For any couple trying to conceive, a preconception care plan should be carefully considered.
Both the man and woman need to be as healthy as possible, thus ensuring optimal fertility. A preconception care routine can also help guard against miscarriage and other pregnancy complications.
Even before conception occurs good nutrition and health of the parents can influence the health of the upcoming growing baby. It is believed that the condition of the fathers sperm can also influence the overall outcome of the child, not just the mother! A healthy baby after all is your ultimate goal, and is a product of both parents!
Many different factors need to be acknowledged, and a four to six month preconception care plan is recommended (some say even longer). This a time for your body to be toxin free and to become well nourished.
Why do you need four to six months preparation? Because it takes at least three months for sperm cells to be developed enough for ejaculation, and it takes about four months for immature eggs to mature enough to be released during ovulation. How you treat your body and what you put into it during this time period can ultimately interfere with this reproductive process. This is why a preconception care plan is so important.
Please, share the relevant information below with your partner!
This is something that can be easily overlooked! As well as being prepared physically, you also need to be prepared psychologically! Matters to consider include -
Do you or your partner suffer from any form of mental illness, for example depression? You must both be in a healthy mental state. Seek help from your doctor or a counselor if necessary as part of your preconception care plan.
Are you both ‘ready’ for a baby? No easy answer there. It seems that nobody is actually totally ready, but you will benefit from thinking about these matters! Adding a baby to your family will require some big changes! The more prepared you are beforehand, the easier you can slip into parenthood!
Deal with any stress in your life as part of your preconception care plan, as this can cause havoc with your body. Stress can cause problems with hormones and the reproductive system, contributing to infertility issues. You also do not want to begin pregnancy with any troubles on your mind. Deal with issues early on before they escalate. Read up on this important issue in our stress and infertility page.
Management of existing health conditions
Next, both partners should visit their doctors as part of your preconception care plan. You need to let your doctor know that you are trying to conceive, and creating a preconception care plan, so you can have the appropriate medical checks done. Routine tests such as bloods should be taken for precautionary measures and for general health checks.
Diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions that can contribute towards fertility problems need to be addressed. Any existing medical conditions need to be monitored (for example diabetes).
Family history from both partners, including any medical problems or genetic factors that may interfere with fertility/pregnancy or baby need to be investigated as part of your preconception care plan.
Make sure all immunizations are up to date (especially the rubella vaccine for women). Women who are in the preconception care stage need to be checked for rubella (German measles) immunity. This is done by a routine blood test. Women in the first three months of pregnancy who develop rubella have a very high risk of the baby being affected by serious health problems.
Men and women
Discuss with your doctor regarding any prescription medicines you may be taking. Ask about how they may affect fertility or pregnancy. Your doctor may want to change the prescription, or else they can advise you on the safest correct dosages. Regarding over the counter medications, try to take only what is absolutely necessary. Ask your pharmacist if a particular medicine is suitable to take while trying to conceive. Do without if you can.
This also applies to some herbal/vitamin remedies or even essential oils, as some can interfere with fertility or pregnancy. Vitamins and minerals should not exceed the maximum safe levels of intake. Always check with your health care provider regarding what is safe, and always check the labels on a products packaging.
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 woman differs with how her body will react after she stops taking contraception. Some will get their periods within weeks, but some take much longer. Some women find that their menstrual cycles are irregular, and this may last for up to six months before settling.
However, while taking contraception hormones, they may have 'masked' any other 'irregularities' of the reproductive system that may have been going on. This is because they regulate your periods for you, or in some cases of taking the Depo Provera, stop them from occurring at all. Seek medical advise if you are at all concerned.
Most doctors recommend waiting until you have had at least three normal menstrual cycles before trying for a pregnancy, as part of your preconception care plan. This will allow you to determine your date of ovulation, and it is easier to determine an expected due date when pregnant. Try using condoms during this time.
Yes guys, it is advisable to have an analysis of sperm count and quality done as part of your preconception care plan. Don't be shy! These tests can be organized through your doctor or a fertility clinic. Some guys shudder at the thought! If this sounds familiar the good news is there are now home sperm analysis testing kits available. You can take the test and find out the results in the privacy of your own home! Find out all about this subject in our sperm analysis page.
