Many unplanned pregnancies have increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, still birth, labor complications as well as pregnancy-related diabetes and hypertension. This makes it a necessity for all new couples and anyone who is planning to start family to start planning towards the nine months pregnancy journey. Depending on your age and how quickly you can change your diet and lifestyle habits, your preparation can be between 1 to 3 months prior to conception.
PRE PREGNANCY CHECKLIST FOR YOU AND YOUR PARTNER
1) Improving you and your partner’s diet and lifestyle.
2) Keeping a healthy weight
Iron and folic acid supplementation.
3) Discussing current medications and pre-pregnancy medical conditions
Improving on you and your partner’s diet.
If you are planning or trying to conceive, the first change you should make during the pre-pregnancy care period should be your diet. Eating a healthy, balanced diet has shown to have lots of benefits, including regulating and improving ovulation in women, improving sperm quality in men, and maintaining a healthy weight increasing your chances of conception as well as having a healthy pregnancy. The following foods will help you prepare your body for the healthiest pregnancy outcome.
• Have a daily consumption of whole grains like wheat, oats, corn, and quinoa which helps improve fertility in both men and women. Foods made with these whole grains are high fiber which helps keep a healthy weight, control your blood sugar and cholesterol improving your chances for a healthy pregnancy. Whole grains also contain essential nutrients like iron, zinc, folate, selenium, potassium which are magical in increasing fertility chances in both men and women. You can enjoy these whole grains made into porridges for breakfast, or your regular wheat bread instead of the white bread or brown rice instead of white bread.
• Go for the lean or low-fat proteins: The intake of lean or low-fat proteins helps regulate your fat intake as most these animal proteins have much saturated fats in them. The plant-based proteins like the kidney beans, Bambara beans are high recommended as they contain fiber and iron that help regulate your cycle and ovulation increasing your chances of conception and libido. Soy and soy products as not recommended during the preparation period as it might affect fertility. Eggs is also one of the best foods known for improving fertility in women as it helps with oestrogen (female hormone for sexual and reproductive development). Fish like salmon, anchovies, sardines and herrings are good sources of omega 3 for fetal and brain development.
• Snack on a variety of Fruits:
Fruits play lots of essential role when it comes to preconception period. Fruits contains antioxidants that help protect the eggs and semen from damage and aging effects. One way to consume a variety of fruits at a less cost, is to buy and eat them when they are season. Its is healthy to eat your fruits as snacks i.e. at 10am before lunch and 3pm before lunch but not as a whole meal because it is not balanced enough to provide you with all the essential nutrients in its right proportion. Fruits made into juice, salads, or smoothie are healthy appetite boosters you can consider.
• Enrich your soups and stews with a variety of vegetables.
Vegetables should be the foundation of the convenient meals i.e. stews and soups for all who is planning to start a family. Adding a variety of vegetables to meals makes it colourful, adding a distinctive taste and aroma to stimulate your appetite and also reducing your risk of many chronic diseases such as hypertension and some types of cancer. Dark green leafy like kontomire, “Gboma”, “Ademe”, spinach, contains calcium, iron, vit. K and folate (folic acid) which improve ovulation and libido. Include vegetables in at least two meals per day.
• Choose low-fat dairy products: consuming low-fat dairy like milk and yoghurt provides your body with an appreciable amount of calcium that help keep your reproductive system functioning smoothly and also help to conceive faster. Calcium stores of the mother also helps in the teeth and bone development of the baby.
• Consume healthy oils only: uncontrolled oil consumption can be harmful than good to you and your baby. Consumption of plant-based oils like olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil in moderation is recommend when planning to get pregnant. Plant-based oil contain omega-3s regulate key ovulating inducing hormone and increase blood flow to reproductive organs.
• Unsalted nuts and seeds play magical role in men ensuring a healthy functioning of your reproductive system. Tiger nuts, peanuts, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, sesame seeds and all other edible nuts and seeds contain vitamin E and selenium that boost sperm count and quality (sperm motility). Unsalted nuts and seeds are the best recommended as compared to the salted once because of its sodium content which is unhealthy for men who have heart problems or at a risk of heart problems. The oils from nuts and seeds also boost heart health in both men and women.
Foods you need to avoid or limit intake
Sugary, fatty and processed foods might interfere with your chances of getting pregnant as they have the tendency of increasing your blood sugar, cholesterol and pressure levels above the normal range. It recommended to limit intake or avoid sugary food and drinks like sweets, biscuits, cakes, cookies fizzy drinks, salty snacks like peanuts, plantain chips, fatty foods, processed foods like bacon, sausages, chips, baked goods, – might interfere with your chances of getting pregnant.
Some microorganisms in or on food have the tendency of causing miscarriages therefore watch out for food borne infections via cross contamination separating ready to eat foods from cooked food, and also store food in their right temperatures.
Improving on you and your partner’s lifestyle changes
It is prudent to make lifestyle changes during your pregnancy preparation period to prepare your body for a healthier pregnancy. These lifestyle changes may even protect your baby from certain problems.
Reach and maintain a healthy weight: People who are overweight or obese or underweight reduces your chances of getting pregnant as well as increases your risk of pregnancy related complications like miscarriage, premature birth, still birth, low birth weight, birth defects and labor problems. Later after pregnancy maybe also develop serious medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, breast cancer, etc. It important to reach and maintain a healthy weight before getting pregnant (eating healthy and regular physical activity).
Engage in regular physical activity/exercise:
Being physically active for 30 minutes per day for about 4 – 5 times a week is another great way to prepare. You can start with a 15 minutes moderate exercises like brisk walking within your compound or around your house and gradually increase to 30 minutes of jogging, cycling, swimming, etc. You get additional health benefits with more exercise including catching a healthy weight prior to pregnancy which also increases your chances of getting pregnant.
Avoid/ Stop drinking alcohol, smoking and using unprescribed drugs: Drinking alcohol, smoking, and the use of unprescribed drugs affect ovulation in women as well as the sperm quality in men which affects the chances of getting pregnant. These can ham your unborn baby and causes many problems like premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage, still birth, low birth weight during pregnancy.
Avoid caffeine and drink more water: Caffeine in tea, soda drinks, energy drinks can also reduce pregnancy chances in both men and women as it mostly gets you dehydrated. But keeping yourself hydrated with fluids like water, soups, fruit juice are very important.
Avoid stress and get a good sleep: Stress and anxiety are not good for your health and rather decreases your chances of getting pregnant. Avoid or limit activities that get your stress or anxious and try and get a good sleep for about 8 – 12 hours or intermittent rest in a day. You can also engage in relaxing activities like listening to music, taking a relaxing walk, or doing anything else that brings you joy. Try Yoga! Yoga has a number of fertility benefits by controlling your emotions and anxiety related to the conception process. It also strengthens and stretch your body in preparation for pregnancy.
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