Conception Nutrition

What to Eat Before you are Pregnant

As part of my role as a Doula, I gather a team of trusted professionals that I can draw on to help my mums and bubs during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.  One of these professionals is Stacy Heckenberg BHSc Nut. Med.  This week Stacy is guest blogging for me on how to get yourself ready for pregnancy,  In coming weeks, she will also talk about what to eat and what to avoid in pregnancy, and how to ensure you get the right nutrition once baby is born.


Planning on a Baby?

Planning for a baby is an exciting time, but around one in 6 Australian couples struggle to conceive.  There any number of reasons for this, including the stress of everyday life, and the fact that we are leaving it later to start a family these days.  This is why it is so important to start taking action on your health and fertility before you even start to try and conceive.

At least three months before you plan on ‘trying’ – six if you can do it – you should look at some key nutrition and lifestyle factors.  Current scientific evidence directly links the health of babies to their mother’s pre-conception health, so now is the time to start looking at your overall health and fertility.

Here are my top tips for the preconception period:

  • Get a full health check from your doctor. A blood test can determine any deficiencies that you can work on before trying to conceive.
  • A healthy BMI is important to conceiving. Whether you are over or under weight can impact your fertility.  This is not just the case for mums.  Being overweight can reduce the quality and quantity of sperm, so Dad needs to check his weight too!
  • Mum and dad should quit smoking and drinking. Both have negative effect on fertility.
  • Work on a healthy diet. This doesn’t mean starve yourself, or give up the things you love.  But it does mean looking at the choice you make and working on including the right foods in your diet.
  • If you feel like you might not be getting enough nutrition from diet alone, a prenatal vitamin may be a good idea.
  • Start a fertility chart to help you understand your menstrual cycle and work out when you have ovulated and are most fertile.


What to Eat before You’re Expecting

If you generally eat a healthy diet, there is not need to change things drastically.  But there are a few important nutrients that you should make sure you are getting:

Iron – lean red meat should be included in your diet.  Consider increasing the legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils) in your diet, as well as nuts (particularly cashews and almonds), dried apricots, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereals (brown rice, oats, quinoa).  A great idea is to make up a ‘trail mix’ with nuts, seeds and dried fruits that you can snack on.  This will work all through your pregnancy and beyond.

Zinc – Meats and legumes provide zinc, as do most diary products, wholegrains, eggs and seeds.

Iodine – Seafood – tuna and seaweed – are particularly good for iodine, as is milk, yoghurt and cheese

Folate – This is a really important nutrient as it has been found to reduce the risk of Spina Bifida in babies.  Leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, asparagus, citrus fruits, eggs all contain folate.  Many doctors also recommend taking a folate supplement before conceiving to ensure your body has sufficient stores.

Vitamin D – Fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon, as well as cheese and egg yolks provide great sources of vitamin D.


Fertility Charts

You can easily use old-school pen and paper to record your fertility, but there are also a number of apps you can download that will help you do it, some of which are more detailed than others.  Whether you want simple, or a bit more detailed, have a look at Glow, Kindara and Ovia Fertility as options if you are looking for an app that will help monitor your fertility.

I hope these suggestions help ensure you are fit and ready for the incredible experience of pregnancy.

Yours in health


If you would like more information on any aspect of conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum, I would love to have chat with you.