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How to get your body and mind baby ready for 2017

Professor Dr Geeta Nargund
Professor Dr Geeta Nargund
By Professor Dr Geeta Nargund, Medical Director, CREATE Fertility

If you are trying for a baby this year, it is important that you start by optimising your health and mind-set. There are a number of simple lifestyle steps which you can take to make sure you give yourself the best possible chance to conceive naturally.

Here are my top tips for preparing for pregnancy:

1. Get fertility fit

Being active and exercising regularly has many known benefits to both your physical and mental health. Exercise will not only improve your overall health, but also help you achieve/maintain the ideal weight before pregnancy.
Women are advised to maintain a BMI between 19 and 25, as studies found that weight is a contributing factor for fertility in both men and women.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that obesity is associated with decreased fertility and increased risk of miscarriages. Losing weight can also reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms in women with the condition. Exercise and physical activity also has a positive impact on your mental health. The hormones released during exercise have huge potential to enhance your wellbeing and mood; with many studies concluding that exercise can reduce stress and anxiety.
Yoga, walking and low intensity workouts can help , as vigorous exercise can sometimes have adverse effects when trying to conceive.

2. Eat well

Balance is the key in both physical activity and diet. The aim is to eat for your wellbeing; go for plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and calcium rich foods daily. Increase your intake of foods containing folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables and brown rice.
Make fish a big part of your diet too (two or three servings per week) as it is the best source of omega3 fatty acids which have been found to have a positive impact on fertility. Though, please take note that some fish have high mercury levels and these are to be avoided. If in doubt, check with your GP which fish you should include in your diet.
Though you should aim to obtain all your vitamins and minerals from a nutritious diet, it is recommended that women planning to have a baby take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. Other supplements often recommended are Vitamin D, E and B12, zinc, iron and selenium.
It is also advised to avoid alcohol and caffeine as much as possible.  Excessive alcohol intake can adversely affect fertility and increase risk of miscarriage. Though a small glass of wine per week may not affect your odds, it is best to completely cut out alcohol when you're trying to conceive because it can be hard to tell exactly when you get pregnant, and alcohol can harm a developing baby.

3. Stop smoking

The advice from the NHS is that ‘smoking may reduce fertility in women by reducing egg quality – this includes passive smoking’. In addition, research shows that smoking can also be linked to early menopause in women and damaged sperm in men. The advice is, therefore, to stop smoking as soon as possible if you are looking to conceive. The NHS website is a good source of help for those looking to quit.

4. Get a health check

Before trying for a baby make sure you and your partner attend a health check at your GP to make sure you are both healthy and ready to conceive. If you suffer from conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, heart disease, thyroid disorder etc. you will need to have them carefully managed by a professional. It’s also recommended to clean out your medicine cupboard as both prescribed and over-the-counter medication contain ingredients that could potentially affect fertility. Ask your doctor about what’s safe when you’re trying for a baby.
Pay your dentist a visit too. Gum disease is associated with preterm delivery, so being in good dental health before getting pregnant is a must. If you need dental treatments, X-rays or medications, take care of that before you start trying to conceive.

5. De-stress

Trying to conceive can be a stressful and emotionally charged time. Doing everything you can to optimise your chances of conceiving can be exhausting, therefore taking some time to relax and rest is one of the most important recommendations. High stress levels can often mean less interest in sex and it goes without saying that having sex more frequently is better for your chances of conception. Many women and experts would recommend acupuncture, medication and yoga for relaxation. The activity in itself is less important as long as you are doing something positive that helps you to unwind.

All of the above tips focus on ensuring you are fit, healthy and as calm as possible, in both body and mind. A One Stop Fertility MOT can help to uncover if there are any outstanding fertility problems, and will provide you with bespoke expert advice on optimising your natural fertility.

Making the decision to try for a baby doesn’t need to involve invasive or expensive treatments, but rather positive life tweaks that will support natural conception where possible. You can contact your GP for further advice or attend free open days for specific advice.

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