Yay! You’ve decided to get on the baby making train. You’re going to begin (or expand) your family! But before you start getting into the ‘action’, there’s a pregnancy planning checklist you should consider.
Here is expert advice on everything you need to add to your own pregnancy planning checklist – then you’re all stations go!
Falling pregnant is an exciting time but it is also scary when you consider all that could go wrong. Good planning will ensure that you minimise risk to the baby and do your best to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Tick these items off one by one before you begin trying to conceive and you’ll be best positioned for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
Pregnancy Planning Checklist
1. GP check up
When planning pregnancy it is a good idea to have a health check with your GP. They will check your immunisation status including rubella and whooping cough, do a pap smear if you are due, discuss any medications you are taking, discuss any genetic issues and do a health check and discuss your options for pregnancy care.
2. Folic Acid
Folic acid reduces the risk of baby being born with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. People with diabetes, taking anti-epileptic medication or with a family history of neural tube defects, may be at a higher risk and should discuss this with your doctor.
It is recommended to take folic acid 0.5mg daily. Start taking 1 month before conception and continue at least 3 months after falling pregnant. You can buy a pregnancy multi vitamin or folic acid supplement from your local chemist and do not need a prescription.
Iodine is vital for baby’s growth as well as the development of brain and nervous system. 150micrograms a day is recommended in pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and breastfeeding. Most people do not get this through diet, so supplementation should be considered.
Iodine is also added to certain food to reduce the risk of iodine deficiency. Iodised salt can be purchased and as of October 2009 bakers in Australia must use iodised salt in bread. Tinned fish (eg salmon) and shell fish (eg oysters) are a good source of dietary iodine.
4. Healthy weight and regular exercise
Being over weight or under weight can effect fertility and ovulation. Healthy eating in pregnancy is important to ensure adequate nutrients to your growing baby. As a result you should not diet when trying to conceive or pregnant. You should also eat a wide variety of food from the main food groups.
Regular and moderate exercise is important in pregnancy. Be careful of contact sport – discuss with your doctor if you wish to continue playing sport. If you aren’t currently active regular walking is a great way to start.
5. Minimise caffeine
Sorry but it’s time to ditch your favourite beverage. Caffeine may potentially reduce fertility, minimise consumption. Some studies have found that women who drink large amounts of caffeine may take longer to become pregnant and have a slightly higher risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Read more about this here.
6. Listeria risk
Food contaminated with the Listeria bacteria may be harmful during pregnancy. Avoid foods which cause a listeriosis infection. According to Better Health Victoria the following are high risk foods for listeria:
- Ready-to-eat seafood such as smoked fish or mussels, oysters or raw seafood such as sashimi or sushi
- Pre-prepared or pre-packaged fruit and vegetable salads including those available from buffets, salad bars and sandwich bars
- Drinks made from fresh fruit and vegetables where washing procedures are unknown (excluding pasteurised or canned juices)
- Deli meats which are eaten without further cooking or heating, such as pate, ham, Strasbourg (Stras) and salami and cooked and diced chicken (as used in sandwich shops)
- Any unpasteurised milk or foods made from unpasteurised milk
- Soft-serve icecreams
- Soft cheeses, such as brie, camembert, ricotta and feta (these are safe if cooked and served hot)
- Ready-to-eat foods, including leftover meats, which have been refrigerated for more than one day
- Dips and salad dressings in which vegetables may have been dipped
- Raw vegetable garnishes.
7. Quit smoking
If you’re ready to be a mum it’s time to quit smoking. Smoking during pregnancy can effect the development of baby. Studies show smoking can affect the reproductive system making it is harder to fall pregnant, that infertility treatments are less effective and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is less successful. If you quit smoking you are more likely to conceive naturally and without delay.
According to the Australian Government Health Department the risks of smoking when pregnant include:
Risks to mum of smoking while pregnant include:
- miscarriage — losing your baby
- ectopic pregnancy — where the embryo implants outside the uterus
- problems with the placenta — such as covering the cervix (placenta previa), or separating too early from the uterus (placental abruption)
- pre-eclampsia — you develop high blood pressure and swelling — which can be fatal
Risks to your baby in utero of smoking include:
- dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- being born too early — not fully developed
- being born underweight — at higher risk of delayed development and/or disease
- having birth defects such as a cleft lip or cleft palate
- being harder to settle and having feeding problems
- having middle ear infections or permanent hearing impairment
- long term damage to the lungs, brain and blood — for example, your baby may develop asthma or suffer from pneumonia
A baby exposed to tobacco smoke in the womb and through second-hand smoke as an infant is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and be obese as an adult. This risk is increased even if they are non-smokers throughout their lives.
If you want to quit smoking you can access Quitline, see your doctor or speak to your pharmacist for more information and support.
8. Avoid alcohol or illicit drugs
Time to cut down on the partying! Alcohol can reduce sperm count and result in infertility. Alcohol during pregnancy can cause mental and physical defects in the developing baby. Illicit drugs can cause harm to your unborn baby.
Good luck in checking off the important steps in this pregnancy planning checklist. Here’s to falling pregnant and a healthy, happy journey towards parenthood. You’ll be writing baby name lists in no time!
References: Effects and safety of periconceptional folate supplementation for preventing birth defects. Cochrane Review.
Tanya Burgess (BPharm, Grad Dip Clinical Pharmacy) is the mother of 3 little girls and is a qualified pharmacist with over 14 years hospital pharmacy experience. To see all Tanya’s articles, click here.