So, you’ve decided to go the family way? While for some, an accidental surprise is much welcome. Whereas, for the majority of us it can catch us unaware, leaving us wishing we had had more time to be prepared.
Keeping that in mind here is a list of things that we can do to try to ensure a smooth pregnancy and post natal period. The list is particularly for those women, who wish to plan their pregnancy and have a healthier life. While one can never be too prepared, it helps to have a few guidelines to follow.
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1. Weight, Diet and Exercise: Studies have shown that women who are both under and over-weight can have both difficulty in spontaneous conception as well as increased chances of complications for both mother and baby during the pregnancy. Try to develop a routine of daily exercise, clean eating (avoiding processed foods) and stay in your optimal BMI area (19-23 kg/m^2). Avoid certain foods like outside meats/seafood from unreliable sources/papayas/pineapples and excessively oily and spicy foods. If you are obese and have insulin resistance your doctor may start you on Metformin at a dose of 500 mg per day going up to 1500 mg in divided doses. This will both help you lose weight when combined with a healthy diet and exercise as well as can help you ovulate regularly (although that is more likely to happen due to weight loss than anything else).
2. Vitamins: Facts state that daily consumption of Folic acid in the dose of 400 mcg 3 months prior to conception helps in optimal development of the baby’s neural tube. If you have had a previous baby with a neural tube defect then the dosage should be 500 mcg daily. Let me state however, that Folic acid is unavailable in 400 mcg so its Ok for all women planning a pregnancy to take 500 mcg.
3. Immunization: Make sure all your vaccines are up-to-date, as there are some live vaccines such as MMR, hepatitis B, chicken pox, etc. that cannot be taken during pregnancy. In fact, the Rubella vaccine must be take a good 3 months prior to pregnancy to avoid ill effects in the fetus.
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4. Vices: Avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol while planning a pregnancy. This includes passive smoking as well. The former two above are known to cause decreased fertility, smoking more so in men, while alcohol is known to cause Fetal hydantoin Syndrome. A maximum of 2 cups of coffee a day are allowed (as well as other caffeinated beverages). Opt instead for herbal teas like chamomile.
5. Chronic medical conditions: If you have any long standing illness such as diabetes, thyroid illness, high blood pressure or an STD, this is the best time to get all your treatment up-to-date and ensure that your blood reports are in optimal condition before you plan.
6. Birth control: Do keep a calendar noting the date from which you stopped your birth control, allow for 1 normal period to come, before you try to conceive. It’s not actually required but makes good sense.
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7. Take a trip: A trip to the Gynecologists office is a must. Go for a baseline ultrasound done to look for any conditions like fibroids/polycystic ovaries. Your doctor may suggest baseline hormone tests as well if required.
8. Find your fertile period: Your fertile period is the few days before and after ovulation which occurs bang in the middle of your cycle. Your cycle is considered to be the time period lying between the first day of your menses to the next expected first day of the next menses.
9. Sperm Count and Motility: Make sure your husband’s sperm count and motility are in the normal range as that will matter a great deal while attempting to conceive. Have unprotected intercourse on alternate days, in the 3-4 days before and after your ovulation. It helps better if you have intercourse on alternate days instead of everyday. Also helpful is to remain lying down for 15-20 mins after coitus.
10. Relaxation: Keep busy, but try to stay relaxed nevertheless. This maybe a good time to meditate, think positively, enjoy some non-strenuous hobbies. If you see no results after 6 months, it would be wise to visit an infertility specialist so that tests can be done.
Probably the most important thing about planning your family is to avoid delaying it. Age makes things harder as it increases infertility, especially in women who are born with a finite number of eggs. So don’t delay.