Preparing for pregnancy

Preparing for Pregnancy

As pregnancy brings a new dimension in life, planning and preparation for pregnancy is very important and it usually starts before pregnancy. If you are trying to conceive it is best for you and your partner to maintain a healthy lifestyle, reduce alcohol consumption and smoking, eat well and exercise moderately.

 If you have any medical conditions or take prescription medications, natural supplements or other drugs, it may be wise to discuss these with your doctor in advance. We usually suggest you to have pre-pregnancy counselling visit to your general practitioner to optimise your health. Here is some general advice about pregnancy preparation.


Eating a wide variety of healthy foods will help to supply you and your growing baby with the nutrients you both need. A good diet helps your body to cope with the demands of pregnancy, and gives the baby the best start in life. Also, poor nutrition in the womb increases the chance that the baby may develop diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes in adult life. This link can give you more details about the type and amounts of foods recommended in pregnancy.

Healthy and Active

Vitamins and supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements can be purchased in pharmacies and supermarkets. When buying a supplement, it is important to check the label on the packet to ensure that the doses of vitamins and minerals it contains are correct for pregnancy.

Folate, or folic acid, is a B group vitamin that is necessary for the correct growth and development of the fetus. Although it is obtained from dietary sources such as leafy green vegetables and fortified breads and cereals, taking a daily supplement prior to and in the early part of pregnancy reduces the chance that the baby will have a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. The recommended dose in Australia is 500 micrograms a day, starting at least a month before pregnancy if possible and continuing throughout the first trimester.

There are some situations where you need to take much higher doses of folate. For example: if you or a family member has had a baby affected by a neural tube defect or if you are taking certain anti-epileptic medications.

Iodine is a mineral that is used by the thyroid gland to make hormones that are needed for proper brain and nervous system development. Iodine deficiency is becoming more common in Australia and can be the cause of problems such as learning difficulties and intellectual disability. The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women take a supplement of 150 micrograms each day. If you have or are suspected to have a thyroid condition you should discuss the use of a supplement with your doctor or one of us prior to commencing.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women who are following restricted diets for ethical or health reasons may need additional supplements. For example, vegetarian and vegan women may need extra vitamin B12 and  / or iron, and
lactose intolerant women may need to take calcium supplements. You can discuss this with your doctor. Sometimes a blood test may be useful to determine if you and your baby might benefit from you taking an extra supplement. Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy is also becoming more common. If you have minimal sun exposure on your skin, or have dark skin, you may be at risk and should discuss this with your doctor. As part of your routine blood tests during pregnancy we check your iron and Vitamin D levels.

Weight gain and exercise

Weight gain is a normal and necessary part of being pregnant. If a pregnant woman is significantly overweight this makes pregnancy physically more difficult. Diabetes, high blood pressure, preterm birth, congenital abnormalities, blood clots in the leg and lung, infections and the need for caesarean section are all more common in obese pregnant women. The amount of weight gain recommended varies depending on your body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy :

  • If your pre-pregnancy BMI was less than 18.5, you should gain between 12.5kg and 18kg.
  • If your pre-pregnancy BMI was between 18.5 and 24.9, you should gain between 11.5kg and 16kg.
  • If your pre-pregnancy BMI was between 25 and 29, you should gain between 7kg and 11.5kg.
  • If your pre-pregnancy BMI was 30 or above, you should gain between 5kg and 9kg.

This is how you can calculate your BMI.

If we suspect you may be at higher risk of complications during your delivery to try and make things as safe as possible we will organise for you to meet with one of the anaesthetists before you have your baby.

Regular exercise is beneficial in pregnancy. It helps you to cope better with the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy, and prepares your body for childbirth. Even women who have not been exercising prior to pregnancy can start doing gentle exercise such as walking or swimming. There are many exercise classes available specifically for pregnant women, such as aqua aerobics and yoga. Women who are already doing regular exercise can continue, although they may need to modify their programme. If you have any concerns about the safety of the exercise you prefer you should discuss this with one of us.

Follow this link for detailed information about exercising in pregnancy.


Smoking tobacco is harmful in pregnancy. The baby receives less oxygen and is exposed to harmful chemicals. The risks of miscarriage, poor fetal growth, placental problems and stillbirth are all higher in women who smoke. It is best if you can quit prior to becoming pregnant but even if you are already pregnant, quitting will be beneficial to you and your growing baby. It is also of benefit after the baby is born, as cot death and asthma in babies and children has been linked to exposure to tobacco smoke. If your partner or family members smoke, it is a good time for them to quit too. Follow this link for information, advice and how to get support from Quit SA.

Quit SA

Caffeine and guarana

There is some evidence that caffeine can reduce fertility, so it may be advisable to limit yourself to a moderate intake – about two cups of weak coffee or five cups of tea per day.

Remember that caffeine is also present in Coke and energy drinks like V and Red Bull, so also limit your intake of these. Guarana, a caffeine substance used in some of these drinks, is not recommended in pregnancy.

Vitamin A

In excess, Vitamin A can be harmful to the developing baby. As liver contains very large amounts of  Vitamin A, limit any intake to small amounts (50g per week at most). There is little danger of excessive Vitamin A intake from other foods, however, it is often pre-sent in multivitamin supplements so check that they are specifically recommended for pregnancy.