Katie Hilton (Bsc, Msc) – Registered Midwife & Health Visitor
So, you’ve decided it’s time to have a baby. How prepared are you? In this post I will guide you through what you will need to take into consideration before you conceive.
Before even starting to try for a baby, you and your partner might find it beneficial to sit down and discuss your answers to the following questions: –
Do you both want to be parents?
How will you handle childcare responsibilities?
How will you balance working and a family?
Are you ready to give up sleeping in on a Sunday?
Are you prepared to give up frequent nights out?
Have you considered how being a parent may change your relationship?
If you have different religions, how will this affect your child?
How would you cope with a child with special needs?
Bringing a baby into your family won’t just have a small impact on your day to day living; it will literally shift everything upside down. Consider how you will cope with the change and how you can prepare yourself for the highs (and lows) of being a parent.
One of the biggest concerns of most young couples is having enough money to start a family. However, more important than money will be the love from both you and your partner. It is obviously useful to save a little before conceiving, as you will be financially responsible for your little person until at least the age of 18 years. You may also want to speak to a financial advisor about taking out life insurance, making a will and starting a savings account for your child.
So, now you’ve ascertained you’re both ready to start a family. How do you stop your contraception? For many couples this can be as simple as throwing out the condoms and pushing the diaphragm to the back of the bathroom cabinet. If you are taking the contraceptive pill you can stop taking it and start trying to conceive immediately. Some women prefer to wait until they have had at least one normal menstrual cycle after stopping the pill. The choice is yours, however knowing the date of your last menstrual cycle is very useful for your Midwife and GP to enable them to estimate your due date. If you have been using the contraceptive injection or implant, it can take up to a year for your fertility to return to normal.
Eating a balanced, healthy diet is of course essential both before and during pregnancy. Try to eat three balanced meals per day and include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables. The four most important nutrients to ensure a healthy pregnancy are folic acid, calcium, iron and vitamin D. To be sure you are consuming these important nutrients try to include dairy, fruit, vegetables, whole grains,cereals and protein in your diet. Women trying to conceive are recommended to take 400mcg of folic acid and vitamin D supplements before and during pregnancy. If you’re trying to conceive it also makes sense to limit your caffeine intake to 200mg per day.
Being both overweight and underweight can decrease your chances of conceiving naturally and cause hormone imbalances, which makes you less likely to ovulate. Both can also lead to complications in pregnancy. If possible, try to aim for a healthy weight with a body mass index (BMI) of 19-25 before trying for a baby. This will increase your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy. If you exercise regularly you are laying down the foundations of a healthy pregnancy. Regular exercise will help to build your strength, stamina and flexibility and may help you cope with the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth. Remember not to push yourself too hard though as there will be extra pressure on your joints throughout pregnancy.
Smoking and drinking alcohol can both be harmful when you are trying to conceive. It is beneficial to stop smoking, taking drugs and drinking alcohol for both your own, and your baby’s health before conceiving. Smoking can reduce your fertility and drugs such as marijuana and cocaine can inhibit ovulation and the function of your fallopian tubes. Alcohol can also have a significant impact on your ability to conceive. Whilst trying for a baby it is recommended to reduce the amount you drink to 1-2 units per day. Smoking, use of drugs and alcohol are linked to an increased risk of miscarriage and during pregnancy can contribute to low birth weight and premature delivery. Consuming too much alcohol during pregnancy can also impact on your baby’s development and is therefore advisable to be kept to a minimum.
Another lifestyle consideration before conceiving is your job and working conditions. Some jobs can be hazardous to both the health of you and your unborn baby. If you are exposed to chemicals or radiation, have to lift heavy items or are exposed to any other risks, you may need to consider speaking to your employer before conceiving. Ask about ways for your role to be altered and how to make your environment safer.
Now you have your life ready for a baby, read about how to prepare your body in part two which will go live on this page later this week.