Preconception Planning Guide

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So you’ve decided to have a baby! You will probably already be thinking about names, what to dress your baby in, the things you will be doing with them, what schools to send them to, what careers they will have. And that is before you are even pregnant! If you do decide to try to get pregnant, there are a few things you should do to make it happen, besides the obvious of intercourse of course!

Your General Health

The first thing you need to do before starting to try and get pregnant is make sure you are in good health. It is important to have a full health check by your general practitioner to ensure you do not have any underlying health conditions. Your general practitioner will also be able to advise you on whether or not you can fall pregnant with any medication you are taking and potentially change your medication if necessary.

Secondly, you should take some pre pregnancy vitamins that include folic acid, preferable for at least nine weeks before falling pregnant. Also ensure you stop drinking, smoking and taking any other drugs that may influence a pregnancy well before you start trying to fall pregnant.

It is also important to adopt a healthy lifestyle in relation to your diet and exercise regime. This is true for both the male and female part, of course, as is cutting out harmful substances as described earlier. All too often, people forget about the importance of male general health when trying to conceive.

Also, and this is again true for both the male and female party, check whether there are any genetic conditions in your close family that could be of influence to your unborn child and ensure you have discussed these issues with your general practitioner.

Contraceptives

Once you have had your medical check up, have been taking pre pregnancy vitamins and have stopped taking harmful substances, it will be time to stop using any contraceptive you have been taking. With the exception of external contraceptives such as the male or female condom, it may take some time for the contraceptive to stop working all together. If you were taking the contraceptive pill, or were using a coil or an implant, for example, it may take up to a year before you are likely to fall pregnant and you need to take this into consideration.

Conception

Conception will only take place through intercourse or insemination. It is hence very important that you understand the process of conception. Some women choose to use ovulation test kits to ensure they are able to determine when the best time is for attempting conception. This can also be achieved by taking regular temperature measurements, which will tell you when to expect ovulation, or by making rough calculations in relation to the dates of menstruation: generally, ovulation will take place fourteen days after the start of your last menstruation.

When to Start Worrying

Many people expect and hope that as soon as they try to get pregnant, it will magically happen. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. High levels of stress whilst trying to conceive can make the process of conception much more difficult and should be avoided all together if possible. However, it can be difficult to not get stressed if you have done everything right – had a medical check up, took all your vitamins, lead a healthy lifestyle and check your ovulation – yet nothing happens.

There are many factors that can influence the reasons why you are not conceiving, stress being one of them, and more often than not it is just “one of those things”. However, generally if you have been unable to conceive for a year after trying, you may be referred to a gynaecologist or other reproductive specialist where different checkups will take place.

Stress about conceiving has been demonstrated to significantly reduce your chances of conception, so try to stay away from that if at all possible. Naturally, you want things to happen quickly, but generally the more you stress about it, the longer it will take.

Women will generally get checked for issues such as Lupus or ovarian cysts and blockages, to determine whether or not they are able to conceive. Men will often have a full sperm count to ensure their sperm is of sufficient quality to be able to conceive. Following this, steps can be undertaken to potentially facilitate the process of conception, or alternative options may be discussed with you.

If the woman is able to conceive, IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) may be an option. This is the process whereby several eggs are removed from the woman after a course of medication and these are impregnated with male sperm in a laboratory environment. Once this has happened, the most viable eggs (usually three) will be implanted into the woman’s womb. This is one of the reasons why having twins or multiples is more likely when choosing for IVF, as it is possible for each implanted egg to result in a pregnancy.

If for some reason you are unable to conceive, you may be asked to consider surrogacy, whereby a woman’s egg that has been impregnated with male sperm (if at all possible, they will use your egg and his sperm) is then implanted into a separate woman. There are many issues surrounding surrogacy, as you will be entrusting another person with the life of your baby and it has been known for an attachment to take place between the surrogate mother and the baby. Generally, you will be responsible for the medical bills of the surrogate and you will be expected to make a payment following birth to compensate for maternity rights.

The last available option could be to choose for adoption, if for some reason conception, IVF and surrogacy are either not possible or not options that you wish to take into consideration. Adoption can be a long and arduous process and it is not always possible to adopt a baby – in fact, many social services organisations will actively encourage you to adopt a child. This has many consequences, as often these children have been damaged by their birth parents and have many difficult emotional and possibly physical issues.

The most important part of the preconception planning guide, however, is to not expect the worse. If you are of good health and have undertaken all the necessary steps to ensure your body is ready for conception, there are generally no reasons why you should have to travel down the road of IVF, surrogacy or adoption. Ensure you know your body and your cycles, live a healthy lifestyle in supplements, diet and exercise, and most of all try to stay free from conception stresses. It has been determined that constantly thinking of getting pregnant is not helpful towards conceiving.

Furthermore, once intercourse becomes nothing but a means to an ends, sperm quality has been demonstrated to drop, making conception more difficult. Enjoy yourself and each other and remember that it will happen when you and your body are ready. And when those famous blue lines appear on the pregnancy test, continue to take care of your body and start thinking of names, nursery furniture, schools, activities and further careers of course!

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Susan Knowlton

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Susan Knowlton

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