How to Optimise Your Health Preconception

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If you’re thinking about trying for a baby there are a number things you can do to optimise your chances getting pregnant. This guide will explain why preconception health is important and explore the various factors you may want to look into when trying to conceive. 

Why is preconception health important?

Preconception health is the health of parents before they become pregnant. It is important as it can lead to greater chances of conceiving and a healthier pregnancy and healthier baby. 

What can I do to maximise my health preconception?

Visit your GP

If you have a long term condition like diabetes, epilepsy or HIV, you may want to consider speaking with your GP for advice on optimising your health before trying to conceive. You should also visit your GP if you regularly take medication or have a known genetic condition where there is a risk of passing it on to your baby3.

Folic acid

Taking folic acid when trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy4 can help prevent certain birth defects5. The usual dose for women trying to conceive is 400 micrograms daily6. However this may be increased by your doctor if needed. If you’re taking a prenatal vitamin for preconception health, it’s important to check that it contains the recommended amount of folic acid. As well as taking a supplement you can also try to increase your intake of folate, the natural form of folic acid, which can be found in dark, leafy greens. 

Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can have an impact on your physical health. Getting more than 7 hours of sleep per night can help with your fertility, immune system and your mental well being7. Disruptions in your sleeping pattern can have an impact on your reproductive hormones. 

Weight

Being underweight or overweight may impact your ability to conceive and it is an important factor to examine when thinking of your health preconception. The NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) guidelines recommend having a BMI between 20-30 when trying to conceive8. A well balanced diet can help maintain a healthy weight while providing an appropriate intake of vitamins, fibre and protein. One option could be to consider a Mediterranean diet. It’s widely considered fertility friendly9 as it includes a lot of fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, seafood and dairy. It’s rich in nutrients that are vital for healthy hormones, egg maturation and sperm production. 

Understand your cycle

The menstrual cycle is a good indicator of female fertility. Irregular cycles, painful periods or spotting before your period, can be signs that there’s an underlying cause that needs to be addressed10. These things can also be investigated by your GP without having a full panel of infertility tests. Tracking your cycle and understanding when you ovulate11 are key steps in trying to conceive. When you’re ovulating – you’re in your fertile window and having sex during this time increases chances of conceiving.

Exercise

Daily exercise can help maintain a healthy weight12, increase blood circulation and improve blood sugar levels. While it may not directly improve your fertility, it can help increase your energy levels and release feel-good hormones, serotonin and dopamine which can help combat stress levels.

Lifestyle advice

Smoking and excessive drinking are known links to decreased fertility12. Smoking can reduce fertility in women, making it harder to conceive, and reduce sperm quality in men. In regards to preconception health, the recommendation is to eliminate smoking13. Excessive drinking can affect sperm quality in men, and high alcohol intake during pregnancy can harm fetal development so the general advice when trying to get pregnant is to reduce alcohol consumption14

Cervical smear

Regular cervical smears lower the incidence of cervical cancer12. If cellular changes are detected in the cervix, they can be treated before any pregnancy. 

Rubella status

Women should be offered a test to find out if they are immune to rubella. If not, they should have a rubella vaccination preconception, because infection with rubella can harm developing babies during pregnancy. You should wait for 1 month after your rubella vaccination before attempting to get pregnant5.

Medicines and drugs

Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can interfere with your fertility15. You should discuss with your GP about any medicines you are taking and so they can offer you appropriate advice. They should also ask you about recreational drugs (such as cannabis, cocaine and anabolic steroids) as these can also interfere with your fertility and damage a developing baby.

If you are aiming to make adjustments to your lifestyle to improve your health preconception, try to find a balance within the areas you are making changes to. Any type of self care you enjoy can be beneficial in stress reduction and overall well being. If it instead becomes all consuming and gives you more stress – let it go. Your mental health is important too. 

Learn more

References

  1. NICE Guidelines. Pre-conception – advice and management | Health topics A to Z | CKS | NICE
  2. NICE Guidelines. Lifestyle Advice | NICE
  3. NHS website. Trying to get pregnant – NHS
  4. NHS website. Vitamins, minerals and supplements in pregnancy – NHS
  5. NICE Guidelines. Trying for a baby | Information for the public | Fertility problems: assessment and treatment | Guidance | NICE
  6. NHS website. Folic acid: vitamin that helps the body make healthy red blood cells – NHS
  7. NHS website. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health – NHS 
  8. NHS website. Period problems – NHS
  9. NHS website. Pre conception advice | Centre for Reproductive Medicine | UHCW

Any general advice given by our care team or posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Béa Fertility, the trading name for StepOne Fertility Ltd. makes no representations or warranties and expressly disclaims any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app.