Planning on having a baby? How much do you really know about baby-making? What you don’t understand can affect your bub-to-be’s health.
WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS
Many women have this misconception that if you want to get pregnant, ‘you need to do it more often’. That’s all it takes to make a baby, right? Well, not always. The truth is many lifestyle factors either contribute or impede on your journey to motherhood.
Healthy mothers are more likely to grow healthy babies so if possible pregnancy should always be planned for. Couples who have decided to embark on the journey towards parenthood should always review their lifestyle choices and “clean up” anything that maybe in the way of a healthy pregnancy and baby, explains Dr Chua Yang a consultant obstetrician and Gynaecologist at A Clinic for Women.
Infertility can be caused by either partner. Couples who are trying to conceive should aim for a healthy lifestyle – aiming to eat nutritiously, exercise conscientiously and rest adequately, advises Dr Chua Yang. These healthy choices will also prepare them for the intense physical demands of being new parents.
Many couples claim that they will stop smoking or drinking when there is a pregnancy. Dr Chua Yang says, “I really encourage those who are trying to conceive to stop even before the confirmed pregnancy.” As such, if they were still smoking or consuming significant amounts of alcohol, these habits may have potentially started to affect the developing baby.
Lifestyle Factors and Fertility
Having a healthy lifestyle is important in contributing to a healthy pregnancy. If you are a smoker, this is the best time to quit smoking. Limit or abstain from alcohol consumption. Regular exercise is important while planning for a pregnancy and even during the pregnancy. Opt for low impact exercises such as brisk walking and swimming. Try to ensure that you have adequate sleep and rest time, says Dr Shamini Nair, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Raffles Hospital. The positive effects of exercise on general well-being help to improve libido and allow the body to better cope with the demands of pregnancy. Exercise can also maintain a healthy body weight conducive to conception.
If you have not been to the dentist in a while, it is time to schedule a dental appointment as dental problems can impact the pregnancy, explains Dr Nair. Gingivitis or inflammation of the gums is more common in pregnancy due to pregnancy hormonal changes. Gingivitis is associated with an increased risk for preterm delivery. You can schedule a preconception check-up with your doctor to ensure that you are in good health prior to conceiving, suggests Dr Nair.
The Conception Diet
It is important to have a well-balanced diet with sufficient vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein, explains Dr Law Wei Seng, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. Women intending to conceive should take daily multivitamins with 400 micrograms of folic acid at least three months before their intended date of getting pregnant. Folic acid if taken before and in the first trimester of pregnancy can reduce brain and spine birth defects by up to 70 per cent. Iron can prevent anaemia and calcium is important for strong teeth and bones, so their diet should contain those minerals, advises Dr Law.
Also keep in mind that too much caffeine may trigger miscarriage, dehydration and sleeping problems during pregnancy. However, one or two cups per day is fine.
Does Weight Matter?
Those who are overweight may have altered hormone chemistry and this might affect ovulation, and hence fertility, explains Dr Law. Some with an ideal weight (BMI 19-24) would most likely experience a healthier pregnancy and delivery with fewer risks associated with obesity such as shoulder dystocia. Maintaining an exercise regime which you can keep up even during pregnancy will help you get back into shape after delivery. Obese women frequently do not ovulate as often as the average woman and obese men have been known to suffer from poor sperm quality.
Once you are pregnant, being overweight increases your risk of miscarriage, Diabetes Mellitus, hypertension, preeclampsia and deep vein thrombosis. You are more likely to have a big baby, as well. If you are overweight, you could benefit from losing weight before you conceive. It is not recommended to lose weight during the pregnancy, advises Dr Nair.
All About the Numbers
It is never too early to start planning for a successful conception. For most healthy couples below the age of 30, regular sex (two to three times a week) will enhance the chances of a successful conception, advises Dr Tan Eng Loy, consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Singapore General Hospital. Fertility does however, decline with age. This has become an increasingly relevant problem with increasing number of couples getting married later in life, explains Dr Tan. Female fertility decreases steadily after the age of 30 and declines rapidly after the age of 40. At the same time, the chances of adverse pregnancy events such as miscarriages, abnormal babies, still births, maternal diabetes and high blood pressure rise with age, especially when mothers conceive above the age of 35, says Dr Tan.