My partner and I are planning to start a family next year, other than folic acid is there anything else I need to do to prepare my body for pregnancy?
There are a number of nutritional measures that can be undertaken to enhance the chance of conception. Many studies have found that a better diet and lifestyle can boost the chance of conceiving, one study carried out by the University of Surrey found that diet and lifestyle changes could enhance the chance of conception by up to 80 per cent!
It takes at least three months for immature eggs (oocytes) to mature enough to be released during ovulation. It also takes at least three months for sperm cells to develop, ready to be ejaculated. When you are preparing your body for pregnancy, it’s beneficial to have a three-month preparation period before trying to conceiving. This is called 'pre-conception care' and it's as important to take as much care during this period as it is during a pregnancy itself.
Here are five simple steps to help prepare your body for a baby.
1. The first place to start is to look at your current weight, are you a healthy weight for your height. Research has highlighted that women who are overweight or underweight at the time they fall pregnant are at greater risk of experiencing problems in pregnancy, than women of a healthy weight. If you are either above or bellow a healthy weight it is advisable to reach a healthy weight before trying to conceive.
2. Eat a healthy well balanced diet with a range of different foods to ensure the widest range of natural nutrients.
-Low glycemic load carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, wholegrain bread, basmati rice, vegetables and fruit.
-Healthy amount of protein ideally from organic or grass fed animals, eggs, nuts, seeds, eggs and legumes.
-Healthy fats, by ideally eating two servings of oily fish per week and a small handful of mixed seeds/nuts per day.
3. Drink plenty of water. Water is essential for hormone balance and helps nutrients travel to your organs including your reproductive organs, it is also important in the removal of toxins. Eliminate or severely reduce caffeine. Drinking more than 300mg is linked to a higher rate of miscarriages. Men aren’t immune either and studies indicate that problems with sperm health increase with caffeine consumption.
2. Eat at least five portions of vegetables/fruit a day. Fruit and vegetables help supply your body with valuable vitamins, mineral and antioxidants as well as fibre. A study of a thousand pregnant women found those who ate 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day were 46% less likely to miscarry so this is a habit that you want to develop early. Fruit and vegetables also supply vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and studies show that it could protect against DNA damage.
3. Eat high fiber foods. Fiber is important as it helps to keep the reproductive system in optimal condition as it clears out toxins and old hormone residue. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seed, wholegrain bread, oats, quinoa, basmati rice, these are also packed with fertility boosting nutrients such as zinc, selenium and many B vitamins
4. Stop drinking and smoking, Research has shown that in men alcohol can cause a decrease in sperm count, lowering proportions of motile sperm and increasing chances of abnormal sperm. In women it could affect her ovulating or decrease her egg quality. Alcohol is also classed as an anti-nutrient so, as well as causing the loss of nutrients, it can block the absorption of them.
5. Zinc is essential for conception; deficiencies in zinc can impair both male and female fertility. It is an essential component of genetic material and a zinc deficiency could potentially cause chromosome changes, leading to reduced fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. Zinc is essential for the female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. It is also required to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm its essential for the health sperm and, subsequently a healthy baby. Zinc is found in almonds, fish, beans, yogurt, corn, eggs and peas.