Preconception tips for would-be parents
Whether you’ve just decided to start trying for a baby or you’ve been hoping to conceive for a while, these tips will help increase your chances of falling pregnant and give your little one the healthiest start possible.
1. Know how to track your menstrual cycle
Knowing your “fertile window
”, or the days in your menstrual cycle when you’re most likely to conceive, can help you time sex most effectively. Conception is possible in the five days leading up to ovulation or the day of ovulation itself.
However, your chance of falling pregnant is greatest during the two days before or the actual day of ovulation. Ovulation happens about 14 days before your period starts. So, if your cycle is 28 days long, that means you ovulate on about day 14, and your fertility “sweet spot” comprises days 12, 13 and 14.
You can also tune in to your body’s natural cues: several days before ovulation, vaginal mucus becomes clear and slippery. Another option is to purchase an ovulation predictor kit from the chemist.
2. Incorporate fertility superfoods into your diet
While fertility superfoods such as oysters, maca, pumpkin and sunflower seeds get most of the attention for preconception eating
, a balanced diet is your best bet.
According to a Harvard review summarising current scientific evidence on diet and fertility, diets high in unsaturated fats, wholegrains, vegetables and fish are associated with improved fertility in women and men. As for what you should avoid... Saturated fats and sugar are associated with poorer fertility outcomes, the review found.
3. Consider a supplement for important nutrients
are no substitute for a healthy diet, they can supply nutrients that benefit the female reproductive system, prepare the body for conception and support healthy foetal development.
Your need for certain nutrients increases during pregnancy, and supplementation may help to ensure your body gets all it requires.
It’s recommended that women who are getting ready for pregnancy supplement with 800 micrograms of folic acid per day for at least a month before conception and for the first 3 months of pregnancy.
Iodine is required for the development of baby’s brain, visual motor skills and hearing. The Ministry of Health recommends women considering pregnancy supplement with 150 microgram of iodine per day.
4. Try to reduce stress and take time to relax
It’s probably the last thing you want to hear when you’re fretting about how long it might take to fall pregnant, but research shows that a reduction in anxiety is associated with a greater improvement in pregnancy rates.
Stress can actually delay ovulation and cause uterine contractions, which may prevent a fertilised egg from attaching to the uterus, while some studies indicate stress impacts the hormones needed for sperm production and ovulation.
To reclaim your inner peace, go for a bushwalk, take a yoga class or try meditation, journalling or setting aside dedicated “worry time”.
5. Maintain a regular exercise routine
Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn increases the chances of falling pregnant and reduces the risk of complications during pregnancy.
A recent University of Queensland study found there was no difference in pregnancy rates and births between women who exercised and those who undertook fertility treatments – suggesting exercise may be just as effective. Still, you don’t want to overdo things with really intense training, as research shows this can reduce fertility and increase the time it takes to conceive.