Keeping fit and healthy and eating well is very important when a couples are trying to conceive. It is important to look after yourself, rest and follow a healthy diet
To maximise your fertility maintaining a healthy weight range is very important. When women have a low BMI (body mass index) it can have the effect of stopping ovulation. The brain signaling is affected by excessive exercise, severe caloric restriction and having too little body fat. t the other extreme, being overweight affects one’s fertility. Having a BMI in the overweight and obese range is associated with difficulty conceiving. Equally overweight and obese men have altered semen parameters, and may find it difficult to father a child.
Folic acid is very important to the early development of the embryo and early fetus. This helps with the development of the nervous system of the fetus (particularly the spinal cord). A lack of this vitamin can lead to defects in the neural tube and predispose to miscarriage, and even spinabifida in the baby. Therefore all women hoping to conceive should take a supplementaiton of folic acid leading up to pregnancy..
When a woman is pregnant the fetus will take al of the nutrients from the mother that it needs for its own development, even at the expense of the mother’s health. It is common for women to become anaemic during pregnancy. Your doctor will do blood tests to ensure that you are not anaemic, and if your are then iron supplementation is important.
During pregnancy it is important to eat well, and avoid certain foods that are dangerous for the fetus. This is mainly to avoid infections. that can harm the developing newborn. Infections such as listeriosis can occur in soft cheeses and unpasturised dairy products. Infection with the bacteria can affect the fetal brain and other organs. Toxoplasmosis is present in uncooked meats, as well as in cat’s faeces, It can cause intellectual disability in the infant. It is important to avoid raw fish such as sushi or cured meats such as salamis. Mercury is also important to avoid. In large doses it can cause mercury poisoning in the fetus. Mercury occurs in deep sea fish, and therefore it is recommended to eat these fish infrequently during pregnancy
Alcohol is also important to avoid. Exposure to alcohol can cause fetal alcahol syndrome, which can lead to seizures in the newborn, facial anomalies, and mental retardation. Similarly smoking is dangerous for pregnancy. It causes growth restriction in the fetus, and placental problems. Recreational drugs can be associated with limb anomalies, and should not be used in pregnancy.
Exercise is important to maintain during pregnancy. Sports such as swimming are very good for the body and relatively low impact. The ligaments become more stretchy in pregnancy due to hormone called relaxin. This makes joint injury more common so it is important to minimise high impact sports. However exercise such as yoga can be very relaxing, and enjoyable due to the added flexibility that occurs during the pregnant state.
Drinking lots of fluid is important to keep in mind. It’s common to feel light headed in pregnancy due to a fall in blood pressure and oral fluids will help minimise this effect. Women may become dehydrated during pregnancy and therefore should drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Finally my advice to a woman who is pregnant or a couple trying to fall pregnant it is important to be kind to yourselves. When life is just so busy it is easy to put you, and your body last on the list. Where possible sleep well, eat well, and avoid stress the in day –to-day life.
– Dr Rebecca Deans