What if the test shows a result that you did not want to see? No need to panic just yet! A lot of factors can influence sperm count and quality. Results can even change on a weekly basis.
What this means is that sperm health can be significantly influenced by factors such as smoking, alcohol, hidden toxins, diet, x-rays, etc. Therefore looking after yourself properly can help increase sperm count and quality quite dramatically. We have all the essential 'guy' information regarding how to increase sperm count naturally.
If you are concerned by your test results, speak to your doctor for advice. You may need to rule out other medical factors contributing towards poor sperm quality.
Another thing that men need to be aware of is raised temperature of the testicles. Sperm needs to stay at a cooler temperature than the rest of the body (reason why the testicles hang where they do)! Beware of hot baths, saunas or electric blankets as they can significantly affect sperm count and health. Circulation is another consideration as overly tight underwear crossing your legs, or too much bike riding (circulation cut off by the seat) can cause sperm problems!
We also suggest not using a laptop on your knees (heat produced from battery) or keeping cell phones in pockets near the crotch! There is some question regarding the safety of the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that electronic devices emit.
Both partners need to know their blood types
In addition to the blood group types A,B,O and AB there is also the Rh factor (positive or negative). If the women has a Rh negative blood type she will need to speak to her doctor about pregnancy management. Both partners need to check what their blood types are (surprisingly, not every person knows) as part of their preconception care plan.
A women is at risk if she is Rh negative and her partner is Rh positive. Most people are Rh positive, but a small number of people are Rh negative. If the mother is positive and fetus negative, a mother - fetus incompatibility can occur if the baby’s blood enters the mothers bloodstream.
The mothers body will then create antibodies against the Rh positive baby, as her system is trying to guard against the ‘foreign body' (so to speak). In other words, the mums immune system can cause death of the baby by attacking the baby’s blood causing the red blood cells to be killed off. This is called hemolytic disease.
Luckily this situation can be prevented and managed via an injection called Rh immuniglobulan (Rh Ig) which is a blood product. This helps suppress the mothers ability to react to the Rh positive blood cells of the baby.
Men and women
As part of your preconception care plan you need to check with your doctor about what your ideal weight should be, as being underweight or overweight can contribute to fertility problems through hormone imbalances (this has been proven to affect both men and women).
To stay fit and help with circulation, talk to your doctor about the best exercise plan to suit your needs, as this can help improve fertility levels. On the other hand, too much over exertion can be bad for women or men who are trying to conceive, so moderation is the key.
Women who become pregnant need advice on the most appropriate form, and amount of exercise. Each women will need an individual routine.
Men and women
A healthy diet is essential. Studies suggest that a nutritionally balanced diet (organics are best) can greatly enhance fertility and help to re-balance hormones that are essential for reproduction. There are nutritional guidelines and recommendations for fertility health, as there are also foods to beware of! Both partners will gain from reading about these subjects under fertility diet This is one area of preconception care which you can have some fun with, creating and experimenting with delicious new recipes!
Men and women
There are vitamin/herbal remedies that are especially researched and designed for preconception care and for use when trying to conceive (natural fertility supplements). These remedies are made to significantly help enhance fertility, providing all the best and safest ingredients that are beneficial for your body and reproductive system.
It is highly recommended to use these formulas during the preconception care plan stage. There are different ingredients for males and females because both need very different nutrients.
Female supplements will also help prepare her body for a healthy pregnancy, thus ensuring the best possible start for her baby. Folic acid in particular is extremely important for women to take in the months leading up to and beginning of pregnancy. This type of B vitamin is well renowned to help prevent certain brain and spinal cord defects.
If you are taking any prescription medicines it pays to check with your doctor regarding any natural supplements you may want to take, to make sure there is no adverse reaction between them.
Some studies suggest caution with any topical solutions (for example, some acne medications) which may contain high Vitamin A levels. These can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. It is thought that high dosages of Vitamin A can cause a condition with the fetus called retinoid embryopathy (abnormalities of central nervous system, thymos, face, ear and heart). Although this is rare, doctors caution any women about using products with high Vitamin A content in the preconception care phase or during pregnancy.
