Preparing your body for pregnancy

When it comes to pregnancy care information it can be difficult to sort out fact from fiction. Information from well-meaning friends and family, the media and various internet sites can be confusing and is often contradictory.

To help you prepare for pregnancy we have developed the information below which has been reviewed by specialist obstetricians and are relevant to Australian women. You can also download the information as a PDF, wherever you see this symbol: pdf_button

Ceasing Contraception

When should we cease using contraceptives?

If you practice safe sex, before you cease using a condom it is recommended both of you have a blood test to screen for sexually transmitted diseases. You could also use this blood test to gauge your immunity to rubella and chicken pox. Simply visit your general practitioner for the blood test.

Women who use the contraceptive pill should generally stop taking it approximately three months before trying to fall pregnant. The oral contraceptive should be ceased at the end of the active tablets, with a period resulting a few days later.

For other forms of contraception such as hormone injections, intrauterine device or a progestin implant please speak with your general practitioner or obstetrician about ceasing the contraception.

Once contraception is ceased, when could a pregnancy occur?

As soon as you cease contraception you may fall pregnant. However, often your body will need time to readjust to your natural cycle after using a hormone contraceptive. Once your normal menstrual cycle has been re-established you will be more likely to conceive.

Can I expect any side effects when I stop taking a hormone contraceptive?

Your cycle will return to what it was prior to taking a hormone contraceptive. If your period was heavy and only lasted a short number of days before taking the pill your period should return to this same pattern when you cease taking the pill.

Can a hormonal contraceptive harm by baby?

If you are pregnant and you are using a hormonal contraceptive it is recommended you cease immediately and discuss the situation with your obstetrician, as the hormonal contraceptive may occasionally impact on the health of your baby.

Diet

When you are pregnant your body needs more vitamins and minerals. A healthy diet before a pregnancy will give your body a good store of vitamins and may help your body cope with nausea and vomiting during the early phase of pregnancy, often known as morning sickness, when you may be unable to eat much food.

What should I ensure I include in my diet?

It is important to keep a well balanced diet and incorporate the five food groups which include:

  • breads, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles;
  • vegetables and legumes;
  • fruit;
  • milk, yoghurt, cheese, and
  • meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes.

Before and during pregnancy it is important to ensure your diet is:

  • rich in calcium, folate, iron, niacin, thiamine, vitamin C and zinc, and
  • high in fibre and protein.

It is important to begin taking a folate supplement at least one month before pregnancy and continue taking the supplement for the first three months of pregnancy. Folate may help prevent the risk of babies developing neural tube defects.

Is there anything I should avoid when preparing for a pregnancy?

Caffeine may reduce fertility, so it is recommended intake be limited to 200mg per day, approximately two cups of coffee or four cups of tea.

Smoking can also affect fertility and the health of your baby, so it is recommended you and your partner cease smoking at least four days prior to trying to conceive.

Alcohol may increase the risk of miscarriage and harm brain development of the baby, so it is recommended to be avoided.

Once you are pregnant you should not have excessive amounts of vitamin A.

It is also important to avoid foods which may cause listeriosis.

Do women who have diabetes need a specific diet when they are preparing for pregnancy?

It is important to women who have diabetes to have good diabetic control and should ensure they are following the diet recommended by their health care practitioner. Once a woman with diabetes is pregnant it

is important that she has a diet consistent with the general recommendations for a normal healthy pregnancy.

Are there other women who may need special dietary advice when they are preparing for pregnancy?

Woman who adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet should ensure they have adequate intake of protein. It is important to ensure women have enough B12 to prevent neurological risks to the baby. Your obstetrician can provide further advice.

Women who have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia are at high risk of nutritional deficiencies that may put the health of their baby at risk. Please discuss the situation with your obstetrician.

Should I take a multivitamin supplement?

Taking a multivitamin suitable for pregnant women may assist in building up good stores of vitamins and minerals. Taking a folate supplement is certainly recommended whilst trying to fall pregnant and during the first three months of the pregnancy. Please speak to your obstetrician about what supplements you should take.

Maternal Age

What is the ideal age to have a baby?

The optimum time, physically, for a woman to have a baby is between 25 and 30 years of age. During this age range, you have the highest incidence of fertility, the best likelihood of a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby and the lowest risk of miscarriage.

What are the complications of having a baby after 30 years of age?

The woman’s ability to conceive a pregnancy decreases markedly after the age of 30. By the time a woman is 40 years of age, she has lost 90 per cent of the fertility that she had at age 30.

The incidence of miscarriage also increases with age and after the age of 35 the risk of increases by ten percent each year.

During pregnancy, older women are more at risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes and are much more likely to deliver their baby by a caesarean section.

As maternal age increases so does the chance of a multiple birth. Also, older women are more likely to require invetro fertilisation (IVF), which increases the chance of multiple birth.

Are there complications associated with being less than 25 years of age?

Between 17 and 25 years there are no significant risks associated with age. If you are less than 17 years of age the risk of premature birth and high blood pressure also increases.