Once you’ve made the decision to start trying for a baby it’s natural to want things to happen quickly. Here are 5 ways you can up your chances of a successful healthy pregnancy.
Optimise your nutrient intake
To prime your body for a healthy pregnancy and conception, it’s important to adopt healthy eating habits. Your diet should include a wide variety of foods: plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, wholegrain bread and cereals, lean meats, reduced-fat dairy foods, and healthy fats from foods like nuts, avocado and olive oil .
A healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs but you may still fall short on key nutrients, explains accredited practising dietitian (APD) Robbie Clark . “If you're pregnant or planning to conceive, prenatal supplements may help to fill the gap,” he says.
“It is very important that women take folate and iodine supplements before trying for a baby and this should ideally start at least a month before conception,” adds Dr Karin Hammarberg, spokesperson for the Your Fertility program . If you have a pre-existing thyroid condition check with your doctor before supplementing with iodine .
Check your BMI
Being overweight or underweight can interfere with ovulation and may affect your chances of falling pregnant. An easy way to work out whether you are overweight or underweight is to calculate your BMI.
To work out your BMI, divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in metres (m); then divide the answer by your height again. A healthy BMI ranges between 18.5 and 24.9, 25 to 29 is in the overweight range, and over 30 is considered obese . A BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight.
“If you are overweight or underweight, an APD can help you achieve a healthy weight,” says Clark. “Often, even a small weight gain or loss is enough to get your body ready to conceive, as long as it's done in a healthy way.”
5 steps to healthy preconception
When am I fertile?
Time it right
You can improve your odds of falling pregnant by having sex during the five days before ovulation as well as the day of ovulation. Known as the ‘fertile window’, these six days are the optimal time in your cycle for conception.
So, knowing when you’re ovulating is really important. If your cycle is 28 days long, you’ll most likely ovulate around day 14. For longer and shorter cycles the day of ovulation may vary.
You can find an ovulation calculator at yourfertility.org.au
to help you work out when you ovulate, or you can buy an ovulation predictor kit from your pharmacy or supermarket.
Give up smoking & alcohol
Female smokers take longer to fall pregnant and are more likely to have fertility problems than non-smokers. Passive smoking is also very harmful to fertility, so it’s best to avoid smoky environments altogether .
On the upside, quitting can improve your fertility and some of the effects of smoking can be reversed within a year of quitting .
Drinking alcohol can also affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and make it more difficult to conceive , so it’s best to avoid it altogether when trying to get pregnant .
Look after those 'little swimmers'
All the pressure and focus is usually on the female when trying to conceive, says Clark. “I think people forget that males are responsible for 50 per cent of the process. In many cases of infertility, it’s the quality of the male’s sperm that is the problem,” he explains.
“It’s very easy to improve and optimise the quality of the sperm through diet, supplementation and lifestyle modifications and an APD can help with this.”
Another important tip for men is to avoid hot baths and spas, and wearing loose underwear is a good idea, adds Dr Hammarberg.