Are you thinking of trying for a 2018 baby? Make sure you read our post on ten things to think about first
Have you made the decision to try for a baby this year? Trying to conceive - or TTC as it is commonly known online - is a big step for any couple to take. It is one that can be incredibly exciting, especially if you've wanted a baby for a while, but for many people, it can also feel quite daunting.
It is likely that you will have a lot of questions, ranging from how long it might take for you to get a positive result, to if there's anything else you need to do.
Sound familiar? If the world of TTC is new to you, there are a couple of simple but important things to think about before you take the big step. So to help get your year on the right track we've listed them below.
If you are thinking of trying for a 2018 baby, here are eight things to think about first:
Coming off contraception: If you use barrier contraception like condoms, then obviously it is very easy to stop. But if you use hormonal contraception, like the pill, it might take a bit longer than you think for your cycle to return to normal. Factor this into your decision about choosing when to stop (but make sure you're not caught out earlier than you were planning!). If you have been on the pill for a long time you may be low on certain vitamins and minerals - especially vitamin B complexes - which is something to take into account.
Healthy diet: It's important for everyone to maintain a healthy diet, but this is often easier said than done when you work long hours and often grab dinner on the go. So start making healthy choices now; read our guide on what to eat when you are TTC. Caffeine is also thought to restrict the growth of a developing baby and current advice is to limit caffeine intake to below 300mg per day - so start cutting down now and say yes to herbal, caffeine-free options instead.
Know the right time to take folic acid: Most women are aware of how important it is to take folic acid in pregnancy; it’s recommended that you take a daily supplement containing 400μg of folic acid for at least one month before and up to three months after conception. But, did you know it can be beneficial to take it at least three months before you start trying to conceive, to safeguard nutritional stores, and continuing beyond week 12 of pregnancy, since folate contributes to maternal tissue growth? Research also shows taking vitamin B12 alongside folic acid, is more effective in preventing neural tube defects than taking folic acid alone.* Taking a supplement such as Pregnacare Conception which is specially formulated for before conception, will provide you with 400mcg folic acid – the exact level recommended by the UK Department of Health. It also provides 20mcg vitamin B12 plus other nutrients such as L-arginine, zinc, iodine and the recommended 10mcg vitamin D, which help support the nutritional requirements of women trying to conceive.
* Addition of Vitamin B12 to folic acid supplements to optimise the prevention of Spina Bifida and other Neural Tube Defects, Professor John M. Scott, Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland
Staying hydrated: Not drinking enough is something most people are guilty of, but it's especially important to keep on top of it why you are TTC. Why? Drinking about 8-10 cups a day will help ‘clean out’ your system and also increases fertile-quality cervical fluid, something which is very important. Get into the habit now and make your reusable water bottle your new buddy.
Making positive lifestyle changes: While you can still go out and have fun, it is a good idea to avoid or strictly limit alcohol intake as this reduces fertility. Department of Health advice is to avoid alcohol completely if trying to conceive or during pregnancy (it acts like a poison, preventing the body from taking in essential minerals and vitamins that are needed for conception). And don't smoke - you know it's bad for you anyway, but women have a 40% lower chance of getting pregnant if they smoke, according to a report published by the British Medical Association (BMA). Smoking decreases sperm count and increases sperm abnormalities in men. Ask your GP or Practice Nurse for help in quitting.
Getting some exercise: - Excercise can be incredibly beneficial during pregnancy - women who exercise regularly are less likely to experience the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy like back pain, piles and swollen ankles, and a fit healthy body is also more likely to cope better with childbirth. So find a gentle exercise routine you like now. Make sure you find a healthy balance though, as excessive amounts of exercise can also lead to fertility problems such as irregular periods and anovulatory cycles (cycles where ovulation does not occur).
Speaking to your doctor: Lots of couples speak to their doctor before they TTC, for reassurance and to deal with any potential medical issues. If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs this is a good time to find out if it's safe to still take them once you start trying to conceive. Make sure that you have been properly screened for STDs too, as Pelvic inflammatory disease is common amongst women with the number-one cause being an untreated sexually transmitted disease.
Start keeping a diary: No, you don't need to write down your innermost thoughts and feelings, as in your teenage years, but keep a note of the date when your period starts and the number of days it lasts. To get to know your cycle you can also download ovulation trackers which will tell you the signs to look out for that indicate ovulation is near, and also buy tester kits from the chemist - similar to pregnancy tests, these will tell you the optimum fertile time to try each month.