Planning to have a baby extends well beyond the medical aspect but without proper advice, conception can take longer than expected and pregnancy may be difficult. Understanding when is the best time to conceive and preparing both mother and father for the implications of pregnancy and the measures that need to be taken can expedite conception and minimize pregnancy complications. It may even extend well into the future and minimize long term health effects for the child even into adulthood. Clearing up misconceptions and being well informed prior to pregnancy can make for a happier and healthier pregnancy, both for mother and child.
Health Before Pregnancy
There are many aspects of one’s health that needs to be taken into consideration before falling pregnant. Any chronic conditions should be properly treated and appropriately managed. If using chronic medication then it is important to discuss with your doctor whether this medication is suitable during pregnancy or any other alternative measures that may need to be taken. NEVER stop taking prescribed medication without seeking advice from your doctor.
Conditions such as diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure are common ailments and have a significant impact on pregnancy. Both conditions are largely silent for months or even years and therefore remain undiagnosed for long periods of time. Screening for diabetes and hypertension as well as other conditions prior to conception, despite the lack of symptoms, is an important part of preconception checkups. Identifying these conditions at the outset will allow your doctor to differentiate between the chronic forms and gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension.
Health extends beyond the absence of any identifiable disease, whether acute or chronic. The prevalence of obesity in this day and age is also a health consideration for women planning to conceive. It has a host of implications for conceiving and may lead to several complications during pregnancy. Weight management, either loss or gain, to attain as close as normal a BMI (body mass index) is essential and is not an overnight endeavor. Therefore planning a pregnancy and taking the necessary health measures should be commenced at least 6 months prior to conception.
It may take up to 6 months of regular intercourse to fall pregnant and therefore couples who are trying to conceive should not be concerned if pregnancy does not occur immediately. However, should conception not occur after 6 months of trying, it is advisable to consult with a gynecologist for further evaluation.
It is important to focus sexual activity around the time of ovulation – when the ovary releases an egg cell into the fallopian tube. Ovulation occurs between 12 to 16 days prior to menstruation and women with irregular cycles can ovulate more than once in a month but this is difficult to predict. Signs and symptoms like a thicker vaginal discharge and ovulation discomfort/pain (Mittelschmerz) may be an indicator of ovulation.
It is important to bear in mind that the egg cell (ovum) may only survive for as short a time period as 12 to 24 hours. If fertilized, implantation will occur within 6 to 12 days after ovulation. Pregnancy may therefore not be detectable immediately after fertilization. Stress, illness and other health and lifestyle factors may all affect ovulation, fertilization or implantation and should therefore be kept to a minimum.