Important facts for planning pregnancy

This brochure prepares you and your partner to plan for pregnancy. It assists you and your partner to prepare yourselves, improve your health and nutrition. It is hoped that the baby you are expecting can develop and grow in a desirable environment, and to minimise the risk of any pregnancy complications.

  1. Maintain a balanced diet to get optimal nutrition
    • Fat/Oil, Salt and Sugar, Eat the least
    • Milk and Alternatives, 1 - 2 glasses every day, 1 glass = 240 ml
    • Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives, 5 - 8 taels every day, 1 tael = meat in the size of a table tennis ball
    • Vegetables, At least 3 servings every day, 1 serving = ½ bowl of cooked vegetables
    • Fruits, At least 2 servings every day, 1 serving = 1 medium-sized fruit (e.g. orange or apple)
    • Grains, 3 - 8 bowls every day, 1 bowl = 250 - 300 ml
    • Drink 6 - 8 glasses of fluid every day including water, tea, milk, clear soup

    Include all 5 food groups every day including Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Meat, Fish, Eggs and alternatives, Milk and alternatives. Consume a variety of foods enable us to obtain different nutrients we need.

    Eat a variety of nutritious foods for optimal nutrition. A balanced diet ensures we get the nutrients we needed. It helps the embryo to receive the best nutrition from the mother, once you are conceived.

    Limit your intake of foods with low nutritional value, especially those have high fat and high sugar contents, such as potato crisps, fries, cream cakes, biscuits, candies, fast food, instant noodles, processed meats, sweetened drinks and soft drinks. They provide high calories yet very limited nutrients. Over-consumption can lead to overweight and obesity.

    You can try:

    • to replace soft drinks and other sweetened beverages with water or soda water.
    • to take fresh fruits as dessert or snack which are refreshing and sweet.
    • to replace instant noodles with non-fried noodles such as rice noodle and plain Chinese noodles.
    • to take nuts as snack in moderation. Although nuts are high in calorie, they are rich in dietary fibre and nutrients.

    Choose variety and nutritious foods:

    • Choose brown rice, red rice, wholemeal bread, and noodle to replace part of the white rice and bread in our diet. By doing this, we can obtain the vitamins from the whole grains.
    • Choose a range of vegetables and fruits with different colours. For example, carrot, pumpkin, bell pepper, spinach, cauliflower, eggplant, grape, apple, blueberries and cherries.
    • Choose variety in the group of Meat, fish, eggs and alternatives. Include meat, fish, egg, beans and soy products such as tofu and fresh bean curd sheet.
    • Apart from milk, yoghurt and cheese, you can choose alternatives that have high calcium content, for example, calcium-added soy milk, dark green vegetables and tofu.

    Local adults tend not to get adequate iron, calcium, iodine and vitamin D. Pay extra attention to these important nutrients.

    • Iron
      • Eggs, nuts, seeds, dried beans
      • Dark green vegetables, such as spinach, choy sum, bok choy and kale
      • Iron-fortified breakfast cereals and whole-meal bread
    • Vitamin D
      • Sunlight exposure is of vital importance in helping you to produce and absorb vitamin D.
      • Egg yolk, salmon, vitamin D-fortified milk and breakfast cereals
    • Calcium
      • Milk, yoghurt, cheese, calcium-added soy milk, dark green vegetables, tofu
    • Iodine
      • Seaweeds, kelp, seafood, fish, prawns, oysters
  2. Intake of folic acid supplements

    You are advised to take 400 mcg folic acid supplements daily when you plan for pregnancy and during the first trimester of pregnancy. It reduces baby’s risk of having neural tube defect (malformations of brain and spinal cord).

    Furthermore, choose foods which are rich in folic acid, such as dark green leafy vegetables, beans and dry beans, fruits and breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.

    Do I have to take nutritional supplements?

    It is recommended to have a balanced diet in your daily life and to choose foods with high nutritional value, to ensure your body get sufficient nutrients. If you are considering taking nutritional supplements, please consult your doctor or dietitian. If you are a vegan, you may not get enough vitamin B12, iron, omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. DHA) from your diet. You are advised to consult your doctor or dietitian for nutritional assessment, and to choose an appropriate supplementation with recommended amount.

