Are you thinking of starting a family? Then it's vital that you and your partner are in prime health. After all, the health of baby is largely dependent on the health of both the mother and the father before conception. And if you both decide to make positive lifestyle changes before trying for a pregnancy, it will generally improve your chances of a quicker conception. Follow our pre-pregnancy checklists, for both women and men, to get on the right track.
To download your own pre-pregnancy checklist click here.
Evaluate your current birth control method. If you're taking the contraceptive pill, it's best to discontinue taking it a few months before you begin trying to conceive (using another method of protection if need be) to allow your natural cycle to return.
Start taking folic acid. Folic acid (also known as folate) is essential in any pregnancy and during pre-conception to reduce the chance of having a baby with neural tube defects (such as spina bifida). Taking 600 micrograms a day for up to 12 weeks before conception is recommended.
General health check. A thorough health check is a great idea if you are thinking about a pregnancy. Not only will this look at your general health and wellbeing, but it's a chance to get up to date on tests like your Pap smear and a breast check.
Existing medical conditions. It's important to discuss any pre-existing medical conditions with your doctor before you conceive.
Check your rubella immunity. Rubella in pregnancy can have severe consequences so be sure to have your immunity examined via a simple blood test.
Medications. Tell your doctor if you are taking any medications as they could affect female fertility or may not be recommended during pregnancy.
Medical or family history. Discuss with your GP any birth defects, disabilities or illnesses in your family or your partner's family that you think could be passed on to a future baby. If you have concerns, they can put you in touch with a genetics counsellor.
Visit the dentist. Schedule a check-up as dental health is very important during pregnancy.
Maintain a healthy weight. The closer you are to your healthy weight range, the better your chances of conceiving naturally and having a healthy pregnancy.
Diet and nutrition. It's important to get into the habit of eating three healthy, balanced meals a day if you are looking to get pregnant. Speak to your doctor about any supplements you may need to take.
Stop smoking, limit alcohol and caffeine intake. Remember, caffeine's not just contained in tea and coffee you'll also find it in chocolate, cola products, energy drinks and many over-the-counter medications.
Avoid contact with chemicals at work and in the home. Stay away from pesticides, chemical fertilisers and petrochemicals.
Keep track of your fertility cycle and have regular sex. Sex every two to three days will increase the chance of pregnancy.
Manage stress. Cut as much stress as possible from your daily life, relax and try to get eight hours sleep a night.
Avoid electric blankets, wearing tight-fitting underwear and having hot baths. There is an association between elevated testes temperature and reduced sperm health.
Have regular sex at the right time. Experts advise that having sex every two to three days optimises the chance of a pregnancy.
General health check. Think about having a general medical if you and your partner are looking to conceive. It may pick up something that could have an effect on your fertility.
Medications. Talk to your doctor about any prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you are using as they could affect your sperm health.
Medical or family history. You and your partner should discuss with your GP any genetic conditions in your family that could be passed on to a future baby.
Maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy body mass index level is important for male fertility.
Diet and nutrition. Ensure adequate nutrition through a healthy, balanced diet and take a supplement that supports sperm health.
Limit alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to lower the quality of sperm.
Stop smoking. Smoking can affect the condition of sperm while passive smoking will affect your partner's chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy.
Avoid contact with chemicals at work and in the home. Pesticides, chemical fertilisers and petrochemicals can lower sperm quality and quantity.
Manage stress. Stress can affect a couple's relationship and is likely to reduce libido and how often you have sex, so find ways to cut it from your life.
All material is © Mother & Baby: Making Babies