When you and your partner finally decide to take the next step and try for a baby, it’s exciting times indeed; All that fun sexy time, thinking of names, dreaming up a future. Unless a couple has a little trouble conceiving, almost no thought is given to preconception care. It seems to be a crucial step that is passed over even though the events surrounding your baby’s conception can affect their health for a lifetime – for better, or for worse.
When should you start trying?
Good question! While the actual act of getting pregnant can come in the future, the preconception should start at least four months ahead. So yeah, that is a four month lead time to get your partner’s and your body in shape. No, I’m not talking about losing weight. I’m talking about getting healthy to ensure that both prospective parents are in excellent health; free of hidden infections, toxic (heavy) metals, environmental hazards and excessive stress and that they are only eating healthy, preferably organic foods.
Our expert Amanda Teh explains the logic behind preconception
“It takes 100 days for an egg follicle to mature and up to 116 days for sperm to be produced. If during that time there are infections, nutritional deficiencies, toxins or other contaminants in the body, the chances of producing healthy eggs and sperm – and therefore a healthy foetus, is greatly reduced. Simply put, healthy bodies have a better chance of making healthy babies. Since it takes up to four months to produce the eggs and sperm that are going to make a baby, the couple’s health needs to be maximized at least four months before conception in order to maximize the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.” 
So yeah, when it’s put like that it makes sense that both parents should make time for a preconception plan. Here are our tips:
Go off the pill, and use condom
If you have been using birth control pills or the Depo Provera injection, you should have a transitional period of time before you attempt to conceive. Each women differs with how her body react after she stops taking contraception. Some will get their periods within weeks, but some take much longer. This gives you a bit of time to see what your natural menstrual cycle is like – 28 days or 32 days? So you can figure out when you’re ovulation.
Time to go for herbal tea, cut down the caffeine
If you’re a coffee drinker, don’t worry we’re not going to ask you to give up coffee! Having a cup of coffee a day it should be ok. However if you consume more than 200 ml of caffeine a day (about one to two 235ml cups) then perhaps you should ease up a little. Heavy caffeine consumption has been associated with fertility problems. Plus, you won't want to overdo it during pregnancy (caffeine interferes with your ability to absorb iron, can dehydrate you and, in high doses, can increase miscarriage and preterm birth risk), so it's worth cutting back now, and put yourself on herbal tea such as peppermint, chamomile, rosehip or ginger tea which not only will tickle your taste buds with a different taste , but also leave your body with some additional health benefits.
Time to invest in a glass water bottle, go BPA FREE!
BPA, aka bisphenol A, is a chemical found in plastic items, such as water bottles, food containers and even in the lining of aluminium cans. Some studies have led scientists to believe that high BPA exposure could mess with men's and women's fertility, potentially lowering sperm count or reducing the number of viable eggs.  There's virtually no way to prevent BPA exposure altogether, but you can limit yours by avoiding canned foods and avoiding consuming anything from a plastic container with the recycling number 3 or 7 on it (usually on the bottom of the container). Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers.
Time to cut down smoking & alcohol
Uh huh, things are getting real! If you’re a smoker and drinker, now is the time to start cutting down. Excess alcohol intake has been shown to interfere with your fertility and can also lower sperm count in men. Smoking cigarettes (or getting the second-hand smoke), even socially can affect egg quality and sperm, not to mention increases your risk of birth defects, miscarriage, preterm labour and so on after you become pregnant.
Eat healthy, organic food
The healthier you are, the healthier your baby will be, you are after all what you eat. There’s no point cleaning up your act only to eat food full of pesticides and antibiotics. Kinda defeats the purpose! So whenever possible try to go organic. If organic seems out of your reach, select free range and shop at your local farmers’ market for fresh produce. Try to get at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day, as well as plenty of whole grains and foods that are high in calcium, eat a variety of protein sources, such as beans, nuts, seeds, soy products, poultry, and meats.
And while yes, eating meat is eating ‘real food’ you need to watch out where your protein comes from. Meat and poultry may seem to be a fundamentally natural product, but the beef, pork, chicken, turkey and more come from animals treated with hormones and other unappetizing substances and you don’t want any of that in your body at this time.
Pay your doctor and dentist a visit
This is also a great time for both parents to pay the good doctor a visit. A full body check up will be able to catch any health issues before you get pregnant. You also want to be sure you’re both free from STDs, are tested for heart-health issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol, and make sure that any chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or thyroid problems, are in check.
While it might not seem to have any connection having your teeth checked is also a smart move. More and more research links oral health to a healthy pregnancy; women with unchecked gum disease are more prone to miscarriage, preterm birth, and preeclampsia.
Phew! It’s a lot to think about I know but trust us, preconception health care will help to improve your – and your baby’s – health. After all, the process of preconception care is not about putting extra stress in your life, but is all about giving you a chance to transform your life to prepare for the next level – being a parent, and feeling empowered by taking control of your own fertility. #empoweredparents
Have fun making a baby!
- Naish, F. and Roberts, J. (2000) The Natural Way to Better Babies. Random House: Sydney
- Maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage: A prospective cohort study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 198 (3), e1-8.. Weng, X., Odouli, R. & Li, D.K. (2008).
- Washington State University. (2015, January 22). Effect of BPA and estradiol on sperm development seen by researchers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 13, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150122145422.htm
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- Augood C., Duckitt K., et al. (1998). “Smoking and female infertility: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Human Reproduction 13: 1532-39. 1
- Boggess, K, Edelstein, BL. Oral health in women during preconception and pregnancy: implications for birth outcomes and infant oral health. Matern Child Health J. 2006;10:S169–S174.
Edited by Hani Gurung Khaursar
Expert: Amanda Teh