Planning your pregnancy is important to ensure a healthy pregnancy with a good outcome. Unplanned pregnancies are at a higher risk of complications. A doctor can help assess your pre conception health – and your partner, if you have one - and get you prepared for a healthy pregnancy. Together with your doctor, you can talk about how you can be in the best health to give your future baby the best start in life.
Pre-pregnancy health checks include a cervical screening test (if you are not currently up to date), screening tests for sexually transmissible infections (STIs), a gynaecological check and a review of any medicines you may be taking. Your doctor may also ask you about your relationship with your partner and your mental health.
Pre-pregnancy vaccinations are another good reason to visit your doctor as part of your pregnancy preparation. Some viruses, such as German measles (Rubella), chicken pox, the flu and whooping cough are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn or newborn babies, so it's vital to be immunised against these illnesses.
If you think you may need dental work, this should ideally be done before getting pregnant. Dental X-rays and some medications used in procedures are often not recommended during pregnancy. So as well as seeing your dentist for your regular check-ups, arrange an appointment before you plan to get pregnant, if required.
Being the healthiest you can be
Being the healthiest you can be – by eating a balanced diet, being physically active and managing your stress levels – is a positive step you and your partner can take in preparing for pregnancy.
Being a healthy weight for your body, not smoking and reducing your alcohol and caffeine intake can all help to enhance your own natural fertility.
Research has found that the health and nutrition of both men and women before conception is important not only in achieving a healthy pregnancy, but also for the lifelong health of their children, and even the next generation.
A healthy, balanced diet is one filled with vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and fish, and is low in red and processed meat.
It's important to start taking folate before you get pregnant. This will reduce the risk of the baby being born with neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folate is one of the B vitamins and is best taken as a supplement (folic acid).
In Australia, it's also recommended that women planning a pregnancy take an iodine supplement (containing 150 micrograms of iodine per day) and continue this while pregnant and breastfeeding.