• As soon as you think you want to start a baby it is good sense to make sure that all the conditions are right for your baby to get off to a good start. First, start eating properly. Make sure that you eat enough, especially if you are thin. If you are underweight your baby may grow slowly. Ensure that your diet is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and complex carbohydrates. These latter should be in the form of high-fibre, unrefined carbohydrates. These also have the advantage of ensuring that you don’t get constipated during pregnancy-a common problem.
Drink plenty of fluids-keep off or cut down on tea, coffee, cocoa and cola drinks. Drink more water or dilute pure fruit juices (not squash). Aim to gain between 17 and 25 lbs in weight over the whole pregnancy. Any more could be disadvantageous. Come off the contraceptive pill at least three months before you plan to conceive. Use a barrier or other method until your body resumes its natural cycle and then try to conceive. Remember that it takes an average of 5.3 months for a normal, healthy couple to conceive if they are having unlimited sex. After taking the Pill a small percentage of women take many months to conceive but eventually almost all of them do so. If you have a coil doesn’t remove it until you actually want to conceive. Come off all drugs but don’t stop any prescribed drugs or medications until you have discussed it with your doctor. Stop or seriously cut down on your smoking and alcohol intake. Both can be hazardous in pregnancy and their effects on the health of eggs and sperms are not yet fully understood. Play safe.
• Keep away from infections, including childhood infections, ‘flu and so on. By doing all these things for 3-6 months prior to conceiving you will stand a better chance of conceiving a healthy, normal baby.
Obviously you can’t choose your parents and there may well be diseases or conditions that run through your family or that of your partner. If you are worried about anything like this tell the doctor. He or she can arrange for you to attend a specialist, if necessary, to put your mind at rest or to establish whether or not the risk of a particular condition occurring is worth taking.
During pregnancy eat well and don’t put on too much weight. The ideal to aim for is 17-25 lb, but if you are very skinny at the outset you could add a little more. Eat as outlined above. Don’t take any food to excess because it is now thought that large slugs of certain foods can sensitize a baby in the mother’s womb. Be moderate in all you eat. Be sure to have plenty of dietary fibre and lots of fruit and vegetables eaten raw or very lightly cooked to preserve the minerals and vitamins.
There is a good case to be made for taking additional vitamin and mineral supplements during pregnancy, especially as so many foods are so poor in these valuable nutrients today. Do not drink pints of milk a day. This can sensitise your baby in utero to cows’ milk protein. Also milk is very fattening and rich in fat. If you really want to drink milk make sure it is skimmed milk. Carry on drinking plenty of bland fluids and avoiding tea, coffee, cocoa and cola drinks, as before conception.
• Don’t take any drugs at all and see your doctor to ask if you can come off any of the prescribed drugs you are on. This should already have been discussed before conception but now he or she may be prepared to reconsider the whole subject with more urgency. Almost all drugs cross the placenta and affect the unborn baby somehow, so you are better off without them unless they are life-saving. Morning sickness, constipation and other minor ailments, should be coped with by using dietary and natural remedies rather than drugs and medications. A high-fibre diet will prevent constipation, and dry toast and biscuits are good if you feel sick. Moderate doses of antacids for heartburn are probably safe.
Keep away from X-ray machines and other X-ray hazards. If a child has to be X-rayed get someone else to hold him or her if there is even a remote chance that you are pregnant.