Focussing on your health and
wellbeing prior to becoming pregnant (preconception health) is about people
taking control and choosing healthy habits, living well, being healthy and
staying healthy throughout their lives. It is important for all women and men,
regardless of whether they plan to have a baby now, or in the future. After
all, a lot of pregnancies are unplanned.
Preconception health is about making a
plan for the future and taking the steps to get there.
At Complementary birth we can help you to
get ready and prepare for pregnancy. We can develop a tailor made package that
is just right for you.
for further information
Planning for pregnancy
If you are thinking
about having a baby, or actively trying to conceive, it is not too early to
start getting ready for pregnancy. Preconception health and health care focus
on things you can do before and between pregnancies to increase the chances of
having a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. For some women, getting their body
ready for pregnancy takes a few months. For other women, it might take longer.
Preconception health is also important for men. It means
choosing to get and stay as healthy as possible and helping others to do the
same. As a partner, it means encouraging and supporting the health of your
partner. As a father, it means protecting your children. Preconception health
is about providing yourself and your loved ones with a bright and healthy
If you would like any
assistance or help in getting healthy please contact us for further
Preconception health is a precious gift to babies. For
babies, preconception health means their parents took steps to get healthy
before pregnancy. Such babies are less likely to be born early (preterm) or
have a low birthweight. Preconception health gives babies the best chance for a
healthy start in life.
Ensuring preconception health is a great way to create a
healthy family. The health of a family relies on the health of the people in
the family. Taking care of your health now will help to ensure a better quality
of life for yourself and your family in the years to come.
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Issues (Back to topics)
Existing medical conditions
have any existing medical conditions (e.g. depression, epilepsy, diabetes,
thyroid conditions, eating disorders) you should discuss plans to become
pregnant with your Doctor or Specialist. They can advise you on any special
requirements for managing the condition during pregnancy and determine any
changes to current medications that may be required before conception or during
Issues (Back to topics)
Over the past
twenty years, the number of couples experiencing problems with fertility has
At least 25% of
all couples planning a baby will have trouble conceiving and more and more are
turning to fertility treatments to help them have a baby.
Both women and men are
at their most fertile in their early twenties. However, many people today wait
until they're in their mid 30's before they start planning for a family. The
pressure of a ticking biological clock can become a real stress for couples if
natural conception doesn't occur after 1-2 years.
over time. In women, fertility declines more quickly with age, with a rapid
decline in fertility seen after the age of 35. Around one-third of couples in
which the woman is over 35 have fertility problems. This rises to two-thirds
when the woman is over 40. This has a number of causes, but particularly the
decline in the quality of the eggs released by the ovaries.
gradually declines from around the age of 40, but most men are able to father
children into their 50s and beyond.
infections, alcohol, smoking, being overweight or underweight, nutrient
deficiencies, impaired nutrient absorption, heavy metal toxicity and
increasingly stress all play a role in declining fertility rates.
Complementary Birth can help you to prepare your body and mind for conception and pregnancy. Through a program of diet and exercise advice you will learn what steps to take to have the best chance of conceiving. In addition a personalised hypnotherapy course can be utilised if health risks such as smoking or obesity are affecting your chances of becoming pregnant. See 'Our Services' for more information.
If you've been trying to conceive for a year or more by having regular unprotected sex and are still not pregnant, you should see your GP. Your GP can do tests to identify possible fertility problems, and can provide advice on the next steps.
Supplements (Back to topics)
A healthy diet is
an important part of promoting a healthy lifestyle, but in particular if you
are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Eating well whilst you are trying
to become pregnant can increase the chances of you becoming pregnant as it
ensures ovulation is occurring as it should
(1). Once pregnant, a healthy
diet helps ensure the baby grows and develops properly and can reduce the risk
of you developing complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational
You should aim to cut
down on sugar and sugary foods and processed and refined foods such as ready
meals and fast foods as these are often high in fat and low in nutritional
value. High calorie and high fat foods can contribute to weigh gain and
increase the risk of heart disease.
