SingaporeMotherhood | Pregnancy

March 2013

Improve Your Chances of Conceiving

So the wedding has came and gone. You have support from your parents and the parents-in-law. Even government support has been increased. The only thing you need to do now is to actually conceive.

Lisa Ho, 38, has been married for three years. Her husband is a cancer survivor and the couple had feared that their window of opportunity for fertility had passed them by. Then she got pregnant, but had a miscarriage. By God’s grace, she says, she is now expecting again and is due to deliver a baby girl next month. When asked what she did to improve her chances, she replied, “Pray, pray, pray.”
Indeed, many couples seek divine intervention when fertility aid is needed. But apart from this, there are other more concrete measures that can be worked on to prepare and aid the body for conception, and ensure a welcoming womb for your baby.

Ms Jenny Brewster, a certified midwife with Mother and Child – a local prenatal and postnatal education centre – shares ways in which you can improve your fertility.

Nourish Your Body

1. Avoid trans fat. Also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening in most commercial baked goods and deep-fried foods, it is “a powerful deterrent to ovulation and conception”. It makes blood platelets stickier and fuels inflammation.

2. Use unsaturated vegetable oils like olive and canola oil. Unsaturated fats can improve fertility and are also present in avocados, nuts, seeds, fish and beans. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the good fats needed by human body.

3. Eat more vegetable protein rather than animal protein. Adding one serving a day of red meat, chicken, or turkey affects one-third of ovulatory fertility negatively, whereas adding one serving of beans, peas, soybeans or nuts daily affects ovulatory fertility positively, if slightly.

4. Choose unrefined carbohydrates over refined ones. The total amount of carbohydrate in your diet does not affect your fertility, but the kinds of carbs eaten does. Consuming too much of easily digested carbohydrates affects ovulatory fertility negatively.

5. Drink a glass of whole or full-fat milk every day. As the good nutrients in cow’s milk gets skimmed off with the fat, low-fat dairy products affect fertility negatively.


6. Consume folic acid and other B vitamins. Among its other benefits, folic acid promotes ovulation. Ms Brewster recommends taking 400 mg of folic acid in tablet form daily until the 12th week of pregnancy. This helps to prevent neural tube deformities such as spina bifida. Discuss with your doctor if you think that a bigger dose is required.

7. Get iron from vegetables rather than from red meat. Fortified cereals, nuts, beans, and dried fruits are great sources. When consuming a prenatal vitamin, make sure there is at least 40 mg of iron in it.

8. Drink plenty of water. Moderate consumption of coffee or tea – two to three cups a day – does not affect fertility. However, sugared soda drinks (with 150 to 200 calories a can) can cause sudden ups and downs in the blood sugar level.

9. Aim for a healthy weight. Women with a body mass index in the healthy range of between 18.5 and 25 before conception are the ones most likely to be successful in getting pregnant and having a healthy full-term baby. Ms Brewster suggests you start eating a healthy balanced diet between three and six months before conception, but to avoid crash dieting before pregnancy.

10. Exercise daily without overdoing it. Ms Brewster advises taking up a regular exercise which can be continued in pregnancy. Obviously, do not take up a new vigorous exercise during pregnancy!

Cease Vices

In addition to incorporating healthy eating and exercising into your new, prepare-to-conceive lifestyle, take a good hard look at the habits that you would be much better without, such as smoking.

In their book Before Your Pregnancy, authors Amy Ogle and Lisa Mazzullo state that “Nicotine decreases fertility and and affects the foetus, which begins organ development on the 17th day after conception – potentially before you even know you’re pregnant”. Therefore, try to quit or temporarily stop smoking three months before conception to give you time to ease into tobacco cessation.

Ms Brewster also cautions that prescription drugs that you are currently taking have to be reviewed by a doctor. Certain drugs that epileptic patients take, for instance, can cause problems during pregnancy, so alternative medications have to be prescribed. Your health and safety at the workplace will also need reviewing, particularly if you have to deal with hazardous substances in your line of work.

The Man’s Role

It takes two to make a baby and men need to prepare for conception too. Male fertility problems contribute to 29 per cent of the reasons behind a couple’s inability to conceive.

So at least 90 days before you actually start trying in earnest, get his lifestyle in check. The reason for this timeframe is that sperm cells need time to develop and mature. According to Before Your Pregnancy: “Basic sperm formation takes about 74 days. And additional 12 to 21 days of maturation are needed for the sperm to acquire the ability to move and be fertile.”

Last Notes

Before logging into your ovulation calculator to check out the best time for baby-making, you may want to do a cervical screening. Ms Brewster recommends doing this before pregnancy, to rule out any problems. She also suggests genetic counselling for those whose family histories may necessite it.

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Improve Your Chances of Conceiving