04:59 15th March 2013 | Conception
The goal of every pregnancy is the delivery of a healthy baby to a healthy mother. However, this journey to motherhood can be made easier and healthier when it is well planned and prepared for. Several factors affect the ease of getting pregnant as well as the health of both mother and baby in pregnancy and afterwards. Planning your pregnancy helps you avoid or reduce pregnancy complications, give birth to a healthier baby, recover faster following your delivery and minimize your child’s risk of illness in the future.
It is generally advised that couples trying to achieve a pregnancy have unprotected intercourse two or three times a week within the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle. We do not recommend that couples time intercourse with ovulation as this causes considerable stress and is counterproductive. Women have their peak fertility in their mid to late twenties and the chance of conception reduces significantly after the age of 35 while the peak of sexual performance for men is between 21 and 24 years of age with a slight decline until 30 years and an individually different yet stronger decline thereafter. Usually the actual position during intercourse is irrelevant except in instances when your gynaecologist has diagnosed alterations in the location of your womb when suitable positions may be suggested.
The ideal body mass index (BMI) for conception is 20 – 25kg/m2. The BMI is an indicator of your ideal body weight for your height. Women with a BMI under 20 or over 30 have a lower chance of achieving conception than women within the normal range. Accordingly if you have either a low or high BMI it is advisable to manage your weight appropriately.
Having a healthy metabolism and a healthy BMI in particular plays a vital role in maintaining sound hormonal balance. It is recommended to reduce your intake of carbohydrates and fats and instead eat a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and proteins. Examples of food rich in protein include lean meat, fish, cheese, egg and dairy products. Fruits and vegetables of course are rich in vitamins. Carbohydrates such as bread, sugar, noodles, flour, potatoes and fats such as oil and butter for instance, should be consumed in moderate quantities only.
Beverages such as coffee and tea contain caffeine. Although there is no consensus on the amount of caffeine that can be safely consumed in pregnancy, it is best avoided or at least taken in minimal quantities. Some studies have shown a link between high caffeine consumption and reduced fertility as well as a risk of spontaneous abortions. Pregnant women and women planning for pregnancy are advised to limit their caffeine intake to 200mg per day (just about a normal sized tea-cup) or better still they could indulge in decaffeinated coffee or tea.
Smokers have a reduced chance of conception and it decreases fertility considerably. It has been scientifically proven that passive smoking also significantly reducing the chances of conception. Nicotine, the active ingredient in cigarettes, not only affects conception but is also harmful to the babies who are often smaller upon delivery and more susceptible to childhood illnesses. Women who smoke during pregnancy increase the risk of premature labour, decreased foetal growth and other complications such as spontaneous abortions, genetic disorders and increased risks of cancer to the baby as evidenced by the increased risk of lung cancer in men whose fathers were exposed to toxic fumes in their work places. Both partners should quit smoking about 90 days prior to fertility treatment to give sufficient time for the production of healthy reproductive gametes.
Reducing alcohol intake will improve your chances of achieving a pregnancy and excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause abnormalities and birth defects in the baby.
The most common congenital malformation seen in newborns is spina bifida or split spine which is a neural tube defect. About 4 – 5 in 1000 children are affected by this deformity. This incidence can be reduced by 50 – 70% if women take 5mg of folic Acid daily when planning to get pregnant and during the early stages of pregnancy. Furthermore other malformations such as cleft lip as well as pathological variations of the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, ureters, urethra and the limbs can possibly be prevented by taking folic acid.
If you are on any prescribed medication, it is important to let your physician know that you are trying to get pregnant so that their safety may be ascertained. Recreational drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana are contraindicated before and during pregnancy.
Exercise, which means keeping fit physically, helps the body stay in shape. A healthy exercise program includes 30 minutes of moderate exercise such as walking, cycling and aerobics about 3 times a week. This is preferable to intermittent activity and vigorous exercise is not advisable. Jerky, bouncy movements should be avoided and, because of the relaxation of connective tissue, pregnant women should avoid extreme stretching exercises. Exercise should be preceded by a 5 minute warm-up, such as slow walking, to adequately prime the body for exercise.
Rest and Relaxation
It is important to have enough rest and sleep for at least 5 – 6 hours at night while trying to conceive.
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