By Nutritionist Megan Crockart
Are you thinking of becoming pregnant and are not sure what sort of changes you need to make to your diet and lifestyle before you fall pregnant? Before falling pregnant, it is best to make sure you are in the best health and fitness you can possibly be, not just for your future baby’s health but also your own.
If you are thinking about trying to fall pregnant then giving yourself and your partner about 4 months worth of prep work is the most ideal. This is because it takes this long for healthy sperm and egg to develop. The main things to concentrate on in this pre-pregnancy stage are for both partners to:
- Eat a well balanced diet of a variety of whole foods including fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, fish, sea vegetable etc.
- Eliminate processed foods, fatty/fried foods, alcohol, drugs (unless prescribed), cigarettes, reduce caffeine intake (tea, coffee, chocolate, energy drinks).
- Exercise (but don’t overdo it) at least 4 times a week of at least 30 mins to an hour, including cardio, strength and resistance exercises and stretches.
- Drink plenty of water a minimum of 2 litres up to 3 litres. Add a pinch of sea salt to water bottle.
- Get plenty of rest/sleep – Optimal is 8 hours. Don’t stress about falling pregnant.
- Avoid chemical exposure as much as possible in and around the home, at work etc.
Specific nutrients at the pre-pregnancy stage is definitely for the female to start taking a good folate supplement. Don’t wait until you are pregnant (although this is fine too, if it suddenly happens). There is a lot of debate about the types of folate at the moment (not all folate is the same). Most pregnancy multivitamins have folic acid which is where the debate is – folic acid is a fully synthetic man-made form of folate. For most people taking folic acid is fine and for pre-pregnancy and in the first two trimesters of pregnancy at least 400mcg to 500mcg of folic acid/folate is optimal. If you have any concerns with taking high levels of folic acid above 250mcg (eg MTHFR) then there are specific folinic acid supplements that are more appropriate. (In the same dosage mentioned for pregnancy). Not every female needs to take a prenatal multivitamin, sometimes just taking a folate supplement is ample.
As most people know folate (folic acid) has been widely researched in helping to prevent neural tube defects in the growing baby. As mentioned this is only necessary to take pre-pregnancy and in the first two trimesters of the pregnancy. Any form of folate is not necessary in the third trimester and specifically folic acid is not recommended at this stage as there are links to the possibility of the baby developing eczema (this link is not associated with dietary folate).
Another specific nutrient important in reproduction for women but particularly men is zinc. Making sure both partners have the right amount of zinc can be crucial. Vitamin D levels also play a role, so this is another nutrient that should be at optimal levels for reproduction. The best level for females to fall pregnant is between 110-140. Many people seem to sit around the 50 level, which is quite low in general health, let alone if you are wanting to fall pregnant. These tests can be done by your GP or by a nutritionist/naturopath.
Megan is a qualified nutritionist who specialises in pre-pregnancy planning, pregnancy advice, breastfeeding advice and menopause. Megan is currently pregnant with her first baby so is also experiencing this magical world first hand.
Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or click here to book an appointment with her.
Stay tuned for her next article – what to do once you have fallen pregnant, morning sickness tips, what to include and avoid….