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, 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.
There are many things you can do to prepare your body for pregnancy, says Dr Watt.
#1 Go for a preconception screening before getting pregnant
Having a healthy pregnancy starts even before conception. 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.
#2 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.”
#3 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.
And, going into your pregnancy overweight can also increase your risk of pregnancy complications. 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.
#4 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
#5 Get vaccinated
Getting vaccinated before pregnancy can help protect you and your baby against certain illness during pregnancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), diseases like rubella can cause miscarriages and birth defects. So, it’s a good idea to discuss your vaccine history with your doctor before getting pregnant, and catch up on any immunisations that you may need.
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