It is not unusual for some couples who are trying to have babies to experience difficulties. Dr. Judith Dallas, gynecologist/obstetrician at Gynae Associates in St. Andrew, Jamaica, has some tips on how couples can make healthy babies.

Step 1: Inform your doctor that you want to get pregnant

Ensure that you are in good health, that you do not have cancer or any other disease while trying to get pregnant, and that you are not overweight.

You should have your PAP smear, pelvic and breast examinations done, etc. According to Dr. Dallas, this is important because a woman would not want to find out that she has health issues when she is already pregnant: they will be much harder to deal with, and some treatments may actually harm the baby.

So, take care of your health problems prior to getting pregnant. Maintain a good diet because the early stages are important. Eat well and take your vitamins. Exercise at least three times per week to increase your heart rate. Avoid alcohol and smoking.

Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes may decrease a woman’ chances of ovulation and lower a man's sperm count. Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who smoke tend to be lower in birth weight. In addition, exposure to second-hand smoke may adversely affect the fetus.

Inform your doctor if you are taking any medications because this can affect the fetus.

Step 2: Start Trying Dr. Dallas says that women are more fertile when they are in their late teens to late 20s. She noted that the likelihood of a woman getting pregnant lessens as she gets older but that women in their 30s still have a good chance of getting pregnant.

Have Sex Regularly A woman who is trying to become pregnant should have sex preferably 14 days before her next period (for a woman with a 28-day cycle). This is during the period of ovulation. Avoid Stress Being stressed affects some hormones in the body and, if this stress is protracted, the baby’s size can be smaller.

Step 3: What to eat while pregnant The eggs have been fertilized, and now you are pregnant. You need to care well for yourself to avoid a miscarriage.

You may not need to make major changes to the food you eat while pregnant. Eat according to your appetite, and try to eat a range of good-quality foods to make sure you get the nutrients you and your growing baby need. Every day, you should aim to eat from a variety of food groups. Try to aim for five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Use any kind, including fresh, frozen, dried, tinned in natural juices, and pure fruit juices. (Remember though that only one glass of fruit juice can be counted toward your five or more portions, no matter how many you drink.) Bread, cereals, rice, pasta, and potatoes should make up the main part of your meal.

Whole grain cereal foods such as brown rice or whole grain bread have more fiber and vitamins and are more filling. Meat, fish, and alternatives provide protein and iron. Include some food from this group twice a day. This includes meat, chicken, fish (including tinned fish), eggs, nuts, beans, and legumes. Milk and dairy foods provide an important source of calcium. Try to include one pint of semi-skimmed or skimmed milk per day or swap 1/3 of a pint of milk for 1oz (30g) of cheese (matchbox size), a yogurt, or a bowl of milk pudding. Low-fat dairy products have the same amount of calcium as full-fat varieties. Minimize your intake of foods containing high levels of fat and sugar. Try not to eat foods like biscuits, puddings, cakes and chocolate every day.

Step 4: Vitamins You should also aim to increase your levels of folic acid, an important B vitamin. Folic acid is found naturally in many foods and is added to some manufactured foods. It is vital for the growth and health of all the cells in the body. It's especially important if you are in the early stages of pregnancy (up to 12 weeks), or if you are planning a pregnancy, as it reduces the risk of the baby being affected by neural tube defects such as spina bifida or anencephaly.