Expert / 26 April, 2021 / Dr Ellie Rayner
Not only does your general health and wellbeing affect your fertility, but it can also affect your pregnancy and the lifelong health of your baby too. If you are thinking of conceiving, or are currently trying to conceive, here are a few important steps you and your partner can take to not only improve your chances, but that will have lifelong benefits too.
You should ideally be taking Folic Acid daily for two months before you conceive to have the maximum protection for your baby against neural tube defects. The majority of women need 400mcg daily, however some women need a higher dose, for example if you have epilepsy, so speak to your GP to get a prescription if needed.
Reducing or stopping smoking, reducing or stopping drinking alcohol and stopping any recreational drugs are all extremely important steps to take towards a healthy pregnancy. All of these lifestyle factors not only affect your fertility for both men and women but are also harmful to a developing baby. Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your long-term health and is one of the most important things you can do to improve your future baby’s health. It is never too late to reduce or stop smoking and your GP can support you, or alternatively you can self-refer to the NHS smoking cessation services.
Exercising and being active regularly can boost your fertility and will help you have a healthier pregnancy and birth. Women who are active before and during pregnancy can have an easier labour and are better able to cope with some of the strains that pregnancy naturally places on our bodies. If you are overweight, this can affect your fertility, cause additional health problems during pregnancy and even affect the future health of your child. If you can bring your BMI (body mass index) down even by one or two points before you conceive this can make a big difference.
Pre-existing medical problems can make a pregnancy and birth more complicated, but as Obstetricians (doctors who specialise in pregnancy and birth), if we know about this in advance, we can alter any medication that may be harmful or put in place extra treatment to help reduce the risk. Talk to your GP if you do have any medical problems and are considering conceiving but also, even if you are normally healthy, to make sure you are up to date with your Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine. Rubella is rare but can be harmful to a baby’s development if you catch the infection during your pregnancy so making sure you’re protected beforehand is advised.
STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) can affect not only your fertility but your pregnancy or baby, so if for any reason you or your sexual partner might have an STI, get tested sooner rather than later so you can be treated if needed.
Make sure you are in the right place emotionally to start a family. Having a baby is huge and exciting step but can be daunting so take time to consider if it is right for you before you stop contraception. What is the right time for you, might not be the same for others and that’s okay.
80% of couples will conceive in the first year of trying, with more than 90% conceiving within two years and this is still normal and doesn’t mean anything is wrong. However, if you have been having unprotected vaginal intercourse every 2-3 days for one year and have still not conceived, make an appointment to discuss your personal situation with your GP. They will take a detailed history from both partners and offer you initial investigations, such as blood tests, ultrasound scans and a semen analysis to rule out any immediate underlying cause. If these investigations are all normal and you still havn’t conceived spontaneously after 2 years of trying, (or 1 year if aged 36 years and over), they will offer you referral to a fertility specialist doctor for further advice and management.
If you have any questions or concerns about your health, wellbeing or lifestyle then check out the NHS pages on ‘Trying for a Baby’ or make an appointment to speak to your GP.
Dr Ellie Rayner is a practicing Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and founder of The Maternity Collective. She is the only Obstetrician to offer private and group, expert-led Antenatal and Hypnobirthing Classes both Online and face-to-face. She is passionate about providing parent-centred, evidence-based care for all pregnancies and supports all methods of birth.
Follow Dr Ellie Rayner @maternitymedic for the latest evidence-based information on pregnancy, birth and women’s health issues.
Practicing Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and founder of The Maternity Collective Dr Ellie Rayner joins the show to talk about TTC, preliminary fertility tests and how to optimise your health to conceive naturally, or be in a position to push forward with fertility treatment should the time come.
We talk about everything from how best to track your cycle, the different gadgets on the market, important lifestyle changes and what happens in that first GP appointment. From semen analysis to imaging tests and more, this episode is to help you prepare for what’s next.
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