Pregnancy
4th Aug 2020

Each year, about 10% of Australian women fall pregnant. Research shows that a couple’s health before conception is important for supporting a healthy pregnancy, and a healthy baby (1).

It can be very difficult to predict exactly when you will fall pregnant. So, by maintaining good preconception health, you have the best chance at a healthy pregnancy regardless of when your child is conceived.

This makes up part of the first 1,000 days, which spans three crucial periods:

  1. Preconception
  2. Pregnancy
  3. Infancy

Optimal health during these three stages is the greatest opportunity you have as a parent to give your baby the best start in life (2).

It Takes Two

Becoming pregnant is a complex process. It involves several different factors that all need to line up just right.

Some couples may fall pregnant right away, while for others it may take some time. Falling pregnant relies on both the mother and the father’s health. After all, they each make up 50% of the baby making equation (3).

While there are many factors that influence conception, there are some everyday influences for couples to consider. To increase the chances of falling pregnant, couples can ensure they make healthy diet and lifestyle choices, including (3, 4):

  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Decreasing or quitting smoking
  • Obtaining professional advice about a healthy diet
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Incorporating regular physical activity
  • Engaging in antenatal care with a suitably qualified healthcare professional

The Importance Of Preconception Health For Women

Research shows that there is a strong link between a woman’s health prior to falling pregnant, and the health of a mother and her new baby after giving birth.

Poor health prior to and in the early stages of pregnancy, may negatively impact a growing baby. In fact, the first eight weeks of pregnancy is crucial.

During this period, most of the baby’s major organs and body systems have started to form and grow. A growing baby depends on their mother’s diet to provide all the nutritional building blocks they need to grow and thrive throughout pregnancy, and these first few weeks are vital (5).

Many women will not know they are pregnant until their fourth week of pregnancy, so it’s important to maintain good preconception health and nutrition while trying for a baby to help support this important window of development.

The Importance Of Preconception Health For Men

When it comes to trying to conceive, the male partner’s health can often be overlooked. But, a man’s health plays a vital role in his fertility when trying to conceive.

Male reproductive health is crucial, as research shows if your sperm are healthy, you have a better chance of conceiving (6, 7). Sperm not only plays an important role in falling pregnant, but also contains the genetic code (DNA) that will be passed along to the baby.

The journey that sperm undertake to reach a female egg can be compared to a human trying to swim several thousand kilometres. Therefore, the health and function of sperm is essential.

By improving health prior to conception, parents-to-be can improve their chances of a healthy pregnancy, and most importantly, a healthy baby (1, 5).

This is only a brief overview of the importance of preconception health. For couples wishing to seek preconception care, it is important to seek the advice of your healthcare professional who can provide you with tailored advice, specific to your health needs.

References

  1. Dourney, E & Black, K. (2018). Preconception Care. Australian Journal of General Practice, 47 (7). doi: 10.31128/AJGP-02-18-4485.
  2. Leigh, B. (2017). The First Thousand Days. Centre for Perinatal Psychology, Accessed 25 July 2019 < https://www.centreforperinatalpsychology.com.au/first-thousand-days/ >
  3. Australian Government Department of Health – Health Direct. (2018) Getting Pregnant. Accessed 25 July 2019 < https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/getting-pregnant >
  4. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: Women’s Health Care Physicians. Good Health Before Pregnancy: Prepregnancy Care. Accessed 25 July 2019 < https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Good-Health-Before-Pregnancy-Prepregnancy-Care#who >
  5. Australian Government Department of Health – Pregnancy, Birth and Baby. (2018). Pregnancy – 0 to 8 weeks. Accessed 25 July 2019 < https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/pregnancy-0-to-8-weeks >
  6. Australian Government Department of Health – Pregnancy, Birth and Baby. (2019). Preconception health for men. Accessed 4 August 2020 < https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/preconception-health-for-men >
  7. Sharma, R, Biedenharn, K, Fedor, J, et al. (2013). Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 11 (66). DOI: 10.1186/1477-7827-11-66

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