Preparing for a baby — medically and physically

How you can prepare to get pregnant: Through Western medicine, nutrition, exercise and TCM.


1) Physical checks and tests

If you and your spouse are now ready to have a baby, the first thing you need to do is to go for a pre-conception screening test (with the hubs), to detect any existing medical conditions. Doing so may not only increase your pregnancy chances, it will also reduce the risks of birth defects and miscarriages.

          Dr Kelly Loi, a gynaecologist and fertility specialist at the Health & Fertility Centre for Women, says, “Couples today are more educated, so they’re more aware of fertility issues and are willing to nip it in the bud from the start.”

          In the first part of the screening, the couple’s medical history is documented. This looks at the family background for abnormal health conditions, such as thalassemia (genetic blood disorder). You’ll also undergo a Pap smear to rule out any irregularities in the cervical area, plus get scanned for cysts and fibroids. Your man’s sperm quality will also be tested. Blood work is also carried out to identify any sexually transmitted diseases.

          This is also a good time for you to get vaccinated again against hepatitis B and rubella because if you catch these diseases while you’re pregnant, your baby can develop cataracts or congenital deformities.

          Gynaecologist and SP expert Dr Christopher Chong also reckons that it’s wise to get checked for anaemia as many women enter pregnancy slightly anaemic, since they don’t replenish the iron they lose during their menses with vitamins or medication.

 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.”

2) Eating habits and nutrition

Notes Dr Jothi Kumar, an infertility and IVF specialist at O & G Partners Clinic for Women and Fertility Centre, “Obesity has been associated with a reduced chance of getting pregnant. So, try to maintain a healthy body mass index (18.5 to 22.9).”

          Dr Loi adds that this can be controlled with a proper diet, highlighting a book by a group of Harvard researchers called The Fertility Diet that reveals how eating well can improve your fertility. In this diet, trans-fats found in commercial products and fast food are no-nos, while you are also advised to eat more vegetable protein (like beans and nuts) and less animal protein. The book also advises that you drink a glass of whole milk or eat a small serving of full-fat yoghurt or ice cream (yay!) every day.

          She adds, “Also include antioxidant-rich foods such as berries and fruits, and if you’re a vegetarian or on a restricted diet, take multivitamins to replace your nutritional deficiency. And don’t forget folic acid to prevent spinal cord defects in your baby.”

          Jaclyn Reutens, a dietitian at Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants, recommends other fertility-boosting foods such as beef, pork and seafood to boost your red blood cells and iron levels and green, leafy veggies as these are high in folic acid and vitamin B6 (to regulate hormones and produce quality eggs). And include more whole grains to control your blood sugar levels.

          “Also avoid alcohol completely, decrease your caffeine intake, stop snacking in between meals and just stick to three meals a day.”

          When dining out, it’s all about making wise food choices, watching your portions and being picky about where you dine. Dr Chong advises, “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.”

What next on the pre-baby checklist? Click next…