Eat and live well as you prepare for pregnancy
So, here you are: week 1 of your pregnancy. Well, actually, you’re not pregnant just yet. This is because weeks 1 and 2 refer to the time your body takes to prepare for pregnancy, starting immediately after your last menstrual period. At this time, fertilisation has not yet occurred, but as you and your partner are getting ready for a baby, so is your body.
Before conception, you will ovulate. This is where an egg (or, occasionally, more than one) moves from your ovaries to your uterus via one of your fallopian tubes. This happens about 12 to 14 days before you start your next period, and it’s when you’re the most fertile, making it the perfect time for trying to conceive.
If a sperm meets the egg while it’s in the fallopian tube, it will become fertilised and move to the uterus, forming into a hollow ball of cells known as a blastocyst. The blastocyst will then implant itself into the walls of the uterus and become the embryo. The embryo then develops into the foetus, which will eventually become your new baby.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. Before you and your partner make the life-changing decision to try to conceive, you both have a million and one different things to consider. The idea of becoming parents can be daunting, but as long as you approach your pregnancy journey one step at a time, taking all the advice and guidance that’s available to you, you will be fine.
A healthy lifestyle for a healthy conception and pregnancy
Chief among your considerations should be your current state of health. Unhealthy lifestyle choices (which are often 100 per cent avoidable) could possibly lead to complications, some of which are potentially very serious, down the road and may actually stop you from conceiving. Therefore, it’s best that you fix these habits now, at this early stage, instead of waiting until during your pregnancy.
When trying to conceive, seeking out medical advice is not necessary if you and your partner are both in good health and are not experiencing any problems. Still, the following advice will make sure you’re on the right track to having a problem-free (or, at least, as problem-free as it can possibly be) pregnancy.
The vital nutrients for pregnancy
If what you’re eating can be improved upon, it may be worth introducing a new diet plan. When people fall either below or above the recommended healthy weight, the main culprit is often what they eat and how much of it they’re eating.
The basic idea is this: eating a balanced diet that incorporates all of the major food groups while making sure you consume everything in moderation will help you reach a healthy weight. It will also ensure that you don’t miss out on any essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, and B-vitamins. Any fad diets that insist you cut out whole groups of food completely (and that generally have very little medical evidence suggesting they work in the long-term) should be avoided. Of course, if you have special dietary needs due to an underlying condition, such as a gluten or lactose intolerance, then you will need to take this into account.
If you’re planning to make any drastic changes to your diet, then you should make an appointment with your doctor beforehand. They can provide you with the best guidance.
You could consider taking a folic acid supplement. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid while trying to conceive and during the first trimester has been proven to help prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain and spinal cord.
Habits to kick if you want to improve your fertility
We’re not going to beat around the bush here: if you want to give yourself and your baby the best chance of being healthy, then there are certain habits you should be giving up.
The big offenders that need to be given up are smoking and drinking alcohol. Not doing so will increase your baby’s chances of being born with a defect. If you’re overweight, cutting out alcohol should help you reach the target weight, too, but lay off the cakes and biscuits as well.
The good news is that there are many resources available to people who are having a hard time quitting anything which is bad for them. And it’s great for you to be thinking about giving up now rather than after conception.
Is it necessary to have a preconception check-up?
If you are particularly worried about any aspect of your health, whether it’s struggling to give up an unhealthy habit, or addiction, or any pre-existing health condition –such as asthma or diabetes, for instance – that you fear may interfere with your chances of conception, then you should consider going to a preconception check-up with your GP or a midwife. They will help put you on the best track for conceiving.
If you go for a preconception check-up, then you’re likely to be asked several questions regarding your current state of health. This will include discussion of any current health conditions you have (which includes both physical and mental health problems), any medication that you currently take, how regularly you exercise, your diet, any contraception you’ve been using, and whether your job poses any possible risk to your health. Your doctor will need to review any medication you’ve been taking, as it may cause problems for your conception and pregnancy. But don’t stop taking anything before you’ve discussed the matter with a medical professional.
A preconception check-up is not compulsory, but it can be good to give you peace of mind and provide you with the opportunity to ask anything you’re unsure about. Becoming the healthiest you can be is the best way to ensure that you start the next stage of your life as a new parent with as little trouble as possible.
Following these simple guidelines should put you in a great position for your pregnancy. And by keeping your own body as healthy as you possibly can, you’re giving your future child the best chance of being born without any issues or complications.