Pregnancy is a major life event. If you plan for it, you can make wise choices that will benefit both your health and that of your baby. You should take a multivitamin with 400-800 mcg of folic acid for at least 1-3 months before planning a pregnancy. Adequate intake of folic acid has been found to reduce open neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid can also be found in dark, leafy greens and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, citrus fruits, dried peas and beans and fortified breakfast cereals.
Proper Diet and Exercise
Good health depends on both a proper diet and exercise. Exercise is encouraged in pregnancy but this is not a time to begin a new exercise program. Use the time before pregnancy to become physically fit so that you will be able to continue to exercise during your pregnancy. As dieting is not appropriate during pregnancy, pre-pregnancy is the time for optimizing your weight. If you are currently overweight, achieving a normal weight before conception decreases the risk of complications to you and your baby. If you are unsure what your weight should be, we would be happy to help you set goals and make a plan for weight loss before conception.
Stop Smoking and Drinking
Smoking has been found to cause preterm delivery, premature rupture of membranes and low birth weight. Alcohol and other drugs also adversely affect pregnancy. No amount during pregnancy has been proven safe. For the sake of your health and your baby, stop smoking and drinking before getting pregnant.
Are you taking any prescription medicines? If so, please speak with your provider about whether it is safe to continue them when trying to conceive. Some prescription drugs can increase the risk of birth defects and you may need time before conception to change your medicines. Please do not stop taking any physician recommended medicine without talking with your provider first.
Are your immunizations up-to-date? Exposure to rubella in early pregnancy can cause several birth defects in the fetus. We recommend that you have a rubella titer drawn to see if you are immune to German measles. If not, we will give you the vaccine and you will need to wait another month before attempting to get pregnant.
The Tdap vaccine protects you and your baby against three diseases-Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (whooping cough). You will be offered the TDaP vaccine DURING pregnancy.
The best way to protect yourself, your baby and your family against the flu is to get the shot, especially if you are trying to conceive or will deliver during the flu season (typically October through March).
Your work environment may expose you to things that might pose a risk to you or your baby. Your employer should be able to provide you with information regarding hazardous materials that you might be exposed to.
Assessing your family history and your partner’s family history is important. There are some disorders that are inherited or more common in certain ethnic groups, such as Ashkenazi Jews. This may include such diseases as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and Tay-Sachs disease. You can be screened prenatally for some of these diseases and also be referred to a genetic counselor for more information to determine your risk.
Schedule a Preconception Counseling Appointment
Some patients will make an appointment to discuss concerns before attempting to conceive. At that visit, we will try to identify things that will help minimize risks and complications to you and your baby during pregnancy if…
- this is your first pregnancy
- you have chronic medical problems
- you had problems with a previous pregnancy
Then we recommend that you schedule a preconception counseling appointment for more detailed counseling to maximize a healthy pregnancy and delivery for you and your baby.