When it comes to pregnancy, there is information overload about what you should and shouldn’t do during pregnancy (some of it more reliable than others…). But guidance around what you should do beforehand to prepare yourself is rather sparse. Let’s look at the basic things you should think about BEFORE you start trying to conceive.
1. A general health check
If you're thinking of having a baby, it's the perfect time to make sure your general health as a good as it can possibly be. Speak with your GP about getting a basic health check as well as making sure your cervical screening and breast checks are up to date. If you do have any existing health concerns, talk about a plan for managing these in pregnancy. It's also the perfect time to discuss pregnancy food, exercise and alcohol guidelines too.
2. Review your medications
It is important to discuss any medications with your doctor and make sure they are safe to continue during pregnancy. If not, plan whether to come off them or to switch to a safer alternative. Remember to mention any herbs, vitamins or supplements you take, as these can also impact on pregnancy.
3. Pregnancy supplements
It is recommended to start taking a pregnancy supplement 3 months prior to beginning to try for a baby. Generally speaking, all you need is a supplement with at least 500 mcg (0.5mg) of folic acid and iodine, which most pregnancy multivitamins in Australia contain. You may need other supplements such as iron, Vit D or higher doses of folic acid depending on your personal background. Your GP is the best person to guide you on this.
4. Blood tests
It is always a good idea to have some basic blood tests done prior to trying to conceive. This allows you to be on the front foot and rectify any potential issues before you fall pregnant. The tests you need will depend on your own personal history, but it is always good to check iron levels, vitamin D, thyroid function, as well as your immunity to Rubella and Varicella (Chicken Pox). It is also worth speaking to your GP about the various genetic screening tests that are available.
Varicella and rubella vaccinations are recommended for all non-immune women before conceiving (which is why getting a blood test prior to conceiving is important). These vaccines can’t be given during pregnancy, and it is important not to conceive for at least 1 month after having them. COVID, flu and whooping cough vaccinations are also all recommended either before or during your pregnancy.
But….what happens if you have found out you are pregnant and you haven’t done any of this? Firstly, don't panic! While it is good to be prepared, most of these checks can be done in early pregnancy too.
Health checks aside, the most important thing you can do to prepare yourself for having a baby is to stop, take a breath, and be kind to yourself physically and mentally. This is what will put you in the best position to conceive and survive the ensuing nine months.