HEALTH

Where To Start If You're Thinking About Having A Baby

Advice for both singles and couples.

01/03/2017 1:00 PM AEDT | Updated 08/03/2017 2:35 PM AEDT
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The very best test of fertility at the end of the day is to try to get pregnant.

So, you want to have a baby. Or at least you think you will do, someday.

Whether you're currently coupled up or doing life solo, you probably have an idea around if you want to have children or not, one day.

If you do want children, there are some tweaks you can make to your lifestyle to generally help the process along. Some apply when it's time to try, while others should be made earlier.

"The most important thing people can do is give up bad habits," Doctor Devora Lieberman told The Huffington Post Australia.

Dr Lieberman is a fertility and IVF specialist, was the President of Sexual Health and Family Planning for 12 years, and has written a book, Empowered Fertility, on the topic.

"Cigarettes are quite toxic to ovaries and sperm. Cigarette smoking can actually advance the age of menopause by up to 10 years, so it's not okay to say 'okay fine, I will smoke through my 20s and then give up when I am ready to have a baby' because the damage may already be done," Dr Lieberman said.

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These guys are bad news.

When it comes to booze the rules are a little less strict, but of course common sense and moderation still apply.

"Alcohol is not going to have an impact on future fertility, but certainly if someone is trying to get pregnant they shouldn't be drinking in excess. Having binges [prior] isn't going to have a negative impact on fertility in the long term, not like cigarettes."

Its also very important to maintain a healthy weight.

"We certainly know a lot about the increased risks of infertility and miscarriage associated with being obese. But it's also possible to be too thin when it comes to getting pregnant. Women with a low BMI will have about a 25 percent less chance each month of getting pregnant compared to someone who is within their normal BMI range," Dr Lieberman said.

"It is certainly true that you can diet and exercise your way out of fertility to an extent, but the opposite isn't true. I say this all the time -- being 'healthier' won't make you more fertile."

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Check with your doctor if you're not sure what your weight should be.

When a woman decides she's ready to try for a baby, it's worth making an appointment with their doctor.

"Women should also see their GP for a pre-conception check. They need to make sure that their pap smear is up to date and that their immunisations are all in order, including chickenpox and German measles, and that their general health is in order before getting pregnant," Dr Lieberman said.

It's also advised to take certain vitamins, both while you're trying and throughout the pregnancy.

"There are three supplements that women who are trying to get pregnant need. They should start taking them in the first month or two before they start trying to conceive. The first thing is folic acid. Folic acid is important for the manufacturing DNA and that's the most important job of the little embryo.

"The second is Vitamin D, which is very important for fertility, and also for developing babies brains. Surprisingly, in Australia many people are Vitamin D deficient. We slip, slop, slap, we cover up and we don't go in the sun, but it is important to have vitamin D.

"The third is iodine which is important for baby's brain development. Australian soil is iodine deficient."

"You can get them all wrapped up in a preconception vitamin. I don't think it really makes much difference which brand you take. Elevit, Blackmores, etc all make one," Dr Lieberman said.

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Most supplement brands offer a pregnancy multi-vitamin.

If you're single or not yet ready for a baby but you're curious about your fertility, Dr Devora warns that you may come across information you're not ready to think about.

"For people who are just curious about their fertility, my advice is don't do anything. Because it may just cause you concern for nothing. If you don't have a partner or if freezing your eggs is not on your immediate horizon, then doing something like getting what they call the 'egg timer' test, which is a blood test to measure your ovarian reserves can just send women into a panic."

"The whole 'I'm just going to see what my Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) level is' isn't a great idea. I see a number of women every month who have convinced their GP to do this test and they gave regretted it. If you have a lower level it doesn't mean you can't get pregnant. So it's not helpful unless you're looking to immediately plan the next step."

Regarding the 'egg timer' test, Dr Devora says it is worthwhile if you're not sure as a couple what you're going to do about babies, but do want one or some in the future.

"I see couples who are not quite ready to have a baby but they are just wondering how much time they have got. Then it can be helpful in fertility planning, but only if you've got a plan. Of course it's still no guarantee though and no one in my world would ever tell a couple that it's okay to wait or say "don't worry, you'll get pregnant later".

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No point finding out information that will only made you sad if there's nothing you can do about it at the time.

As for guys who are just curious about their own fertility? Dr Devora says she very rarely gets those kinds of visits.

"For a man to have a semen analysis out of idle curiosity is very rare. Men don't tend to think about these things the way women do."

Overall, Dr Devora says that the very best test of fertility at the end of the day is to try to get pregnant.

"The textbook guide for how long you should try for a baby before seeking medical help is six months for women over 35 years of age, and a year for women under 35. But my view is if a woman is 25 years old and she's not pregnant within six months, the couple might as well go and have some not terribly expensive, non invasive tests done to make sure there's nothing wrong. If a woman is young and healthy, she sound be pregnant after six months."

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Good luck!

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