Pre-pregnancy health

Are you ready to start trying for a baby? Make sure you prepare your body for pregnancy first.

Visit your GP

Infectious diseases can cause problems with the baby’s development during pregnancy. These include rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and syphillis. Your GP can check for these, and may also check your full blood count, blood group and antibodies, Rh factor, and perform a pap smear.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can also affect male and female fertility. These include Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Syphilis, and unfortunately they can remain undiagnosed for many years. If appropriate, your GP can arrange tests and treatments for these types of infections as well.

In addition, if you or your partner are taking any medications, discuss these with your doctor. Some medications can affect sperm production, and some cannot be taken before or during pregnancy for women.

Take your vitamins every day

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia recommends women take 0.5mg folic acid supplements daily for at least three months before pregnancy and for three months into the pregnancy. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects (most commonly spina bifida) in babies.

Other supplements are usually not necessary if your diet is adequate, however taking a multi-vitamin specifically for pregnancy or ovulation may benefit your overall health.  Some of these multi-vitamins include folic acid.

Watch your diet

A balanced diet is important for your overall health – make sure you include plenty of leafy green vegetables for folic acid.

BMI for pregnancy

Weight can affect a woman's fertility across both ends of the spectrum.

If you are significantly overweight or underweight, it can adversely affect your chance of getting pregnant.  Use a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to check if you have an appropriate body weight. If you have a high BMI, you can improve your fertility dramatically with just a 5% reduction in weight.

Relationship between BMI and pregnancy

Being underweight can also reduce a woman’s fertility as it can cause a hormone imbalance that affects ovulation and therefore a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Having a BMI under 18.5 is considered ‘underweight’.

Being overweight impacts a woman’s chance of conceiving and having a healthy baby. It can cause a hormone imbalance, triggering problems with menstruation and ovulation. When women who are overweight do conceive, they have a higher risk of pregnancy complications e.g. miscarriage, diabetes or premature birth.

The father’s weight can also affect your chances of getting pregnant, so it’s important that they too maintain a healthy BMI.

What is an ideal/healthy BMI for pregnancy/conceiving?

A healthy BMI range is between 18.5 to 24.9 for young and middle-aged adults. Under 18.5 is considered underweight and over 25 is overweight. If a woman's BMI is greater than 35, the risk of problems become more significant. We recommend speaking to your Doctor if you have any concerns.

Regular moderate exercise

Walking, tennis, and other moderate exercise, are good for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, there is evidence that you should not do strenuous exercise more than four times a week during pregnancy. Frequent strenuous exercise, such as some athletic training programs, can affect ovulation and fertility.

Quit smoking now

Active and passive smoking is detrimental for your health, and can affect fertility in both men and women.
Women who smoke tend to reach menopause earlier than non-smokers. There is also strong evidence that female smokers not only have reduced fertility, but also have a higher miscarriage rate.

Smoking during pregnancy has adverse effects on the growing baby, and can contribute to many childhood illnesses.  There is also strong evidence that a child born to a male smoker is four times more likely to develop cancer in childhood.

It is strongly recommended that you do not smoke during treatment or throughout pregnancy.

Alcohol

In general, the National Health Medical Research Committee (NHMRC) recommends no more than two standard drinks per day for women and four for men, with at least two alcohol-free days per week.  

The impact of alcohol on a woman’s reproductive system is unknown, however heavy intake in men is known to affect sperm production.

Reduce your alcohol intake during the second half of your menstrual cycle, where pregnancy could be a possibility. The weeks following a positive pregnancy test are an important stage of development for the baby, and abstinence from alcohol is recommended.

Caffeine

High caffeine intake has been linked with female infertility in some research studies, but the reason for this is not obvious. It is worth considering a moderate coffee intake (no more than two cups per day) if you are trying to get pregnant. Be aware that caffeine is present in other beverages and food, such as Cola drinks and chocolate.