    Smart tips

    Never take the nutritional supplements in a wrong way. Overdose of vitamin A may cause fetal anomaly.

  3. Stay physically active

    Being physically active and having an active lifestyle are beneficial for your physical and mental health. Exercise regularly can help to reduce the chance of overweight during and after pregnancy.
    Do aerobic exercise for 150 minutes every week. You can notice your heart rate increased during moderate intensity of physical activity. If you just start to do exercise, you may choose the simple and easy activities, such as jogging, riding a stationary bike, swimming, etc.

    • If you cannot find time to do exercise, you can do physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily. It can be accumulated from separate sessions to meet the daily requirement.
    • Use public transport when going out. Get off one station earlier and walk quickly to the destination. Besides, walk up or down the stairs instead of using the lift.
    • Do more housework to exercise your body.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight

    Either underweight or overweight will affect your chance of pregnancy. Woman at healthy weight increases her chance of getting pregnant, and has lower risk of complications during pregnancy.

    Let’s calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI)

    BMI = Weight (kg) ÷ (Height (m) × Height (m))

    • BMI < 18.5, underweight

      Even the pregnant woman will increase her weight during pregnancy, she may have higher chance of preterm birth or give birth to baby of lower birth weight.

    • BMI > 23, overweight / obesity

      The pregnant woman will have higher risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension or diabetes, etc.

      If you are overweight or obese, try to control your weight before pregnancy. It is better to reduce weight by maintaining a balanced diet and increasing your physical activity.

      Control your diet. Have regular physical activity.

      • Control your diet
        • Proper diet control is essential for maintaining healthy weight. Stay at healthy weight if you are normal right now. If you are overweight or obese, you should goal for a healthy weight. Do consult dietitian or doctor to regulate your diet and keep your weight within a normal range.
      • If father-to-be is overweight, the chance of his partner to get pregnant will also be reduced. He should control his weight too!
      • You can visit the website of Hong Kong Dietitians Association and contact a dietitian or relevant organisations for weight management. https://www.hkda.com.hk/index.php?docId=19
  5. Pay attention to food safety

    Choose fish with low level of methylmercury:

    • Fish is the common source of methylmercury in our diet. High level of methylmercury can damage the developing nervous system of foetus and infant.
      • Choose fish carefully. Avoid eating fish with high level of methylmercury, such as sharks, swordfish, sailfish, king mackerel, blue-fin tuna, big-eye tuna, albacore tuna, yellow-fin tuna, alfonsino, etc.
      • Consume fish in moderation and eat from a variety of fish to reduce the risk.

    Avoid foods that are easily contaminated by bacteria, or any foods that are raw or have not been cooked thoroughly.

    • Chilled ready-to-eat or refrigerated foods can be easily contaminated by listeria which can lead to miscarriage.

    Please visit the website of the following organisations:

    • Centre for Health Protection
    • Centre for Food Safety
  6. No smoking

    Smoking is hazardous to the growth of foetus. Smoking will also damage the female eggs and male sperms, which reduce the chance of pregnancy.

    You and your partner should quit smoking as soon as possible.

    Action Immediately

    Integrated Smoking Cessation Hotline of the Department of Health: 1833 183
    Websites on smoking cessation: http://www.tco.gov.hk/

  7. No alcoholic drinks

    Alcohol will damage the eggs and sperms, and reduce the fertility of both male and female. Alcohol can be transferred to the foetus from mother and affect the development of organs, leading to low birth weight or even mental deficiency. Pregnant women should avoid all alcoholic drinks.
    You and your partner should avoid all alcoholic drinks to increase the chance of pregnancy.