A diet based on fruit
and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, poultry, fish and dairy foods is
recommended. You should aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables
a day. Eating a varied diet will help ensure you have adequate levels of
nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, potassium and vitamins C, B6 and E; all of
which play a role in fertility and maintaining a healthy pregnancy
If you need help to adopt a healthy
lifestyle, why not consider our range of complementary therapies that can help.
We can develop a specialised package just for you.
for further information
Iron is essential for the production of
haemoglobin (Hb), which helps to carry oxygen in red blood cells around the
body. Without enough iron, your blood cells would not be able to carry
sufficient blood around your body. This is known as iron deficiency anaemia.
It is therefore a good
idea to ensure that your iron levels are adequate in the preconception period
so that these levels can be more easily maintained during pregnancy.
Iron rich foods:
- Red meat is the best source
of iron but it is also found in chicken. Avoid liver and liver products as they
contain high levels of Vitamin A which could harm your baby.
- Dark green leafy vegetables
including spinach, cabbage, broccoli and watercress
- Fish, especially oily fish
- Pulses (lentils, beans, chick
- Bread, especially
- Dried fruit
- Iron-enriched breakfast
Consuming foods that
contain vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron contained in non-meat sources.
Tea may reduce absorption of iron from foods so avoid drinking tea immediately
before, during or after meals.
It is important that you get enough Vitamin D while you are trying
to become pregnant, during your pregnancy, and while you are breastfeeding. Low
levels of vitamin D are associated with fertility problems and problems during
Breast milk contains
a low level of vitamin D, so it important for you to ensure that you have an
adequate intake of vitamin D in the later stages of pregnancy so your baby has
adequate supplies after birth.
The best source of
Vitamin D is sunlight but having a diet rich in Vitamin D helps too. Vitamin D
may be found in oily fish, eggs, meat and fortified cereals and margarine. You
may choose to take a Vitamin D supplement (10 micrograms a day) to ensure you
get enough vitamin D.
Eating fish is an important part of a
healthy diet in the preconception period and during pregnancy. However, larger
and longer living fish such as swordfish, shark or marlin can contain higher
levels of mercury. At high levels, mercury can affect the unborn baby's nervous
system. Women who are planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant should limit
their intake of fish types that may have higher mercury levels. Try not to eat
more than 4 medium sized cans or 2 portions of fresh oily fish per week (fresh
tuna, mackerel, sardines, salmon and trout). Avoid raw shellfish (ie oysters)
as they can contain the harmful bacteria that may cause food poisoning
Listeriosis and other food borne illness
Listeriosis is caused by the listeria bacteria and can cause miscarriage,
still birth or severe illness in the newborn baby. During the preconception
period and throughout pregnancy women should avoid eating foods more likely to
contain listeria including:
- Soft, semi soft and mould
ripened cheeses such as brie, camembert, stilton, Shropshire blue. You can eat
hard cheeses such as cheddar and other cheese made from pasteurised milk
including cottage cheese and mozzarella
- Avoid eating all types of pate
including vegetable pate
- Avoid soft whipped ice-cream
from kiosks or vans as it may contain salmonella or other bacteria that may
cause food poisoning.
- Make sure you cook eggs well
until the whites and yolks are solid to avoid the risk of salmonella
- Make sure all your meat is
well cooked, especially chicken.
Some women choose not
to eat peanuts when they are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, it remains
unclear whether eating peanuts affects the chances of your baby developing a
peanut allergy. Unless you have a peanut allergy, you can continue to choose to
eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts when you are pregnant
You may be more
susceptible to food borne illness during pregnancy as the immune system is
suppressed. Preparing and storing food safely are therefore extremely
To help reduce the risk of developing a food borne
illness you can:
- Wash your hands before
preparing or serving food
- Wash all fresh fruit and
- Store raw foods in the bottom
of the fridge
- Keep and serve cold foods
- Cook and serve hot foods above
Folate (folic acid)
Folate is a
B-group vitamin that is extremely important in the preconception period as it
helps prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. Folate
requirements are also much higher during pregnancy. Because the neural tube is
formed before most women are aware they are pregnant it is recommended women
take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement for at least one month prior to
pregnancy and for the first three months after conception. Current national
guidelines recommend that women who have a family history of spina bifida,
multiple pregnancy or have certain medical conditions such as Diabetes or a BMI
over 30, should take a higher level of Folic Acid (500 microgram). This
supplement should be in addition to eating foods rich in folate such as
cereals, bread, green leafy vegetables, legumes and fruit.
