Preconception Top 10
Got baby-making plans? Now is the time to also have a plan that will optimize the chances of a healthy pregnancy. Here are some top tips to help achieve the healthiest pregnancy—and a happy and healthy baby!
Start Taking Folic Acid
Folic acid is an important supplement to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. The dose you need depends upon your family history, says Dr. Shayne Plosker, associate professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine. If there is no family history of neural tube defects, a prenatal vitamin supplement should be sufficient.
Make a Preconception Doctor's Visit
Dr. Laura Goetzl, a fetal and maternal medicine specialist, says for a healthy woman looking at a normal pregnancy, it’s probably not necessary. However, she says, there are some women who should have this visit, such as those with a history of pregnancy complications, a family history of genetic disease, or other warning signs of possible fertility issues.
Quit Smoking and Drinking Alcohol
Dr. James Mayer, USF IVF physician in Florida, says smoking in early pregnancy raises the chance of >miscarriage. That means you shouldn’t wait until you actually find out you’re pregnant to quit. In addition, Dr. Goetzl says, the father should quit smoking as well, as secondhand smoke is also very harmful.
Be Drug Smart
Not abusing drugs, legal or illegal, goes without saying. But beyond that, if you’re on medication for a chronic condition it’s important to check with your primary physician prior to becoming pregnant to be sure that the drug you’re taking is safe for the baby. Don’t just stop taking your medication, though, Dr. Mayer says, as that can put you at risk.
Dr. Goetz suggests a regular, non-strenuous exercise program that you can start before you get pregnant and maintain during and after pregnancy. This will cut down on pregnancy aches and pains and facilitate labor and delivery. “Pregnancy is a time to be in shape, but not a time to get started,” Dr. Goetzl says. Start beforehand.
Check Your Immunizations
There have been a lot of changes in immunization guidelines in the past dozen years or so. Specifically, Dr. Goetzl says, be sure you’re up-to-date on the hepatitis B vaccine and that you are immune to chicken pox.
Chart Your Cycles
This is helpful for a couple of reasons, Dr. Mayer says. First, it can help you and your doctor pinpoint when you got pregnant. Second, charting for at least six months can alert you and your doctor to possible fertility issues much more quickly than not charting. So now’s the perfect time to start a fertility journal!
Watch Your Weight
Obese women are more likely to have problems such as gestational diabetes and an increased risk of C-sections, says Dr. Plosker. In addition, if the mother is overweight, the baby is more likely to have a higher birth weight and be a heavy baby and child. Being underweight, on the other hand, can cause problems with conception.
Be Sure You're Physically Safe
Domestic violence is a real problem in our country, Dr. Mayer says, and women who are pregnant are victims more often than we realize. If you are not safe, the chances are that your baby will not be safe either. This is something about which you can speak with your doctor.
Make a Contract with Your Partner
Clearly spell out—in writing if necessary—who is going to be responsible for what chores and how baby care will be divided. Most women work many hours outside the home and often are still stuck with the majority of domestic duties as well. Times they are a changin’, but a good contract will reinforce what’s fair.
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