Planning for a child? Here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of conceiving and support your body for pregnancy and delivery. 

#1 Get a preconception screening test

The first thing most couples should do is to go for a pre-conception screening test, to detect any existing medical conditions and learn more about your reproductive health.  Doing so may increase your chances of conceiving, and reduce the risks of birth defects and miscarriages.

You as a couple can also make more informed decisions towards family planning and a healthy pregnancy, especially with age being a contributing factor to declining fertility.

Here’s what to expect at a fertility screening at Thomson Fertility Centre

- A review of your medical history, including family background for abnormal health conditions such as thalassemia (genetic blood disorder). 
- A pelvic ultrasound scan for women to examine and identify any abnormalities within the reproductive system
- A semen analysis for men to examine sperm health in terms of sperm count, motility and morphology
- Comprehensive blood tests for women to test for 14 components including: Full Blood Count, Blood Group & Rhesus Factor, Immune status (Hep B, Hep C, Rubella IgG), STD status (HIV, Syphilis), Hormone levels (FSH, LSH, Estrogen, Prolactin, TSH, Progesterone, AMH)

This is also a good time to get vaccinated again against hepatitis B and rubella (if you aren't already), as one may catch these diseases while pregnant. It’s also important to screen for women’s health conditions like cervical cancer.
Additionally, you may want to get a general health screening for other conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, at clinics such as Thomson Wellth.

#2 Watch your diet

Like it or not, certain foods can affect fertility. Nutrition for both partners can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive, so be sure to adopt healthy eating habits, such as:

- Consuming adequate amounts of iron. An eating pattern rich in iron that comes from vegetables and supplements may lower the risk of ovulatory infertility. Vegetarian foods with iron include beans, lentils, spinach, fortified cereals, long-grain enriched rice and whole grains.
- Healthy, plant-based fats (in moderation) are an important part of a balanced diet. Nuts, avocados, olive oil, and grapeseed oil can help reduce inflammation in the body, boosting regular ovulation and general female fertility.
- Limit sugary food and drink, such as sweets, biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks.
- Avoid trans fats found in processed snacks like fast food and packaged foods, which increase insulin resistance.
- Reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake. High amounts of alcohol use (including binge drinking) have been associated with reduced fertility, and caffeine is a diuretic that can prevent your mucus membranes from staying moist, affecting the consistency of your cervical mucus.
- Include antioxidant-rich foods such as berries and fruits.
- If you’re a vegetarian or on a restricted diet, take multi-vitamins to replace your nutritional deficiency. Also, folic acid to prevent spinal cord defects in your baby.
- When dining out, watch your portions and what you eat. Ask for less oil, salt and soya sauce, make sure everything is cooked, have a good balance of vegetables and meat, and opt for fresh-fruit juices instead of alcohol or sugary drinks.

#3 Maintain a healthy fitness level through exercise

In addition to helping you lose excess weight that may inhibit fertility, regular exercise can also help balance hormones, improve insulin and reduce stress, all of which boost fertility. 

The first step to finding out if you’re at a healthy weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). A BMI value of 23 and above indicates that your weight is outside of the healthy weight range for your height.

Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy exercise regime to prepare your body for a baby: 

- Don’t overdo it. Over-exercising or more than 60 minutes of physical activity per day can actually increase the risk of ovulatory-factor infertility.
- If you haven't been exercising regularly, start by walking. It’s excellent for your cardiovascular system, builds endurance and is low-impact. 
- Swimming is another great choice for those just starting a fitness routine. It’s a cardio workout that doesn't put too much stress on your joints. 
- Yoga can help prepare your body for pregnancy and birth, as it reduces stress and anxiety, and increases the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth.
- Pilates also strengthens abdominal and pelvic muscles, which can reduce lower back pain during pregnancy. The breathing techniques also came in handy during delivery.
- When it comes to the type of exercise, stick with activities and fitness routines that energise you rather than exhaust you. It’s important to enjoy yourself too!

#4 Consider alternative treatments 

Natural fertility treatments like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be beneficial in managing fertility issues and aiding conception.

One common treatment is acupuncture. Acupuncture needles are used on selected acupoints in the body, boosting blood flow to reproductive organs and balancing hormones to facilitate natural conception. This fertility treatment has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics in Singapore. In the journal “Fertility and Sterility”, published in Germany in 2002, a study on 160 women revealed that adding acupuncture to traditional IVF treatment protocols substantially increased pregnancy success as well. 

Another treatment option is Chinese herbal medicine, which balances the disharmony in the body by removing excessive body toxins and treating deficiencies. TCM clinics such as Thomson Chinese Medicine often offer Chinese herbal medicine in the forms of tea and food supplements. 

If you’re seeking TCM treatments for fertility, Thomson Fertility Centre also has a Holistic Fertility Consult, where couples can seek consultation from both Western and TCM perspectives (TCM physician and western fertility doctor).

While you’re preparing your body for baby, it’s never too early to research maternity services in Singapore too. Thomson Medical is an institution with over 30 years of experience in supporting mothers, with a wide range of pre- and post-natal services.

Photos: iStock

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