When eating a nutritionally balanced diet, it is very hard to consume large amounts of Vitamin A (over 10,000IU) international units per day, but some vitamin supplements or processed foods may contain larger than normal daily amounts. It pays to check up on what you are buying. It is also thought that consuming large amounts of liver (high in Vitamin A) can cause problems. Around 5,000IU is considered a safe daily intake.
Caution for men and women
There are hidden toxins to watch out for including chemicals that can leach out of plastic, and pesticides on food. Both of these have been proven to considerably lower fertility levels.
There are also heavy metals that can get into your system from different sources (for example lead from old paint being inhaled or absorbed through the skin). This is especially a risk when renovating a house, as couples often tend to do up their homes before a baby arrives.
Men in particular, tend to work in industries that involve hazardous chemicals and heavy metal toxins. Care must be taken to wear all safety and protective gear. Make sure the employer is following all health and safety regulations. Learn more about these toxins and other dangers under environmental health hazards and you will be surprised at how rampant this issue is affecting us all.
Guys need to be aware of radiation/x-ray risk, as the testicles are very susceptible to damage. During routine x-rays the testicles should be protected to preserve sperm production capability.
Women need to be aware of mercury in some species of fish. While eating fish is important for specific nutrients and protein, you should check with your local health authorities or fisheries department regarding which fish types contain above normal mercury levels. Some shellfish could also have traces of mercury due to pollutants in the surrounding area. Beware of some canned fish.
Fish with high mercury levels are usually the larger fish breeds, live to an older age, and tend to be at the top of the food chain. Women need to consider mercury exposure for a developing baby in the womb as this can be harmful to the fetal nervous system. As a women does not tend to know that she is pregnant straight away, it pays to think about mercury in preconception care.
Caution for men and women
Cut down on coffee/caffeine (including some teas, cola, chocolate and some energy drinks) as part of your preconception care plan. At least for the present time. Caffeine may also be found in some prescription or over the counter medications.
There are mixed studies regarding caffeine, but generally they all recommend to cut right back, as studies suggest it may cause fertility problems or delayed conception if too much is consumed.
How much is too much? Unfortunately there is no definite answer as studies all differ, but their are recommendations.
Men are advised to stick to under 300mg (250mg is even better) of caffeine a day.
Women are advised not to consume more than 150mg per day, just in case they should become pregnant. Pregnant women need to be aware that heavy consumption of coffee/caffeine is thought to have a link in relation to miscarriage (especially in the first few months).
So for women especially, it is therefore recommended to play safe in the preconception care phase, just in case conception does occur. For most people having a ‘cuppa’ means the ritual of having a break and a sit down, so find yourself a substitute drink for those times. If you decide to stop drinking coffee, wean yourself off slowly, as suddenly giving up caffeine can cause ‘withdrawal headaches'. For more information check out our caffeine and fertility page.
Caution for men and women
There is no doubt regarding the problems alcohol can cause with fertility for men and women alike. Alcohol disrupts hormone production causing problems for women with ovulation and menstruation. Men can have decreased sperm count, and overall quality, not to mention the risk of erectile difficulties.
If the mother drinks during pregnancy, there is no ‘safe’ regulatory amount. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy puts the baby at risk of ‘Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder’ (FASD). Heavy alcohol intake during early pregnancy may cause miscarriage or small birth weight, as well as risk of malformation or mental impairment. Smaller amounts of alcohol (one or two drinks a day) may also impair mental development and cause behavioral problems later for the child. Drinking heavily later in the pregnancy may impair mental development and growth of the child.
There have been cases of the mother having only consumed a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy, but still having complications. Therefore it is advised for any woman trying to conceive to give up alcohol for the time being. The risk is too great. If you drink, then you should investigate more about this important topic under infertility and alcohol.
Caution for men and women
Smoking tobacco is proven to be bad for the reproductive systems for men and women, and is full of toxic additives. Cigarette smoking lowers sperm count and health. The genetic material (blueprint for life) inside the sperm cells and eggs can be effected by the poisons in cigarettes, therefore the baby is at increased risk of birth defects.
Smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of the child developing a whole range of complications and illnesses. Secondhand smoke is just as damaging, so ask family and friends if they wouldn’t mind smoking outside. For more information read about the health effects of smoking. If you are serious about having a baby, now is the time to do something about your smoking! Talk to your doctor about your options. Do not use nicotine patches or gum throughout your preconception care plan, as this can also have negative effects (plan ahead).
Caution for men and women
The taking of recreational drugs must be stopped as this can cause major fertility problems if being taken during the preconception phase. If taken during pregnancy there is a high risk of complications for the baby. Certain drugs adversely affect sperm, causing low sperm count, decreased motility or abnormalities. Women can have ovulatory and menstrual irregularities.
Marijuana or cannabis smoking is also damaging. Marijuana use has been associated with lowering the fertilizing capacity of sperm and lowering the count. The THC (active chemical) in marijuana has been shown to linger in the woman’s reproductive system, and can be secreted out in her vaginal fluid. This THC can then harm any sperm that is ejaculated into the women. Some studies suggest THC can increase the chances of an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.
Ask your doctor for help, and they will only be glad to help you. Anything you discuss with your doctor is totally confidential.
Men and women
A course of detoxification is a highly recommended part of your preconception care plan. A detox can help rid your body of those unwanted heavy metals, chemicals and other unknown toxins that you have inherently ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled. All toxins can interfere with the homeostatic status of your bodily functions.
Have any predictable dental work done as early on as possible. If you are having mercury fillings removed, make sure you do your homework and find a good dentist who specializes in the 'safe' removal of mercury fillings, to minimize mercury vapor exposure whilst they are being taken out (this should be done at the very beginning of your preconception care phase, four - five months).
Have regular dental hygiene checks and teeth cleaning before and during pregnancy. Bad oral health can lead to other serious health conditions. Maternal periodontal disease is an infection of the gingiva and supporting tooth structure, and this is caused due to a rise in hormone levels during pregnancy. This condition has been associated with health problems during pregnancy, and premature birth.
During the first trimester, the fetus is undergoing organ development and it is best to avoid any unnecessary risks. Postpone any non urgent dentistry work until the second trimester or wait until after delivery if possible. During the third trimester you will probably feel too uncomfortable lying in the dental chair. If you have a dental emergency, let your dentist know straight away that you are pregnant, so they can discuss your options regarding safety.
This is an infection caused by the listeria bacteria. This bacteria is found in soil and feces of animals or humans that carry the bacteria, and can be passed onto food. Some foods are more likely to spread the bacteria than others.
Listeriosis can cause miscarriage or stillbirth and cause meningitis in newborns, as well as vision or hearing loss problems in children. The same cautions should be taken by women in the preconception care phase as when pregnant, just in case this infection is passed on in the early weeks of pregnancy before the women is aware she is expecting. Pregnant women tend to be more susceptible to this infection because of changes in their immune systems. The foods that are more likely to carry the bacteria and precautions are as follows -
Washing hands is essential before handling food. Cutting boards and utensils that have come into contact with raw foods must be washed thoroughly between being used, and also make sure bench tops are kept clean. Food must be stored and prepared correctly, and any raw foods should be stored in the bottom shelf of your fridge.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is found in soil and the feces of infected animals and humans.
The infection is mild normally, and if you own a cat chances are you may have already contracted this at some time. However, a pregnant women puts her unborn baby at great risk if she should contract this parasite. This is a parasite that can be contracted through coming into contact with cat feces while cleaning out a litter box, or by inhaling the parasite if it should become airborne while removing the litter.
Infection during pregnancy can cause death in a fetus and disorders later in a child’s life including mental retardation and seizures. As with precautions taken during pregnancy, this parasite must also be avoided during the preconception care stage. Take these necessary precautions -
All the above information might seem overwhelming for sure, but having a child is not something to be taken lightly. What you have just read will help you with your chances of conceiving and bringing a healthy child into the world. If you are ready to become a parent, you will not mind making the necessary changes and improvements to your lifestyle with your preconception care plan. The rewards will be immense, so good luck guys and gals!
These claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.