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3 May 2023

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Your Pre-Pregnancy Checklist

Dr Kath Whitton

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Dr Kath Whitton

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If you’re about to move from contraception to conception, there are a few key steps you can take which will not only boost your fertility but also ensure your lifestyle and health is prepped and ready to welcome a baby.

Fertility Checklist:

Visit your GP

An important step is to visit your GP for a pre-conception health check-up. This could include antenatal blood tests, including checks for rubella and chickenpox status, blood group and antibodies, Rh factor, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, and a full blood count.

They’ll ensure that your cervical screening test is up to date and review any current medications and their implications for pregnancy. It’s also a good opportunity to re-connect and develop a positive relationship with your GP – they will often be your go-to source of support as you navigate this new chapter in your life!

Consider pre-conception genetic screening

This is the perfect time to consider doing a simple saliva test to assess whether you are at risk of having a child affected by a genetic condition. It’s estimated that 1 in 20 Australians are a carrier of cystic fibrosis (CF), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and fragile X syndrome (FXS).  If both partners are carriers of the same genetic condition, there will then be a 1 in 4 risk of passing that genetic disease to their offspring. It makes sense to go through screening to make sure that you and your partner are not carrying the same genetic variations for peace of mind.

Review your lifestyle to give fertility a boost

Wondering how to boost your chances? Regardless of what stage of the pre-pregnancy journey you’re at, it makes sense that you’d want to give your body the best chance of conception. Some simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference. We recommend both you and your partner, if applicable, adopt these simple lifestyle strategies:

1. Avoid smoking

Did you know that smoking damages the DNA in eggs and sperm? This means that it may become more difficult and take longer to conceive if you or your partner smokes. Clear the air for your fertility and avoid smoking.

2. Do not take body-building steroids

Although testosterone is associated with enhanced “maleness” any use on anabolic can suppress sperm production. Do not do this if you are trying to have a family. Avoid recreational drugs, too. For both partners, recreational drugs can have a negative impact on natural fertility. For example, studies have shown that smoking cannabis can affect the sperm's swimming capacity.

3. Maintain a healthy weight with a balanced diet and exercise

Take the opportunity to check in with your body – because weight can impact fertility. This is because being significantly overweight or underweight can disrupt the hormones that regulate both ovulation and sperm production. The main goal here is to help your body be in the best possible health, rather than worrying about a number on a scale. Focus on eating right, with consistent exercise habits - this will ultimately improve your fertility as well as long-term physical and mental wellbeing.

4. Enjoy alcohol only in moderation

Having a glass of wine at the end of a long week may typically be your go-to, and that’s ok. If you’re trying to conceive, we recommend both partners stick within the safe drinking guidelines – no more than 2 standard drinks per day. And try prioritising some alcohol-free days per week. Once pregnancy is achieved, there is no safe amount of alcohol.

5. Start your folic acid engines

Folic acid is a form of the B vitamin folate, a crucial ingredient for growing a healthy baby. Start taking folic acid tablets at least one month before conception and continuing throughout your pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. You may also want to review other pre-pregnancy supplements with your GP.

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