Planning your pregnancy- Your pregnancy and baby guide
Take a folic acid supplement
So you should take a 400 microgram supplement of folic acid every day before you get pregnant (ideally for 3 months), and continue 400 micrograms of folic acid for the duration of pregnancy (regardless of whether you were on 400micrograms or 5mg prior to that)
A microgram is 1,000 times smaller than a milligram (mg). The word microgram is sometimes written with the Greek symbol μ followed by the letter g (μg).
Folic acid reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida.
A neural tube defect is when the foetus' spinal cord (part of the body's nervous system) does not form normally.
Some women are advised to take a higher dose supplement of 5 milligram (5mg) every day.
You may need to take a 5mg supplement of folic acid if:
• BMI (body mass index) greater than 30
• you or the baby's biological father have a neural tube defect
• you previously had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
• you or the baby's biological father have a family history of neural tube defects
• you have diabetes
• you take anti-epilepsy medicine
Talk to a GP if you think you need a 5mg dose of folic acid, as they can prescribe a higher dose. You can get folic acid tablets at pharmacies without a prescription or talk to a GP about getting a prescription if you need a higher dose. Do not worry if you get pregnant unexpectedly and were not taking folic acid supplements. Start taking them as soon as you find out, and continue 400 micrograms of folic acid for the duration of pregnancy (regardless of whether you were on 400micrograms or 5mg prior to that)
Does my age affect my chances of having a baby?
More and more women are waiting until their 30s and 40s to have children. About 20 to 30 percent of women in Ireland now have their first child after age 35. So age is an increasingly common cause of fertility problems. About one third of couples in which the woman is over 35 have fertility problems.
Ageing decreases a woman’s chances of having a baby in the following ways:
• The ability of a woman’s ovaries to release eggs ready for fertilization declines with age.
• The health of a woman’s eggs declines with age.
• As a woman ages she is more likely to have health problems that can interfere with fertility.
• As a women ages, her risk of having a miscarriage increases.
You can find useful information on the dangers of smoking during pregnancy and advice on how to stop on the www.quit.ie website.
Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a variety of health problems, including:
- premature birth
- low birth weight
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death
- breathing problems or wheezing in the first 6 months of life
Quitting can be hard, no matter how much you want to, but support is available. The HSE provides and promotes a wide range of cessation services, ranging from online and social media supports on www.quit.ie and www.facebook.com/HSEquit, a National Smokers’ QUITline 1800 201 203, HSE quit clinics and courses, primary care supports provided by GPs, Pharmacists and Dentists, and tobacco dependence treatments.
Cut out alcohol
Do not drink alcohol if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Alcohol can be passed to your unborn baby.
It is advised by The Department of Health that the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all.
Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to your baby, and the more you drink the greater the risk.
Keep to a healthy weight
Being overweight (having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25) or obese (having a BMI over 30) raises the risk of some pregnancy problems, such as high blood pressure, blood clots, miscarriage and gestational diabetes.
The most widely used way to measure your weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). This is your weight (wt) in kilograms (kg) divided by your height (ht) in metres (m) squared [wt (kg)/ht x ht (m2)].
www.hse.ie › eng › health › obesity
Before you get pregnant, you can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to work out your BMI. But this may not be accurate once you’re pregnant, so consult your midwife or doctor.
Having a healthy diet and getting moderate exercise are advised in pregnancy, and it’s important not to gain too much weight.You can keep to a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and getting exercise.
It is advised that both men and women prior to conception reduce their caffeine intake to 200mg or with a safe limit of two cups of coffee or four cups of tea per day. Bear in mind that Caffeine is found in tea, some soft drinks and some over the counter medication.
Know which medicines you can take
Not all medicines are safe to take when you’re pregnant; whether they’re on prescription or medicines you can buy in a pharmacy or shop.
If you take prescribed medicine and you’re planning to get pregnant, talk to your doctor. If you are pregnant or are on medication- talk to your GP as soon as possible.
Do not stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor.
Get flu and whooping cough vaccinations
If you have not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine or you’re not sure if you have, ask your GP practice to check your vaccination history. If you have not had both doses or there’s no record available, you can have the vaccinations at your GP practice. You should avoid getting pregnant for 3 months after having the MMR vaccination, which means you’ll need a reliable method of contraception.
Talk to your doctor if you have a long-term condition. If you have a long-term condition, such as epilepsy or diabetes, it could affect the decisions you make about your pregnancy – for example, where you might want to give birth.
While there’s usually no reason why you should not have a smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby, some health conditions do need careful management to minimise risks to both you and your baby.
Before you get pregnant, have a discussion with your specialist or GP about getting pregnant or get your GP to refer you eg pre-pregnancy diabetic clinic at the Mater University Hospital.
If you’re taking medication for a condition, do not stop taking it without consulting your GP.
What can a man do to increase chances of having a baby?
It may seem obvious, but you need to have regular sex (two or three times a week) if you want to become a dad. Having sex around the time your partner ovulates (when an egg is released from the ovary) will increase your chances of conceiving.
There are also a number of lifestyle changes you can make to improve your chances of becoming a dad.
Your testicles are outside your body because, to produce the best quality sperm, they need to be kept slightly cooler than the rest of you. The ideal temperature for sperm production is around 34.5C, which is slightly below body temperature (around 37C).
If you're trying to conceive, taking a few simple measures to keep your testicles cool may help. For example, if your job involves working in a hot environment, take regular breaks outside. If you sit still for long periods, get up and move around regularly.
Wearing tight underwear is also thought to increase testicle temperature by up to 1C. Although research has shown that tight underwear does not seem to affect sperm quality, you may want to wear loose-fitting underwear, such as boxer shorts, while trying to conceive.
Drinking alcohol excessively can affect the quality of sperm. The HSE guidelines for low-risk drinking for adults are:
• up to 11 standard drinks in a week for women, and
• Up to 17 standard drinks in a week for men.
Drinks should be spaced out over the week, with two to three alcohol free days per week.
Remember, drinks measures are not always the same. What you get in a pub and what you pour for yourself could be very different.
These weekly limits do not apply to teenagers or to people who are pregnant, ill, and run-down or on medication. It is healthier for teenagers not to drink alcohol.
Some recreational drugs are known to damage sperm quality and reduce male fertility. These include:
• anabolic steroids
• opiates such as heroin and methadone
You should avoid taking these types of drugs if you're trying for a baby.
Diet, weight and exercise
Eating a healthy balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight essential for keeping your sperm in good condition. Your diet should include at least five portions of fruit a day; carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and pasta; and lean meat, fish and pulses for protein.
Being overweight (having a body mass index above 25) may affect the quality and quantity of your sperm.
If you're overweight and trying to conceive, you should try to lose weight by combining healthy eating