If you’re thinking about getting pregnant or are currently trying to conceive, getting healthy before pregnancy is a must. From a preconception screening to lifestyle changes, here are some expert tips on what to do before getting pregnant.
Why your preconception health matters
Preconception health is important because it can increase your chances of having a baby. There are many things you can do to prepare your body for pregnancy.
#1 Consider osteopathic therapy to boost fertility
A holistic, drug-free and non-invasive form of complementary medicine, osteopathy focuses on the body as a whole and uses a range of hands-on manipulation methods to restore balance and function. According to BRYAN MICHAEL LANE and ANDREA LLISO, osteopaths at City Osteopathy and Physiotherapy, osteopathy is effective as a complementary treatment to other fertility treatments, maximising a couple’s chances of conceiving.
Bryan and Andrea regularly treat postural imbalances, muscle tensions and dysfunctions of the pelvic floor, hip and lumbar regions – all of which can impact hormone levels and sexual function, in both males and females. To do this, they use various techniques including:
- structural therapy to manipulate joints and muscles with the goal of releasing tensions affecting nerves, circulation or organ function;
- visceral therapy, which acts on the reproductive organs themselves to reduce stress imposed by lifestyle choices – for example, prolonged sitting – and improve blood flow; and
- cranial techniques, which use palpation (manually feeling around to identify problems) to influence the body’s energies and fluid dynamics.
#2 Manage stress levels
“Instinctively, we all understand how stress might be the enemy of conception,” says Andrea. “Stress can negatively impact brain and organ function, as well as sleep patterns, suppressing the production and transportation of hormones.”
Since osteopathy takes a holistic approach to health, focusing on how other factors like stress can affect the reproductive system, and the body as a whole, is key.
“An osteopath will always conduct an in-depth patient history, taking into account lifestyle, environmental factors and mental hygiene, before devising a treatment plan. While no two individuals are the same, it is not uncommon to uncover restrictions to the body’s natural flow, as well as elevated stress levels during this process.”
Additionally, Michael says stress-induced conditions – for instance, gastrointestinal or skin problems – can often keep people from seeking intimacy in the first place.
“This becomes a vicious cycle, which intensifies as the sufferer fights to control it,” he says. “An osteopath can determine the factors contributing to the initial stress response and work out how to eliminate them. He or she may offer stress release advice tailored to your specific situation; for example, breathing exercises.”
#3 Go for a preconception screening before getting pregnant
Having a healthy pregnancy starts even before conception, explains DR WATT WING FONG, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at The Obstetrics and Gynaecology Centre by Singapore Medical Group. The clinic provides a wide range of obstetrics, gynaecology and wellness services for women.
Dr Watt recommends getting a preconception check-up to identify any potential underlying health issues that can impact a potential pregnancy.
A preconception health check-up usually includes a detailed consultation and physical examination, as well as an ultrasound scan, cervical cancer screening, some blood tests and sexually transmitted infection screening.
If you have pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, check with your doctor if your medication can be continued should you decide to try for a baby.
#4 Stop smoking
Smoking affects both male and female fertility, as the chemicals in cigarettes cause damage to eggs and sperms. Even second-hand smoking has this effect, though to a lesser degree.
“In addition to reducing fertility, smoking is linked to miscarriage, small babies, birth defects, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If you or your partner need help to stop smoking, talk to your GP.”
#5 Maintain a healthy weight
Having a normal body mass index (BMI) is key to your overall health, but it’s also important for conception. In fact, being overweight or underweight can make it harder to conceive.
Michael and Andrea say that an osteopath may suggest lifestyle changes to improve the chances of conception. For example, women who are over- or under-eating in response to stress, or pushing themselves too hard in the gym, may need to adjust their training regimes to reduce or increase the ratio of body fat to muscle or to alter their hormonal balance.
Going into your pregnancy overweight can also increase your risk of pregnancy complications, says Dr Watt. Studies link being overweight to a list of potential pregnancy complications; these include miscarriage, stillbirth and also birth defects. For women who are obese (a BMI of 30 or higher), there is also an increased likelihood of elective and emergency C-sections.
Your own health could be put at risk as well. Overweight pregnant women are more likely to develop problems such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, explains Dr Watt.
#6 Increase your nutrients
Living a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet can increase your chances of getting pregnant; it can also result in a healthier pregnancy. This applies during pregnancy as well. Once pregnant, Dr Watt suggests:
- eating smaller meals but more frequently;
- increasing daily calorie intake by about 300 calories in the second trimester and 400 calories in the third trimester; and
- eating cooked, hygienic and fresh, and in moderation.
Even with a healthy diet, supplements are advisable to ensure good levels of certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. Folic acid can play an important role in preventing major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine, says Dr Watt. Folic acid should be taken before pregnancy, and throughout – particularly in the first trimester.
Other vital nutrients she recommends include iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and DHA – an omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain development during pregnancy and early childhood
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