A good diet, providing you with all the necessary nutrients, is vital when you are planning to conceive. If you eat well, you should not need to take a general vitamin or mineral supplement, but if you do, make sure that you take one specifically designed for pregnant (or pre-pregnant) women, as these do not include Vitamin A. High levels of this fat-soluble vitamin may cause developmental abnormalities in the foetus. Scientists have discovered that the controversial Atkins diet, high in protein and fat, could reduce your chances of becoming pregnant. So, if there was ever a reason not to diet, this could be it.
The one supplement all women planning for a baby should take is folic acid, one of the B vitamins. The Department of Health recommends taking a folic acid supplement as this has been shown to significantly reduce the risks of having a child with spina bifida. You can get the recommended dose of folic acid, 0.4mg a day (which may also be described at 400mcg or micrograms) at any chemist’s. If you are epileptic and take drugs to control your epilepsy, consult your doctor before taking folic acid.
As well as taking a supplement, try to eat more foods that contain folic acid. These include green leafy vegetables, especially sprouts and spinach, and some fortified breakfast cereals. If you are already pregnant, take the supplement as soon as you can and continue for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Foods to avoid
Some foods carry tiny risks for pregnant women and therefore you may like to avoid them when you are trying to conceive. These include:
- Soft cheeses, especially those made with unpasteurised milk, which may carry listeria. There is a small risk that listeria can cause an infection which may lead to miscarriage
- Liver or foods containing liver, like pates, as these contain high levels of vitamin A
- Raw or undercooked meats which can carry listeria
- Pre-cooked chilled meals, which may carry food poisoning organisms if they are not thoroughly reheated until piping hot
- Ready-washed salads which have been shown to sometimes carry listeria. Wash all vegetables and salads before you eat them
- Lightly-cooked eggs. Hard boil eggs until the whites and yolk are solid to avoid possible risk of salmonella