In 2010, after 11 failed rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and a miscarriage, Michelle Jones-White, then 37, had an “ah ha” moment while waiting for her next fertility appointment. She realised that no amount of medical help was going to help her conceive if her body wasn’t ready for it.
“I decided I had to change my lifestyle and be at a good place, health-wise, before having a baby,” she says.
She did this by concentrating on eating fish and vegetables and exercising regularly, underwent hypnosis and acupuncture to de-stress and boost her blood circulation. Within three months, she had dropped 5kg and, feeling fighting fit, went on to conceive successfully after just one session of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) four months later.
It’s not just a matter of having sex to get pregnant; planning for a baby includes taking stock of your life, like Jones-White, and facing the changes that will come. We talked to Frances Yeo, a psychologist with Thomson Paediatric Centre, about assessing the habits that you and your husband have developed, and see what may need to change…
1) Brush up your healthy lifestyle habits
In their book Making Babies: A Proven 3-month Program For Maximum Fertility, authors Dr Sami David (the first doctor to successfully perform IVF in New York) and Jill Blakeway (an acupuncturist and herbalist) urge women to look at the three months leading up to conception. They refer to this “pre-mester” period as the most crucial time, because the state of your body at this point can greatly affect your fertility and eventual pregnancy.
You will need to boost your consumption of healthy foods, vitamins, while reducing alcohol and caffeine intake — and stop smoking. Plus, says Yeo, “If your spouse smokes, it may be a good time to talk to him about stopping!” The American Pregnancy Association warns that even second-hand smoke is highly detrimental to you and baby. Conditions associated with it are miscarriage, low birthweight for the baby, early birth, learning or behavioural deficiencies in your baby and higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
2) Prepare to manage your emotions better
Pregnancy is an emotional journey: Being pregnant can give you feelings of excitement, joy; but sometimes anxiety and depression sneak up on you. Yeo says, “About one in five pregnant women here is likely to have significant depressive symptoms.” This could lead to impaired daily function; furthermore, women who have depression during pregnancy are more likely to develop post-natal depression, something that threatens your responsiveness to baby.
Talking to your spouse about your feelings, recognising that you are feeling stressed and taking time to de-stress are crucial to help you cope with strong emotions. Another source of comfort and support would be your family and friends. Last but not least, consider talking to your doctor or a counsellor.
3) Assess your lifestyle
Many couples are afraid of the lifestyle changes that they will need to make when they have children. “While having a new baby in your life means changes, it shouldn’t mean giving up everything you used to enjoy,” says Yeo. “More planning will be required and you will probably need to make more of an effort to plan things like meeting your friends, going for movies, shopping and dates with your spouse.”
Taking care of yourself becomes very important as this helps to reduce stress from taking care of your baby. So prepare a list of outings/“me time” activities that you can schedule into your life — and prep your parents, other family members, as well as your friends, for babysitting periods that will give you time.
4) Plan how you will parent your child
Before you begin your pregnancy journey, ask yourself and talk to your spouse how you want to raise your children. Sit down and discuss things, writing it down, if you have to. Psychologist Frances Yeo lists questions to settle, which include:
What will be the childcare arrangements?
Who will do the chores, when can you swop?
Do you or your spouse travel for work?
Do you or your spouse work ultra-long hours?
What was your childhood like, how did your parents raise you, what will be your parenting style?
What will be your discipline style?
The answers to these questions may seem obvious to you, and are often not discussed before a couple decides to have a baby. Research suggests that couples who are able to discuss their feelings openly together and willing to accept differences in opinion are more likely to have a better relationship. Plus, later, it helps your child’s development if you show them how you two communicate well, not to mention it will help you when it comes to listening to bubba!
5) Maintain intimacy
We’re not making giggly jokes here: Making babies or undergoing fertility treatments can take a toil on relationships. “Lovemaking becomes a means to an end and stops being intimate and fun,” says Yeo. Be creative in maintaining intimacy in your relationships; beyond going for movies, dinner dates, romantic walks in the park, you can also try exercising together, or going for a massage together, she suggests. Even doing chores can be turned into a moment to share intimacy.
And once you get pregnant, remember to stay intimate: Share touches, cuddle, let him massage your back and feet. And when in the thick of sleep-deprived caring for your new baby, try to maintain some connection: Message each other supportively, or try to find even a few minutes to share a cup of tea in the minutes that you can scrape together.
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