If you are planning to have a baby there are some things you may wish to consider, regarding how to maximize your fertility and to reduce the chances of problems in pregnancy.
Ideally – both partners need to be living a healthy lifestyle, cutting out cigarettes, reducing alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and eating sensibly. It is worth bearing in mind that being overweight can make pregnancy more high risk for both mother and baby.Taking folic acid supplements (400mcg daily) is advisable, ideally for 3 months before becoming pregnant.
For most couples the natural fertility rate is about 25% per month, so in any case it may take at least a few months to get pregnant. Waiting patiently for this can be difficult once the decision to try for baby has been made.
In order to become pregnant, women need to be ovulating regularly, the fallopian tubes need to be open, and the partners’ sperm need to be good quality. The timing also needs to be right, so sex needs to happen around ovulation. With modern stressful lives this isn’t always easy to achieve. If in doubt whether/when ovulation is taking place, it may be useful to purchase an ovulation kit. This can also help with timing.
Where women have pre-existing medical conditions, such as infection, inflammatory disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or epilepsy, it is essential to seek advice from a doctor before becoming pregnant (preconception counselling). This is because medication may need to be commenced, adjusted or changed, blood sugar levels optimised etc. If there is a history of pelvic infection, especially with chlamydia or if there is a history of endometriosis (see Pregnancy Problems) then the fallopian tubes may be damaged making natural conception difficult or unlikely. Sometimes this will require specialist investigations and treatment to improve fertility.
Increasingly, women may be in their late thirties or early forties before being in a position to start trying for a baby and wish to know what their chances are. There isn’t a perfectly accurate way to assess this but new blood tests such as Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) which test for ovarian reserve can be very useful in the decision making process.
We offer consultations for preconception counselling at the 19 Harley Street.
Once ovulation has taken place, the egg needs to be fertilised. It is the sperm which actually determines the sex of the baby as the sperm carries either a “X” (female) chromosome or a “Y” (male) chromosome. At fertilisation, the egg and sperm merge to create a single ‘zygote’, which then divides again and again as it develops into an embryo.
Am I pregnant?
The most tell-tale symptom of pregnancy is a missed period, however in some rare cases women continue to have their periods or experience spotting throughout their pregnancy.
Other symptoms may include:
- Tenderness or soreness in the breasts
- Nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite
These symptoms can be similar to those leading up to a period, so if periods are irregular it can be a frustrating experience waiting to find out. The best thing to do if uncertain is to buy a home pregnancy test from any chemist, which can now detect the pregnancy hormone even before the next period is due. However if a test reads negative, and symptoms persist it is worth waiting a week and retaking the test.