Trying for a baby is exciting and stressful. Getting your body prepared gives you the best chance of a healthy pregnancy and baby. Keeping healthy helps boost your chances of falling pregnant, and research shows women with a healthy diet before conception are less likely to have a baby with birth defects.
Try to Include:
- A range of fruit and vegetables
- Good quality protein like lean meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils
- Complex carbohydrates from peas, beans, whole grains and vegetables
- Plenty of calcium (choose low-fat dairy products).
Try to Avoid:
- Eating fish with high mercury like mackerel, shark, swordfish and some tuna
- Additives, artificial colours, flavours and preservatives
- A high fat diet. Include healthy fats like olive oil.
Folic Acid and Pregnancy
Folic acid is a pregnancy superhero! Taking a prenatal vitamin with the recommended 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Take it every day and go ahead and have a bowl of fortified cereal, too.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a man-made form of a B vitamin called folate. Folate plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and helps your baby’s neural tube develop into her brain and spinal cord. The best food sources of folic acid are fortified cereals. Folate is found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits.
Being severely overweight or underweight can affect your chances of falling pregnant or put you and your baby at risk during pregnancy:
- Overweight women (obesity) can reduce fertility by causing hormonal changes
- Women who are underweight can also reduce fertility by causing hormonal imbalances – you’re more than twice as likely to take over a year to fall pregnant
- In men, obesity can cause hormonal problems or sexual dysfunction which can lead to infertility.
Understanding your Weight
Calculating your body mass index (BMI) is a good way to measure if you’re overweight or underweight.
If you’re BMI is higher than it should be, don’t panic. You can boost your fertility by losing weight with healthy eating and regular exercise. You don’t need to become super-fit overnight – even moderate exercise and modest weight loss improves your chances of conceiving.
Please stop. It’s bad for your health and your fertility. Some quick facts to think about:
- Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to be infertile
- Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals harmful to the reproductive organs
- Smoking can cause erectile dysfunction
- It can increase DNA damage to eggs and sperm
- There’s a link between heavy smoking in males and childhood cancer
The good news is the effects of smoking on fertility can be reversed. Quitting smoking increases your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.
There’s no agreed safe level of alcohol intake while trying to conceive or during pregnancy – so women should ideally stop drinking alcohol.
Alcohol can cause impotence and damage sperm quality. Men should stick to ‘safe drinking guidelines’ – an average two drinks per day maximum, with several alcohol-free days each week and no more than four standard drinks in one session.
Caffeine isn’t just in coffee. It’s a stimulant also found in tea, energy drinks, some soft drinks and even chocolate. There’s no clear evidence that caffeine affects fertility, but some studies show large amounts of caffeine makes it harder to conceive and leads to a higher risk of miscarriage.
Men and women should aim for less than 200mg of caffeine a day – about 1-2 coffees or 2-3 cups of tea. If you need to reduce your caffeine intake, do it slowly to minimise the withdrawal symptoms.
Being at a healthy weight improves your chances of having a baby – and exercise is important for managing your weight. Remember, even modest weight loss can improve general health and fertility, and there’s no better motivator than a baby.
Quick Tips to Get Moving:
- Any exercise is better than none
- Try to be active most days (preferably all)
- Go for a quick walk to break up times when you have to sit down for long periods.