For the ladies who want to get pregnant, it’s time to get going on your health, pronto! The healthier you are pre-pregnancy, the healthier you’ll be during pregnancy – and healthy mums means healthy bubs. Even if you’re not sure if you want to have a baby right now, you can still benefit from this preconception advice. This way you’ll be healthy for yourself and if you do choose to become a mum in the future, you’ll be healthy for your baby too.
Planning pregnancy: It’s never too early to start
You wouldn’t start a superannuation account when you retire, would you? The same goes for getting healthy for your pregnancy. Because once you’re pregnant, it’s much harder to get fresh, fit and fabulous when all your energy is going towards growing a human being.
For women who are not sure when they will start a family, beware that it can often sneak up on you. Nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so if you take care of yourself now, you won’t be caught with your pants down … so to speak.
If you are planning a pregnancy as soon as you can get your boots off, then make a trip to the doctor first. This way, you can ensure you are in optimal health before you ‘rock and roll’.
For both superannuation and pregnancy, it’s always best to think ahead – even if your baby is still just a twinkle in your partner’s eye.
Timing your pregnancy is everything
Reproductive planning is an important part of preconception care and can help you become aware of the measures you need to take so you can have kids at the best time for your lifestyle and body. Go to your doctor and talk about the timelines you are looking at and you can either get contraception, or if you’re planning a pregnancy, you can:
- Learn about lifestyle measures to ensure you and your partner are in tip top condition, including diet and exercise changes to ensure you are a healthy weight and avoiding substances like tobacco and alcohol;
- Discuss your diet and vitamins you may need to start taking, including dietary changes which will prepare your body for pregnancy;
- Check for any diseases which could affect you or your baby’s health and have any relevant vaccinations.
Baby basics: Diet and exercise
Like a happy rental tenant, a growing foetus needs ‘food and board’. Energy and vital nutrients are the building blocks of your baby, so you don’t want to eat too little or exercise too much before or during pregnancy, otherwise your body won’t be able to provide enough calories or nutrients to grow your baby.
It’s equally important not to eat too much – being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases your risk of complications and also programs your baby’s appetite and food preferences. If your pregnancy diet contains too much fat, sugar or other nasties, you’ll be programing your baby to prefer these foods once they enter the world.
Maintaining a healthy weight will benefit your baby as much as it benefits you, which is why pre-pregnancy planning is so important. If your doctor advises you to put on a few kilos or drop a few, get cracking before conception.
Eating well is of utmost importance, but even if you’re super healthy, talk to your doctor about vitamin supplements. All women need to have a daily folate supplement for at least a month before becoming pregnant.
|Healthy weight (BMI 20-25 kg/m2)|
|A balanced diet|
|Daily vitamin with folate|
|Other supplemental vitamins (e.g. calcium, vitamin D) if deficiencies exist|
|Cut out alcohol|
|Speak with my doctor about any medicines, over-the-counter or herbal products I’m taking|
Before you get pregnant, get the once-over
Before you get pregnant, you definitely need a ‘once-over’ to check for any existing, chronic or even ‘hiding’ health conditions. For example, STIs and vaccine-preventable diseases can create extra health risks for mum and baby during pregnancy. Your blood type may also create a risk of Rhesus disease; if you and your partner have a different Rh blood type you may need antiglobulin to prevent your baby from developing Rhesus disease. Some diseases (such as the STIs chlamydia and syphilis) create health risks for you and your baby during pregnancy but do not always have symptoms. This means the only way to detect and treat them before pregnancy is to do a blood or urine test.
If you have an existing health condition such as diabetes or epilepsy, you may need to make changes to your medications when pregnant. If genetic disorders run in your family, your doctor can also do tests for conditions like cystic fibrosis which may affect your baby.
It’s important to ensure your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant. Diseases that create serious health risks for pregnant mums and babies, like chicken pox and measles, are preventable through vaccination. In many cases vaccinations are not safe when administered during pregnancy, so make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant.
Healthy mind, healthy body
A healthy pregnancy is just as much about your mind as your body. Pregnancy is a time of massive changes in a woman’s life and body. Even before the raging torrent of hormones begins running through your system, you may need to prepare your mind for pregnancy. It’s perfectly normal to need an extra set of ears to talk to if you find you are experiencing any emotional problems, or feeling anxious or depressed.
Talk to your doctor about how to keep happy throughout your ten months. If you need extra help to cope with issues including relationship problems, financial difficulties, substance use or domestic violence, don’t be afraid to let your doctor know. These issues can affect your and your baby’s health. There are many support groups and health professionals your doctor can refer you to for help – you are not alone!
|Get referrals to pregnancy support groups|
|Get referrals to health professionals who can offer emotional support|
Pre-pregnancy planning equals better health during pregnancy
Pregnancies come on thick and fast, and can sneak up with little warning. The more prepared you are before you conceive, the easier your life will be during pregnancy and the healthier your baby will be after childbirth. Healthy pregnancies rely on good preparation, not good luck, so don’t leave your or your baby’s health to chance – be proactive about pregnancy planning. Even if you’re not planning a baby immediately, good health is never wasted. Talk to your doctor now.
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