A baby's first twelve weeks of life in the uterus, or womb, are in many ways the most crucial.
During this first trimester all her essential organs are being formed and, by three months, most are beginning to work. However many women do not even suspect they are pregnant until they miss a period or have other pregnancy symptoms, so they are unlikely to have their first antenatal appointment much before they are eight or nine weeks pregnant – and often much later than that.
Obviously, if it is an unplanned pregnancy, the mum is unlikely to make any lifestyle changes until her pregnancy is confirmed. Thankfully, despite going unnoticed for several weeks, the vast majority of babies develop and grow safely and healthily.
If the pregnancy is planned, there are easy measures every couple can take which will reduce risks to a baby even before conception takes place. These measures come under the heading pre-conceptual care. The idea of trying to minimise risks even before a child is conceived is relatively new, but it makes sense to avoid environmental factors which we now know can pose a hazard to an unborn baby and to follow simple guidelines which are beneficial.
We know that some environmental factors can often combine to prevent babies growing properly in the uterus and that some of these factors can be avoided (e.g. contraception, poor diet, smoking, drugs, drinking, pollutants, sexually transmitted diseases).
Because there is no way of telling in advance which babies are likely to be at risk it makes sense for all prospective parents to try to avoid risks within their control.
Six months ahead of conception is not too soon to start thinking about your health, but certainly try to consider your pre-conceptual care at least three months before you hope to get pregnant.
If you plan to have a baby there are simple steps you can take towards helping your child, even before you try to conceive.
Pre-conceptual care means weighing the odds in favour of a baby who is then able to realise her full mental and physical potential.