How to prepare your body to conceive a child

Looking to start a family? Here's how you can prepare your body for the best chances of getting pregnant

Looking to start a family? Doctors answer questions on how to prepare your body for the best chances to conceive

Featured doctors:

Dr Wang Lei, obstetrician, Amcare Women’s & Children’s Hospital

Dr Bai Jie, deputy chief physician (obstetrics), Globalcare Women & Children’s Hospital

Is it okay to start trying immediately after I stop taking the contraceptive pill?

Dr Wang Lei at Amcare Women who take short-acting oral contraceptives can start trying the month after they stop. Women who take long-acting oral contraceptives can generally start trying to conceive after three months.

Dr Bai Jie at Globalcare You should wait for at least three months after you stop taking the pill, if you took it for temporary effect. If you took it over a long period, it’s best to wait six months.

Do I need to change my diet? Should I switch to organic food?

WL More than organic food, it’s important to make sure your diet is diverse and balanced. Make grains the main part of your intake and eat more veg, fruits and tubers. Drink milk and eat beans and soy products every day, and up your intake of iodine- and iron-rich foods. You should also regularly eat fish, poultry, eggs and lean meats, and eat less fatty meats and lards. Go light on the salt and ensure ingredients are clean and fresh. Stay active to maintain an appropriate body weight, supplement your diet with folic acid and choose trusted organic products.

BJ In addition to the above, try to reduce the amount of cooking oil you use, and for snacks eat nuts such as walnuts and chestnuts. Drink more than 1,200ml of water daily and avoid soda drinks. As for exercise, try to walk 6,000 steps a day.

I’m overweight/ underweight. Do I need to change this and how can I do it?

WL Underweight is the term used if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is under 18.5, while overweight refers to 25-29.9. Over 30 is considered obese. If your weight is within normal range (BMI 18.5-24.9) it will be easier for you to get pregnant, while studies show that women whose BMI is below 20 or above 30 can find it relatively difficult to conceive. Try to adjust your nutrition and lifestyle habits three to six months before you plan to conceive, so you’re in the best state to carry through a successful pregnancy. Exercise no less than 30 minutes every day. Your pre-pregnancy fitness helps improve your physical health and pass on good genes to the next generation.

BJ If you’re overweight or underweight, it’s important to improve your health before getting pregnant. But do it naturally – we don’t recommend using weight- reducing medication.

Should I stop smoking and drinking alcohol?

BJ We recommend that you stop both three to six months before pregnancy. As a mother-to-be, smoking can lead to a smaller foetus, miscarriage, premature birth or an unsuccessful pregnancy, while heavy drinking can affect insemination and foetus growth.

WL Regular smoking or drinking by either partner, or both, can affect not only the development of sperm and eggs but also the successful implantation of the fertilised egg in the uterus and the embryo development, which could lead to a miscarriage.

Will the Beijing air pollution affect my chances of conceiving, and what can I do to counter it?

WL There are no clear studies that show air pollution affects the pregnancy or embryo. But if you’re planning to get pregnant, we recommend that you refrain from outdoor activities on bad air days, as it may increase the chance of catching respiratory infections. Also, you should make sure the air is clean inside your home, and on sunny days remember to open windows for ventilation.

Should I take any supplements or have any vaccines?

WL We generally recommend taking folic acid tablets from three months before you plan to get pregnant. As long as you maintain a good diet, no other supplementary nutrition is needed. As for vaccinations, get checked out to see if you have antibodies for hepatitis B and other infectious diseases. If the hepatitis B is negative, you should get the vaccine ten months before you plan to get pregnant. Also, don’t forget to undergo the Torch examination, which includes the test for the rubella antibody. Rubella virus infection is a major cause of congenital heart disease, and if you become infected during pregnancy, it may cause foetal malformations. We recommend getting the rubella vaccine at least three months before you conceive.

BJ In addition to folic acid, you could take iron and iodine supplements. As you can’t get vaccines once you’re pregnant, it’s best to make sure you’re up-to-date three to six months before conceiving. Possible vaccines include MMR, HAV, HBV and rabies.

Should I go for any medical check-ups or treatments?

WL It’s a good idea for both partners to go for a physical check-up three to six months before conceiving. For mothers-to-be, we test your blood, urine, liver and kidney function, blood glucose and lipid and thyroid function, and conduct an electrocardiogram and heart echocardiogram. We can also check for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV, and do a dental examination. The gynaecological check-up includes a genital B ultrasound examination and genital secretions examination to make sure you don’t have reproductive tract infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, and we can also do cervical cancer prevention screening (TCT).

BJ Once you’ve had a full body check-up, relevant lab tests and any specialist examinations and screening, we can draw up customised treatment plans based on the results.

It’s been a while and we haven’t conceived yet. What can we do?

WL For couples living under healthy and regular conditions, the probability of getting pregnant is usually about 25 percent monthly, and 85 to 90 percent yearly. If you’re still not pregnant after more than 12 months of trying, we recommend you consult a doctor.

For men

Lads, you should be preparing your bodies for conceiving, too! Dr Masoud Afnan, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Beijing United Family Hospital, tells us how

Do I need to change my diet?

I have no specific advice. The data on whether drinking coffee has an effect is inconsistent.

Do I need to stop smoking and drinking alcohol?

Having three to four units of alcohol – say, one-and-a-half pints of beer or three glasses of wine – is unlikely to affect fertility. But excessive alcohol intake has been shown to be detrimental. Meanwhile, smoking reduces the quality of semen.

I’m overweight. Will that affect fertility?

Men with a BMI of 30 or more can suffer from reduced fertility. In this case, it’s important that you try to lose weight.

Should I go for any medical check-ups or screenings? If your partner doesn’t get pregnant within six months, it’s a good idea to go for a semen analysis. It’s very common (about 50 percent) for a semen analysis to be borderline abnormal, in which case it will be repeated. The main benefit is to rule out a severe abnormality. In terms of causes of infertility, about a quarter of couples will have a female cause, a quarter, the man, a quarter both, and a quarter is unexplained.

What can I do to support my partner?

Keep communicating with her and be sensitive to her needs. If she doesn’t work and you do, you may find that she spends longer thinking and worrying about the difficulties of getting pregnant. Just talking about it will help. It’s also important not to turn sex into a mechanical event, timed to a particular day of the cycle. It’s better to keep your relationship natural and loving.

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