Trying for a baby
Getting pregnant doesn't always happen the minute you want it to, but the good news is that you can optimise your chances of conception.
Are you definitely ready?
When it comes to having a child, you can listen to friends, parents and the experiences of others, but ultimately it is the decision of yourself and your partner. The best time to have a child is when you have decided it's the right time. Other factors, such as the support of a partner, being happy and healthy and in a secure financial position should also be taken into account. If you are still exploring your feelings about parenthood, read: Should I have a baby?
A healthy start
So, you are sure that becoming a parent is definitely what you want to do. Now it's time to optimise your health and fertility by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
- Give up smoking - it will give yourself and your unborn baby a better shot at a healthy pregnancy;
- Cut down your caffeine intake - you'll increase your conception chances;
- Avoid soft cheeses, pate and soft-boiled eggs, decreasing your chances of food poisoning from listeria bacteria;
- Avoid vitamin A-based supplements and eating liver before and during pregnancy, so your developing baby won't be at high risk of developing facial or skull deformities.
- Drink a lot of alcohol - it can cut your fertility by up to 50%. Cut out alcohol, or at least restrict yourself to two units per week;
- Crash diet - being underweight can get in the way of conception.
- Eat foods rich in folic acid, such as green vegetables, bread and breakfast cereals, as well as taking a folic acid supplement daily (0.4mgs).
- Regulate your weight. You should be within the normal weight range for your height and build. Women who are underweight, overweight, or obese have less chance of conceiving than a woman who falls within the healthy weight range.
- See your GP for a medical check-up. It's important that certain illnesses are identified and controlled before becoming pregnant, especially: high blood pressure, diabetes, endometriosis, sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). You'll also need to check that both you and your partner are free of STIs.
- Check with your doctor if you've had a rubella vaccination, which would provide protection against German measles for you and your baby.
- Some medications can interfere with conception, such as many antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs (valium, beta-blockers), acne drugs, such as Acutane, antihistamine/hayfever tablets and some topical steroid creams. Steroids sometimes used by bodybuilders affect both male and female fertility.
Men and fertility
Men can unknowingly affect their fertility by:
- Too many steaming hot baths;
- Not getting regularly checked for STIs, some of which can cause infertility;
- Not checking if certain prescribed drugs would lower fertility, such as some high blood pressure medications;
- Taking steroids.
Equally, it's easy for a man to make himself more fertile by:
- Eating plenty of oysters and zinc-rich foods, as well as topping up on zinc, vitamin E and calcium with supplements;
- Abandoning smoking cigarettes and cannabis;
- Only drinking moderately or not at all.
Knowing your body
Recognising when your body is at its most fertile will get you even more tuned in to the whole baby making process.
Nearly all women ovulate around two weeks before their period. If your cycle is regular, count back 12-16 days from the day your period normally starts and this will give you a fairly accurate measure of when you are most fertile. Discharge that is thin, clear, slippery (like raw egg) often indicates you are about to ovulate. If you're not into guesswork, you can buy an ovulation predictor kit from most pharmacies. These kits accurately predict when you're going to ovulate. You can also ask your doctor about the link between basal body temperature (body temperature at rest) and getting pregnant.
Getting in practice
Lots of people wonder how often they should be having sex in order to get pregnant. During the few days each month that you ovulate and your partner's sperm count is normal it's worth making love every day during that period. If your partner's sperm count is low, making love every other day is more effective, so that sperm count levels are given enough time to build up. This maximises the chances of a pregnancy occurring.
If you are finding it difficult to conceive it is usual to see your GP after about a year, however if you are concerned about your fertility you could get their advice after six months. Your GP will carry out various tests to establish if there's something wrong. Your doctor will be able to tell you about options open to you, such as IVF, if this applies. But don't panic and do relax. Often it's the minute that couples relax that conception occurs.
Written by Mariam Manneh
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