Planning a pregnancy - A balanced diet

We have the best chance of conceiving and having a straightforward pregnancy when we are healthy.

We can’t control everything relating to our fertility, but this is one area where you can really take charge. By making healthy diet and lifestyle choices you can maximise your pregnancy potential.

Plan ahead and, where possible, make necessary adjustments well ahead of trying to have a baby.

It can take some time for these changes to take effect. For example, although most men produce millions of new sperm every day, it takes three months for new sperm to fully mature. That means, changes made now won’t make a difference for three months. Planning ahead to optimise fertility is important for both women and men.

Read more about "Diet and nutrition for fertility" and "Planning a pregnancy - A healthy lifestyle"

Trying for a baby

You should continue to eat a balanced diet if you are planning a pregnancy.

You may have heard about the benefits of folic acid whilst trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Taking folic acid supplements helps to reduce the risk of serious birth defects affecting the brain and spinal cord (such as spina bifida) in the developing baby.

Many foods contain folic acid, but even with a balanced diet, it is difficult to get enough and folic acid can’t be stored in the body. The recommended dose is 400 mcg daily, but some women may need more. If you have a family history of neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord), diabetes or epilepsy, talk to your doctor about the best dose for you.

If you do decide to take vitamin supplements make sure they are suitable for a woman trying for a baby. Vitamin A and fish oil supplements can be harmful to a developing baby and should not be included in any supplements you take.

a balanced diet

There are also some foods you may wish to avoid if you are trying to conceive, because if you do become pregnant they can be harmful to the developing baby. These include:

  • Eggs, if they have not been thoroughly cooked, because of the risk of salmonella (a bacteria which can cause severe food poisoning). In the UK, eggs which have the British lion stamp are safe to eat lightly-cooked, as they are laid from hens which are vaccinated against salmonella.
  • Unpasteurised milk and cheese
  • Raw or under-cooked meat (because of the risk of toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite which may be present in raw or under-cooked meat)
  • Cold-cured meats (although freezing for a few days will reduce the parasite risk from salami, prosciutto, chorizo and pepperoni).
  • Too much oily fish such as tuna and salmon (because of the presence of pollutants). It is advisable to limit the amount of oily fish to two portions per week
  • Liver or liver-based food, like pâté (because it is rich in vitamin A, which can be harmful to the developing baby)
  • Mould-ripened or blue-veined soft cheeses and pâté (due to the risk of listeria infection, which although rare can have serious consequences).

Read more about "Diet and nutrition for fertility" and "Planning a pregnancy - A healthy lifestyle"