little bit,” says Dr Rossouw. But when should you stop? “When you stop taking your contraception, that’s the time to stop the alcoholic drinks,” she explains.
Stretch your legs
Exercise is an important component of preparing your body for pregnancy. Not only will it help you maintain a healthy weight, but it has the added benefit of helping you manage your stress better. “Exercise is good for wellbeing, it’s good for body image and, obviously for weight control,” says Dr Rossouw.
And if you’re not that active, don’t be deterred. This doesn’t have to be an extreme exercise plan. “We recommend 30 minutes of walking a day. Walking is excellent, it’s not too hard on any of the ligaments or joints and it’s not harmful to pregnancy at all,” she explains.
If you’re already a fit athlete with higher exercise levels you don’t need to stop what you’re used to. However, don’t go overboard. Pushing yourself too hard can be detrimental to your chances of conception.
About those tablets
If you’re taking any kind of chronic medication, whether it’s for diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol or any other chronic condition, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before trying to conceive. Some prescription drugs are teratogenic (they cause birth defects).
“You need to check with your doctor whether your medication is safe to fall pregnant on. Most medications are fine, but some are not, particularly hypertensive drugs, and you’ll need to change them while you are trying to fall pregnant,” says Dr Rossouw.
“Do not try to stop your medication on your own. Always do it with your doctor’s help, because the results can be catastrophic if you don’t follow the proper processes,” she warns.
If you’re planning an overseas trip or a holiday that involves visiting a malaria area, don’t try to fall pregnant at the same time. This is because the drugs that you will take for malaria might be harmful to your pregnancy.
“While you’re trying to fall pregnant, it’s always a good idea to keep a menstrual calendar that can help you to track what your menstruation is like and the regularity. This will help your healthcare practitioner to see when you’re ovulating and when your more fertile period is,” advises Dr Rossouw.