When is the best time to have a baby? When your body’s ready, says GP Dawn Harper, who has five sim­ple ways to stay in shape in the lead-up to con­cep­tion.

Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

GP Dawn Harper has five sim­ple ways to stay in shape be­fore con­cep­tion

Around half of preg­nan­cies in Aus­tralia each year are un­planned, while oth­ers are planned right down to the tim­ing of the birth, per­haps even aimed at get­ting a head-start on the school year. Given that only 4 per cent of ba­bies ar­rive on their due date, na­ture can al­ways find ways of in­ter­fer­ing with the best-laid plans! But try­ing to be as healthy as you can be­fore con­cep­tion can re­ally ben­e­fit both mother-to-be and baby. So, if ba­bies are on your brain, now’s the time to get into the best shape you can. Here are my top five health tips …


Be­ing ei­ther over­weight or un­der­weight can af­fect your fer­til­ity, so it’s im­por­tant to try to get into shape be­fore con­cep­tion. Aim for a Body Mass In­dex (BMI) of be­tween 18.5 and 25.

How­ever, your weight af­fects more than just your chances of con­ceiv­ing. Women who con­ceive when they are obese (with a BMI of over 30) have an in­creased risk of com­pli­ca­tions like ges­ta­tional di­a­betes, pre-eclamp­sia, blood clots and high blood pres­sure.

They are also more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fi­cult labours and pro­duce big ba­bies.

Even if you can’t achieve an ideal BMI, if you’re obese and lose just 5–10 per cent of your body weight, you’ll reap some ma­jor health ben­e­fits.


Be­ing ac­tive sig­nif­i­cantly low­ers the risk of hav­ing a large baby and also cuts your risk of ges­ta­tional di­a­betes by up to 30 per cent. Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity has also been shown to boost mood and en­ergy lev­els, and re­duce the risk of de­pres­sion.

Al­ways be guided by your GP or phys­io­ther­a­pist, but some great ex­er­cises for mums-to-be are: Gen­tle walk­ing (at least 30 min­utes a day) Swim­ming or aquaro­bics Yoga or stretch­ing Mus­cle-strength­en­ing ex­er­cises, in­clud­ing pelvic floor ex­er­cises Pi­lates


Even just one cig­a­rette has been shown to have an ef­fect on an un­born baby’s heart rate, so if you’re plan­ning a preg­nancy there’s never been a bet­ter time — or more in­cen­tive — to quit smok­ing. Your GP will have de­tails of lo­cal smok­ing ces­sa­tion pro­grams and ser­vices, or you can dip your toe in the wa­ter by call­ing Quit­line on 13 78 48.


Women who take 400 mi­cro­grams (mcg) of folic acid daily for at least a month be­fore they con­ceive, and con­tinue do­ing so for the first 12 weeks of preg­nancy, can re­duce the risk of spina bi­fida by 50–70 per cent.

Women at in­creased risk of spina bi­fida ba­bies will be ad­vised to take a higher dose. If you think you could be at risk, speak to your GP, as th­ese higher doses should be taken un­der med­i­cal su­per­vi­sion.


Im­mu­ni­sa­tion is an easy and very ef­fec­tive way to pro­tect you and your baby from cer­tain in­fec­tions. Be­fore you be­come preg­nant, check your vac­ci­na­tions are up to date so that you have the best pro­tec­tion.

If you’re al­ready preg­nant, en­sure you’ve had rou­tine im­mu­ni­sa­tions against tetanus and po­lio, plus also im­mu­nise against hep­ati­tis B, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), chickenpox, whoop­ing cough and in­fluenza.

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