Preparing your body for pregnancy
Once you have decided you would like to start trying for a baby, it is important for both men and women to not only prepare their lifestyles and habits, but also their bodies.
Here are some tips on how to prepare your bodies to boost your chances of conception.
Stop using contraceptives
This sounds obvious, but make sure you stop using any contraceptives before trying for a baby. Your cycles might be irregular at first but should become more regular after a few months.
Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or take recreational drugs
Smoking or taking illicit drugs increases the risk of low-birth weight, miscarriages, preterm birth and stillbirth. Smoking can also affect your fertility and lower your partner’s sperm count. It is also recommended that women who are trying to conceive avoid drinking any alcohol.
If you are taking any medication and are trying to conceive, you may want to talk to your GP or pharmacist, or even read the patient information leaflet for the drug.
Limit your caffeine intake
There is no fully conclusive study in that area, however it is considered safer to limit your consumption of tea, coffee and other caffeine-packed drinks (fizzy cola,energy drinks etc), and switch to decaf if you can.
Take some folic acid
Folic acid should be taken at least 2 months before becoming pregnant, and during the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. This can help reduce the risk of your baby developing Neural Tube Defect, a major group of birth defects that occur when the brain, spinal cord, or the covering of these organs has not developed properly. You only need to take one 400 micrograms (400 µg) folic acid supplement every day, in addition to what you get from your diet.
Improve your health
Eat a well-balanced and varied diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and whole grains. Try and limit your intake of processed foods, fried fatty foods, refined sugars etc. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight: being underweight can affect your fertility, whereas being overweight can lead to complications such as high-blood pressure once you become pregnant. Women with a BMI of under 20 and above 29 may experience more problems conceiving.
Know your cycle
The average woman has a menstrual cycle lasting 28 days (first day of periods to the day before the following periods). Your most fertile time should be 14 days before your next period, however this can vary. To assist you in pinpointing your most fertile window, you might try an Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK), which works by detecting hormones in your urine that signal ovulation. These kits are readily available from pharmacies across the country.
No matter how frustrating getting pregnant can get, try and relax and not to get too stressed out. Yoga, relaxation and meditation can help, alongside gentle exercise such as swimming, walking etc.
Have regular sex
This may sound obvious, but regular sex increases your chance of getting pregnant. Many couples focus just on the days around ovulation, but having sex every 2-3 days during your cycle, and every day when you are at your most fertile, is much more likely to be successful.
According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in the UK, when couples have regular sex:
- 20% conceive within a month of starting to try for a baby
- 70% get pregnant within 6 months
- 85% get pregnant within a year
- 95% conceive within 2 years
If you have been trying to conceive for more than 12 months without success, speak to your GP about what steps to take next