Preparing for Pregnancy

November 12, 2010

Are you thinking about becoming pregnant?  If so, you’ve probably got a lot of exciting thoughts running through your mind.  You might be making lists of baby names or picking out colors for the nursery.  You might also be thinking about health changes you’ll make when you’re pregnant.  Pregnancy is a special experience in a woman’s life, and many women know they should take extra good care of their health while they’re pregnant. 

Did you know that a healthy pregnancy can actually begin even before conception?  You can take charge of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby before you even become pregnant by taking care of your health now.

The basics of a healthy lifestyle lay the foundation for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Get into the routine of eating healthy meals—lots of fiber, low in fat, and include lots of fruits and vegetables.  If you are a vegetarian, make sure you are getting enough protein.
  • Exercise 3 or more times each week
  • Get to within 15 pounds of your ideal body weight, which is based on your body mass index and calculated by age and height.

In addition:

  • Take a daily vitamin that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid.   This reduces the chance of some birth defects and congenital heart disease.
  • Go to the dentist.  It’s best to get any dental work you need taken care of before you become pregnant.
  • Make an appointment with your primary care physician.  Tell your doctor you are trying to become pregnant so the prescription and over-the-counter medications you take can be evaluated for safety during pregnancy. 
  • Your doctor may order blood tests to check your immunity to certain diseases, such as rubella and chicken pox, even if your vaccinations are up to date.  If you are no longer immune, your doctor may recommend receiving the vaccination before you become pregnant.   
  • You may want to consider genetic testing for diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, and Canavan disease.

The first weeks of pregnancy are crucial to a baby’s development, and many women don’t know they are pregnant right away.  If you are trying to become pregnant: 

  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t use recreational drugs
  • Minimize your exposure to hazards such as lead, solvents, x-rays, and other potent chemicals.  
  • Avoid drugs used to treat acne. 

These substances can cause your baby to develop abnormally and can lead to birth defects.   

In addition:

  • Take precautions to limit your risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease.  Avoid having multiple sexual partners, avoid partners who use intravenous (IV) drugs, and avoid partners who have other sexual partners.  STDs can complicate pregnancy and even lead to miscarriage.
  • If you have a cat, find someone else to change the litter box.  Cats can carry toxoplasmosis, which is passed in their feces and can cause birth defects in human babies.

You may also want to prepare for other aspects of pregnancy and having a baby.

  • If you don’t currently have an obstetrician and/or pediatrician, do some research in order to find a doctor you feel comfortable with
  • Look into health insurance options and understand your policy
  • If you work, think about how you’ll schedule your prenatal care and what you’d like to do about childcare
  • When making financial decisions, keep in mind the day-to-day baby expenses you will soon have

Once you become pregnant, be sure to get regular prenatal care.  At that point, your obstetrician will give you much more information and help guide you through a healthy pregnancy.   

As you can see, taking charge of your own health now is good for both you and your future baby.  By following these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy pregnancy!