Producing a healthy baby is about to go hi-tech with reports that IVF treatment may soon be available on the NHS.

I'm not in the business of knocking fertility treatment because I depended on a dose of fertility tablets myself before my first pregnancy.

However, I do wish someone had told me about the importance of pre-conceptual care.

I might have not have needed drugs to stimulate ovulation and may have had an easier time with the ensuing pregnancy and labour.

It's quite possible my son would have had fewer health problems, too, if my body had been better prepared for the whole process.

In the UK, one in six couples has fertility problems and there are 27,000 attempts at IVF every year, mostly carried out at private clinics.

If done on the NHS, the cost would be around £400m for treatment that only has a 22.6 per cent success rate.

The cost to the taxpayer doesn't stop there, either.

The debate continues about birth defects and developmental difficulties in IVF children.

If nature's normal selection processes and underlying health problems in both parents are ignored, does it mean we have to learn to live with a profoundly weakened next generation?

There has to be another way - and there is.

Pre-conceptual care was practised long before the advent of fertility drugs but we seldom get to hear about it. The ancient Greeks and Romans advised young couples to abstain from alcohol before and during pregnancy because of its damaging effects on the foetus.

Numerous primitive tribes insisted on a period of premarital nutrition to improve their chances of having healthy offspring and guarantee the continuation of the tribe.

Young girls from the Masai warrior tribe in Kenya, for instance, were given milk from cows grazed on fresh new grass. The Maoris in New Zealand ate shellfish when preparing for pregnancy.

Here, Foresight, the organisation for pre-conceptual care, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

It has enjoyed a phenomenal 78.4 per cent success rate with "subfertile" couples.

Each prospective parent is given a programme which includes in-depth analysis of nutritional status, practical advice on what to eat and suitable nutrients.

Foresight also recommends testing for sexually-transmitted diseases or genitourinary infections, as these account for a high incidence of infertility and chronic ill-health in infants.

Foresight founder Belinda Barnes says it takes at least four months for effective changes to occur in both a man and a woman on a Foresight programme.

She therefore encourages couples to wait at least this long before trying to conceive.

It is worth it because the incidence of infertility is hugely reduced, as are miscarriages, premature births, low birth weight and malformation.

If couples are undergoing IVF treatment, a Foresight programme more than doubles its success rate. Isn't it sensible and cheaper to provide nutritional therapy on the NHS?

For more information or details of a Foresight practitioner in your area, contact Foresight at 28 The Paddock, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1XD or call 01483-427839.

Martina is a qualified nutritional therapist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: