Thinking about starting a family in 2018? For every 100 couples trying for a baby, between 80 and 90 will be rewarded by a positive pregnancy test within a year.
Today, Caroline Clark, healthy lifestyle midwife at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, shares her tips on how women can boost their chances of conception and give their baby the healthiest start in life, whether they’re attempting to conceive naturally or through IVF.
“If 2018 is the year you decide to start trying for a baby, you can make some changes right now to improve your chances and ensure a healthy pregnancy from the start,” says Caroline. “We’re here to support you every step of the way.”
- Stop smoking: If you haven’t already, it’s time to kick the habit. Giving up now, before you become pregnant, will be the best gift you can give your child. Every single cigarette smoked contains more than 4,000 chemicals harmful to an unborn baby. Cigarettes restrict the essential supply of oxygen so their heart has to work harder every time you light up. Stopping now will benefit you and your baby, ensuring harmful gases such as carbon monoxide will be cleared from your body well before you become pregnant.Mums in Hull can text QUIT to 61825 or ring 247111 to book an appointment with a stop smoking advisor. You can also ask your GP for a referral to the stop smoking service. If you live in the East Riding, you can call 0800 9177752 or text quit to 60163 to access free support.
- Cut out alcohol. If you’re planning on becoming pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all. Men should know that drinking excessively can affect the quality of his sperm and should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week spread evenly over three days or more.
- Folic acid: Take 400 mcg of folic acid every day while you’re trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This helps to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Some foods like breakfast cereals and green leafy vegetables contain a natural form of folic acid and while they’re a good idea, take a folic acid supplement as well to make sure you’re getting enough.
- Get the flu jab: If you’re hoping to become pregnant this year, make sure you get the flu jab. Catching the flu while pregnant can have very serious implications for both mum and baby so get yourself protected now. You may need another jab later in the year.
- Know your cycle: You’re more likely to get pregnant if you have sex around a day after ovulation when an egg is released from the ovary. This is usually 14 days after the first day of your last period if you’ve got a 28-day cycle.
- Lose weight: Being overweight can affect your conception chances. Aim for a healthy body mass index (BMI) of between 20 to 25. And it’s not just about women losing weight. Men’s fertility will be lower than normal if they have a BMI of more than 30. Healthy eating programmes such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World can help people shed pounds and make changes to their diet. You can also speak to your GP if you need help.
- Are your jabs up to date? German measles and other infections can harm your baby if you catch them during pregnancy so make sure your vaccinations are up to date. You can check with your GP practice. If you need the MMR vaccine, you should avoid getting pregnant for one month after the vaccination so use a method of contraception.
- Look after your mental health. Women who have had severe mental health problems such as bipolar affective disorder, severe depression or psychosis are more likely to become ill during pregnancy or in the first year of giving birth than at other times in their lives. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone like your GP, psychiatrist, support worker, counselling service or a community midwife.
- Be as active as possible: Thirty minutes of exercise five times a week will prepare the body for pregnancy and childbirth.
- Prescription medication: Speak to your GP about any prescription medication you are taking before you start trying for a baby. They will be able to tell you which medication is safe and which isn’t and switch you to medication considered safe for use during pregnancy.
- Cut back on the coffee: Stick to the widely agreed safe level of around two cups of coffee a day while you’re trying to conceive.
- Stop using recreational or illegal drugs: These have seriously harmful effects on a baby growing in the womb. Babies can also develop withdrawal symptoms if drug use continues into pregnancy.
- Have sex often: If you’re trying to conceive naturally, having sex every couple of days throughout the month will maximise your chances of becoming pregnant. Many couples find it less stressful than trying to “time” sex to coincide with ovulation.