  8. Talk to your family doctor
    • Gynaecological diseases, chronic disease, or family history of inherited diseases
      • If you have chronic illness such as thyroid disorder, diabetes, hypertension or depression, please seek advice from your doctor to use appropriate medications for pregnancy.
      • If you have any family history of inherited diseases, such as Down’s syndrome, Thalassemia, haemophilia, you should receive proper check-up to understand the chance of inheritance of the diseases.
      • If you suspect any sexually transmitted illness, please consult the doctor as soon as possible to avoid any transmission to the foetus.
    • Medicines and drug use
      • Some medicines may affect the development and health of foetus. If you are taking long-term medications, please consult your doctor for advice.
    • Vaccination
      • If a pregnant woman is infected with chickenpox or rubella, it may lead to congenital anomalies of foetus. Hepatitis B carrier may transfer the virus to baby during delivery. If you have never received these vaccinations, please consult your doctor for advice.
    • Cervical screening
      • Cervical screening can detect early pre-cancer changes in the cervical cells. Some treatment for pre-cancer changes may not be suitable during pregnancy. You are recommended to have screening before getting pregnant and receive proper treatment in advance.
  9. Beware personal hygiene

    Some animals or soils may contain bacteria or parasites. You should be aware of personal hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly after touching the animals. When handling the excrement of animals or placing a plant, wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly afterwards. Pets must not go into the kitchen. If you plan for travel, please seek medical advice about prevention of infectious disease before the trip.

  10. Maintain oral health

    Go to dental check-up before pregnancy. Maintain good oral care in daily life to prevent any oral or teeth problems during pregnancy

  11. Have good psychological preparation

    Getting pregnant and meeting your newborn would be one of the most important and unforgettable moments in your life. You may feel excited but nervous when planning for pregnancy. From getting pregnant to after childbirth, both you and your partner may have different emotions, which include worry, anxiety, irritability, warmth, fondness etc. Because of physical discomfort, hormonal changes, role change and challenges in baby care, women could have mood disturbances during pregnancy and after childbirth. To promote good mental health and get well-prepared in becoming parents, you and your partner can:

    • Get prepared financially by making a financial plan for the family before getting pregnant.
    • Get prepared for childcare arrangement, such as communicating with other family members about the need for their assistance in childcare if necessary.
    • Establish realistic expectations for pregnancy and parenthood by experience sharing from other new parents.
    • Share with each other about views and values on parenting issues and make adjustments if needed.
    • Build up an intimate and strong relationship with each other, so that your baby would grow up in a family full of love.

    If you or your partner experiences persisting emotional disturbances, seeking professional help as early as possible is needed.

Expecting the baby

  • How to increase the chance of pregnancy?

    Have sex regularly every two or three days to increase the chance of pregnancy.

    If you cannot have sex with your partner frequently for certain reasons, you may try to familiar with your menstrual cycle and have sexual intercourse with your partner during ovulation to increase the chance of pregnancy. For instance, a woman who has a 28-day menstrual cycle, usually ovulates on 10 to 16 days before the next period. It is about the 12th to 18th days of each menstrual cycle (from the first day of menstruation).

Change in your biological cycle

  • Change in body temperature

    Body temperature will be higher for 0.2 degrees Celsius than before ovulation.

  • An increase in mucus

    Around the day of ovulation, vaginal discharge will increase. The discharge is slippery and clear, and looks like raw egg-white. It can hold a stretch (‘spinnbarkeit’).

  • Ovulation test can also help you predict ovulation.

If you cannot get pregnant …

About 80% to 90% of normal couples can conceive within one year without any birth control. If the couple is unable to conceive, medical advice should be sought. The chance of pregnancy will be higher if you tackle the problem earlier.

For details about infertility, please refer to the Family Health Service website.

It is recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle, so that you can get well prepared for your pregnancy and baby care.

  • Choose foods with high nutritional value, especially those foods are rich in folic acid, iron, calcium, iodine, vitamin D. It helps the foetus to receive the optimal nutrition from early stage of development.
  • Take 400 mcg of folic acid supplements daily. Consult your doctor or dietitian before using any supplements.
  • Avoid eating fish with high level of methylmercury.
  • Avoid eating uncooked food.
  • Have physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Women at healthy weight can get pregnant more easily.
  • Quit smoking and alcoholic drinks. Alcohol and cigarette damage eggs and sperms, and reduce the chance of pregnancy.
  • Talk to your family doctor about any medical history and inherited family diseases of you and your partner, and prevention of infectious disease.
  • Maintain good oral health. This helps prevent oral problems during pregnancy.
  • Aware of personal hygiene and wash hands frequently.
  • Be prepared before pregnancy, and let your baby to be grown up in a family full of love.

Family Health Service
Website:www.fhs.gov.hk
24-hour information hotline:2112 9900

(Published 10/2016)