How to Prepare

Physical Wellbeing

Taking some time to improve your physical and mental wellbeing can increase your chances of becoming pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

 

Improvements in your physical wellbeing start with your health, diet and lifestyle.

 

A well-balanced diet includes food from the four main groups;

  • Breads, cereals, potatoes, pasta and rice

  • Fruit and vegetables

  • Milk, yoghurt and cheese (or vegan alternatives)

  • Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts

  • Reduced fat spreads and oils.

 

Visit your GP for a general health check, in order to make sure you are in good health.

 

Optimize your blood pressure, blood sugar and body weight.

 

Your BMI (Body Mass Index) is important in pregnancy. A normal BMI is above 18.5 and less than 25.   A high BMI may not only prevent you from getting pregnant, but also increases your chances of serious complications during pregnancy and delivery.

 

You can calculate your BMI here: http://www.bmicalculator.ie/

‘Why your weight matters during Pregnancy and after Birth’ Leaflet.

 

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for your physical and mental wellbeing. Thirty minutes a day of light and enjoyable exercise is all you need in order to prepare yourself mentally and physically for another pregnancy.

Folic Acid

It is well recognised that folic acid (also called folate) is essential in pregnancy. It has shown to decrease the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

 

Certain foods such as green vegetables and brown rice are high in folic acid. Some breakfast cereals and fat spreads also have folic acid added in them. You should eat these foods as well as maintaining a healthy balanced diet.

 

It is however difficult to obtain the amount of folic acid recommended from diet alone. Once you have decided to try and become pregnant again, you should start taking 400 micrograms of folic acid.  This should be continued throughout your pregnancy.

A higher dose of folic acid, i.e. 5 milligrams is recommended for certain women. For example, women with a BMI ≥ 30 and women who have increased risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida will need the higher dose of folic acid.  Consult your GP or hospital doctor about this.

 

You may also need a higher dose if you have a history of the following:

  • neural tube defect in yourself or your partner

  • a previous pregnancy with neural tube defect

  • family history of neural tube defect in yourself or your partner

  • diabetes

  • epilepsy

 

RCOG Information: ‘Health eating and vitamin supplements in pregnancy’

RCOG Scientific Impact Paper 4: ‘Periconceptional Folic Acid and Food Fortification in the prevention of Neural Tube Defects’

FSAI Guidelines: A guide supporting the Healthy Ireland Food Pyramid

FSAI Guidelines: Update Report on Folic Acid and the Prevention of Birth Defects in Ireland

Caffeine, alcohol and smoking

In order to prepare your body for pregnancy, reducing coffee intake and eliminating alcohol and smoking is very important. 

 

All alcoholic drinks should be avoided when trying to conceive a pregnancy and for the duration of your pregnancy. Alcohol affects the developing pregnancy, increases the risk of miscarriage and the risk of pre-term delivery.

Smoking is harmful prior to and during pregnancy as it affects the growth of the developing baby. Smoking during this period puts you at an increased risk of giving birth to a baby with a low birth weight. Smoking in pregnancy has also been shown to increase the risk of asthma in children. It is recommended to stop smoking prior to and during pregnancy. Passive smoke should also be avoided as it causes the same harmful effects.  

 

Additional support information and a smoking cessation program can be found here.

Drug use in pregnancy

It is advisable to avoid any drugs or medicines unless you have checked with your GP that they are safe to take when you are trying to conceive or during your pregnancy. This applies to both prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, including herbal remedies.

 

Drugs such as cannabis, heroin, crack and cocaine can affect fertility and increase the risk of premature or low-weight babies. If you need help or advice please talk to your GP. 

 

UK Miscarriage Association: 'Preparing for another pregnancy'

RCOG Patient information leaflet: ‘Recreational exercise and pregnancy’

RCOG Patient information leaflet: ‘Why your weight matters during pregnancy and after birth’

RCPI Clinical Practice Guidelines: ‘Nutrition in Pregnancy’

Mental Wellbeing

As stated previously, it is normal to feel anxious about another pregnancy after a miscarriage so taking steps to improve your mental health is also important. 

 

Good support and care can improve your pregnancy outcome.  Finding someone you trust to share how you feel, be it your partner, family or friends can be helpful.  Some women find it very beneficial to talk to others who have experienced a pregnancy loss and become pregnant again.

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Pregnancy Loss Research Group

Cork University Maternity Hospital

Wilton, Cork, Ireland

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