and medications (Back to topics)
Caffeine is a stimulant found in
coffee, tea, cocoa, cola, energy drinks and chocolate. A light to moderate
intake of caffeine does not appear to interfere with conception. However, high
consumption of caffeine can affect fertility and increase the risk of
miscarriage. You should limit your caffeine intake to a maximum 2-3 cups per
Studies on the affect of moderate
alcohol consumption on a woman's fertility have produced conflicting results.
For women who are pregnant the risk from low-level drinking (i.e. 1 to 2 drinks
per week) is likely to be small. However, because no safe limit can be set, we
advise that avoiding alcohol during the three months prior to conception and
during pregnancy is the safest option.
1UK Unit of alcohol
is 10mlsm or 8g of pure alcohol
A unit is
- ½ a standard (175mls)
glass of wine at 11.5% ABV or
- ½ a pint or ordinary
strength beer, cider or lager at 3.5% ABV or
- A single measure (25mls) of
spirits at 40% ABV
Alcohol crosses the
placenta, and because tour baby cannot process alcohol as fast as you do, your
baby is exposed to the harmful effects of alcohol for a longer period of time.
Too much alcohol can harm your baby's development and in excessive cases the
baby may develop physical and mental problems associated with Fetal Alcohol
Syndrome. Binge drinking is especially harmful.
If you have
difficulty reducing your alcohol intake, please speak to your midwife or health
care professional who will provide support and refer you to the appropriate
The use of recreational
drugs should be avoided both in the preconception period and during pregnancy.
Women who use recreational drugs or have a drug dependency should seek help
from their midwife or health care professional to ensure that they receive the
support and care they need to stabilise, stop or reduce use during pregnancy.
Women planning a pregnancy who
take prescription medications, over-the-counter medications or complementary
medicines should discuss their wish to become pregnant with all their health
professionals (doctor, homeopath, therapist etc). Current medications may need
to be re-evaluated to ensure they are safe to take in the preconception period
and during pregnancy. Women may need to switch to another medication or change
their dose. It is not advisable for women to simply stop taking prescription
medications without first consulting their doctor.
Smoking (Back to topics)
Quitting smoking is an important step in preconception care as it can interfere
with fertility and the ability to conceive, both naturally and through the use
of assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF. Ideally women should aim to
quit several months before pregnancy, but stopping or reducing smoking at any
time is still beneficial.
The impact of smoking
in pregnancy is well documented being linked to increased risk of miscarriage,
premature birth, low birth weight, cot death and problems with the baby's
growth and development, including cleft lip. Babies who have been born too
early can develop problems with breathing, infection and feeding. Smoking in
pregnancy can cause permanent cardiovascular damage to children putting them at
a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in later life. Smoking in pregnancy has
been linked to the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD) in children.
Second hand smoke is
also harmful as up to 75% of the cigarette is spread into the air and can
increase the risk of cot death, respiratory infections and ear infections in
Stopping smoking at
any time during your pregnancy will increase your chances of having a healthier
Hypnosis to help you stop smoking
Complementary birth we are trained to deliver stop smoking interventions and we
can offer a tailor made programme of complementary therapies and formal stop
smoking interventions to help you reduce and stop smoking. For further
information please click here
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
pregnant women should stop smoking during pregnancy without the use of NRT.
However, if this is not possible, NRT may be recommended. See the
East Cheshire NHS website for
maintain a healthy Weight (Back to topics)
Being over or under weight can affect fertility. Women who are overweight or
obese can experience ovulation problems. Similarly, being below an ideal weight
or having fat levels that are too low can result in irregular menstrual cycles.
