Planning your pregnancy

If you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it’s not too early to start preparing for pregnancy.

One of the first steps is to prioritize your health and wellness. The healthier you are before you conceive, the healthier your pregnancy typically will be. Start by leading a healthy lifestyle — eating well, getting plenty of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

Take a look at your daily habits and make changes where needed. In addition, be sure you are emotionally ready to commit to a lifetime of parenthood.

Talk to your primary care provider or OB/GYN

It’s a good idea to talk to your primary care provider or OB/GYN about your health and plans before getting pregnant. If you have any of the following medical conditions, it’s crucial to see your doctor before you get pregnant:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Lupus
  • Thyroid issues (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism)

Be sure you also share your family history of medical conditions with your doctor because some may be inherited, such as:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Muscular dystrophy

If these or any other medical conditions run in your family, you may be referred to a genetic counselor.

Your doctor will ask about your current medications and health history, including any history of sexually transmitted diseases with you and your partner.

Stop birth control pills

If you take birth control pills, stop taking them a month before trying to get pregnant. After stopping the pill, you may have irregular periods for a while. This can make it hard to tell when you are fertile or ovulating.

It might take longer to become pregnant, but the pill has no impact on fertility. The use of birth control pills before you get pregnant does not cause birth defects, no matter how close you use them to the time you get pregnant.

Quit smoking

Smoking is bad for you and bad for an unborn baby. Studies show that women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have babies with lower birth weights.  Smoking also increases the risk of:

  • Asthma
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Preterm labor
  • Stillbirth
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Stop smoking before you get pregnant rather than waiting to quit once you’re expecting.

Stop drinking alcohol

Alcohol use may make it harder to get pregnant.

Once you’re pregnant, alcohol can have damaging effects on an unborn baby, even in small quantities. If you have a drink, the alcohol rapidly reaches your baby through your bloodstream and across the placenta. Women who have two or more drinks a day are at greater risk for giving birth to a baby with severe long-term health issues, such as mental disabilities, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and facial and heart defects.

We don’t know what amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, so it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

Reach an ideal weight

If you are underweight or overweight, it is best to reach your ideal weight before you get pregnant. It is not a good idea to try to lose weight during pregnancy; however, being overweight during pregnancy may increase your chance of having complications, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Talk to your doctor about how to achieve a healthy weight before pregnancy.

Exercise before you get pregnant

Before you get pregnant, get in the habit of exercising most days of the week. This may help your body cope with the changes you will go through during pregnancy and labor. It also may help you get back in shape after the baby is born.

Your exercise level during pregnancy will be determined by your overall health and how active you were before you got pregnant. Your doctor will advise you on how much exercise is best for you during pregnancy.

Eat healthy foods

A balanced diet is always important, but if you’re planning to get pregnant, make changes to eat healthier before you conceive. Cut down on consuming empty calories, artificial sweeteners and caffeine. Balance your diet with:

  • Dairy products
  • Foods high in protein
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Vegetables

Take vitamins and folic acid

Most doctors recommend that women begin taking a daily multivitamin supplement and at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid before getting pregnant. Folic acid is thought to reduce a baby’s risk of developing birth defects of the spine, such as spina bifida. Ideally, you should start taking a multivitamin with 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid two months before you get pregnant.

Reduce stress

While you are trying to get pregnant, it’s important to relax and be as stress-free as possible. Practicing stress management and stress-reduction techniques, combined with getting plenty of rest, may make it easier for you to become pregnant.

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