Maintaining a healthy
weight, therefore, can help regulate ovulation and menstrual cycles,
consequently improving the chances of you becoming pregnant. Being at an ideal
weight before conception also allows you to adjust to the normal weight gain
associated with pregnancy.
It is important to
maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy to reduce the risk of
The key to achieving
and maintaining a healthy weight isn't about short-term dietary changes. It's
about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical
Activity (Back to topics)
is important for all women for physical and emotional wellbeing. Being fit and
active in the preconception period will help to manage the physical and
emotional changes that pregnancy and motherhood bring. If you are planning to
become pregnant you should aim to participate in 30 minutes of moderate
intensity activity on most days of the week.
However, you should
inform your exercise instructor if you become pregnant as some exercises may
not be suitable or may need to be modified during your pregnancy. In general,
you should avoid activities that will raise the body temperature too high,
limit oxygen supply or increase the risk of falling. This includes activities
such as scuba diving, parachuting, waterskiing, martial arts, gymnastics, horse
riding and trampolining. Strained lifting and exercises done lying back-down
should be avoided during the second half of pregnancy. Activities that women
find particularly beneficial include walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates.
Women planning a
pregnancy should also perform regular pelvic floor exercises. The pelvic floor
is a group of muscles which span the area under the pelvis. Having a strong
pelvic floor can provide protection against urinary incontinence, which can be
a problem for women following childbirth. Pelvic floor exercises are designed
to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor by actively tightening them and
lifting them at intervals.
How to do pelvic
Squeeze the muscles that you use to prevent a bowel
At the same time squeeze the muscles that you use to prevent the
flow of urine.
Repeat these exercises quickly, tightening and releasing the
Repeat these exercises slowly, try to tighten the muscles
and count up to ten before releasing.
Repeat these up to ten times.
for 3 sets per day
It is important to
continue to perform pelvic floor exercises following birth. For more
information about the importance of pelvic floor exercises and how to undertake
them, you can attend one of our
wellbeing (Back to topics)
Mental health is
how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. To be at your best, you need
to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried,
anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away
and they interfere with your daily life, you need to seek help. Talk to your
doctor or another health professional about your feelings
pregnancy and parenthood are times of significant change and can be
overwhelming as well as exciting. A significant number of women can be affected
by depression during pregnancy and/or after their baby is born.
While physical health
is often the focus of preconception information, a woman's mental and emotional
health is just as important and is closely linked with physical health. Women
who are taking medications for a mental or emotional health issue should
consult with their doctor if possible prior to conception as some medications
can affect the developing baby. Women who have experienced mental or emotional
health issues in the past should also consult with their health professional as
this time can exacerbate existing issues or trigger recurrences of past ones.
All our classes focus
on promoting emotional wellbeing through the use of relaxation techniques.
Click here for further information about antenatal classes available
Relationships (Back to topics)
preconception period can be an anxious time. Women and their partners might be
worried about their ability to conceive, what type of parents they will be and
the impact of children on their relationship. Discussing these fears with each
other, along with expectations of parenthood, can help overcome anxieties and
make issues easier to deal with if they arise.
The physical and
emotional changes that occur during pregnancy can be drastic and difficult to
cope with for both partners, even in pregnancies that are planned.
Understanding what is normal can help, as can discussing and communicating
fears with each other or a health professional.
Once you are pregnant, be sure to keep up all of
your new healthy habits and see your midwife regularly throughout your
pregnancy for antenatal care.
Chavarro J, Rich-Edwards J, Rosner B & Willet W 2007, Diet and Lifestyle in
the Prevention of Ovulatory Disorder Infertility, Obstetrics & Gynecology,
vol 110, issue 5 pp1050-1058
2. Lerchbaum E &
Obermayer-Pietsch B 2012, Vitamin D and fertility - a systematic review,
European Journal of Endocrinology, Jan 24