Things to Keep in Mind
Planning to have a baby is an exciting time, filled with anticipation and preparations for pregnancy and childbirth. It is important to be ready for conception before becoming pregnant—planning ahead can increase the chances of having a healthy baby and reduce the risks of potential problems in pregnancy.
Preconception planning is an important part of prenatal care. Because the health of the fetus during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is crucial to fetal development, the future parents need to be healthy and prepared for pregnancy even before the child is conceived.
Learn more about the importance of preconception planning and a few of our educational resources that are perfect for getting pregnancy off to a healthy start.
Before You Conceive …
Be Psychologically Ready for Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of many changes in a woman’s life. These changes may be physical, emotional, or social; the better prepared you are psychologically to meet the challenges of these new experiences, the more successful you can be at coping with the transformations that accompany motherhood.
Still, no amount of planning can completely prepare you for all the experiences you’ll have during pregnancy and as a parent. Being open-minded and flexible as these new situations arise can help you in your role as a new mother.
Share the Responsibility With Your Partner and Healthcare Professional
Your partner can share in your pregnancy experience by becoming involved in preparations for conception and birth. Rely on your partner for physical and emotional support. Work together to determine the practical aspects of parenting (parenting styles, costs of childbirth and rearing a baby, discipline, parents’ career choices, etc.) before attempting to become pregnant.
In addition, develop a cooperative relationship with your healthcare professional prior to conception. Preconception counseling can give you an opportunity to discuss health information, pregnancy plans, and general preventive care with your healthcare professional.
a full range of childbearing topics, including preconception planning.
Have a Physical Exam
Schedule a checkup with your healthcare professional several months before you attempt to conceive. At your appointment, you and your healthcare professional will discuss your medical history and talk about any chronic health problems you may have that could affect your pregnancy.
You may also talk about any past pregnancies, current medications you may be taking, and testing recommendations (such as genetic testing, described below). Be sure to ask questions and clearly express what you’re thinking and feeling. Open communication with your healthcare professional is especially important if you’ve had serious health problems or difficulties with a previous pregnancy.
Be Aware of Your Health Conditions
High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, seizures, and asthma are just some of the factors that may affect pregnancy. You should consult with your healthcare professional before becoming pregnant about ways to minimize risks to you and your baby.
You should also discuss any concerns about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with your healthcare professional. To increase the chances of having a healthy baby, avoid behaviors that could result in your contracting an STD. If you already have an STD, talk with your healthcare professional before you conceive—he or she can tell you about ways to reduce the chance of transmitting the STD to your baby.
Display provides information about how STDs can affect pregnancy.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Establishing and maintaining a healthy weight before pregnancy may help reduce the chances of complications occurring before and during childbirth. Pregnant women are overweight or obese are at greater risk for gestational diabetes, hypertension, or difficulty with labor and delivery. Women who are severely underweight may also experience complications in pregnancy.
Be Physically Active
A regular exercise program of mild to moderate intensity will help you maintain your body weight and build a strong, healthy body that will support the growth and development of your baby. Pick activities you can engage in regularly, such as walking, running, biking, or any other cardiovascular exercise that you enjoy. Avoid high body temperatures, however, to reduce the risk of certain birth defects. Your healthcare professional can help you create a physical activity program that is appropriate for you.
Eat Nutritious Foods
Eat a well-balanced rich in nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. A healthy diet should follow the USDA’s MyPlate, which provides a range of recommended servings for each food group. You can avoid unhealthy weight gain by steering clear of high-calorie foods that have little nutritional value.
to discuss the key nutritional needs of pregnancy.
Consume Enough Vitamins and Folic Acid
When consumed in sufficient quantities, folic acid (a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin) may help reduce the chance of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. It is recommended that low-risk women consume a minimum of 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid daily before becoming pregnant and throughout pregnancy. Leafy vegetables, beans, fruits, orange juice, and whole-grain products are good sources of folate. Some women take vitamin supplements to ensure they get an adequate amount of folic acid each day; consult your healthcare professional before adding any nutritional supplements to your diet.
Smoking is harmful to you and your baby before, during, and after pregnancy. Smoking may increase the risk of birth defects, premature birth, low birthweight, or miscarriage. Additionally, babies born to women who smoke may be more prone to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Children who live with smokers are often exposed to secondhand smoke and may have an increased risk of asthma and respiratory infections. E-cigarette use should also be avoided.
Don’t Use Alcohol
Alcohol should be avoided prior to and during pregnancy. The effects of alcohol on the fetus can be permanently damaging or even fatal, resulting in conditions fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), including fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). No amount of alcohol is known to be safe while attempting to conceive or while pregnant.
Don’t Use Illegal Drugs or Medications Not Approved by Your Healthcare Professional
Limit your use of medications to those that are safe to use during pregnancy. Your healthcare professional can give you additional information about which medications can be harmful to you or your baby during pregnancy.
Using illegal drugs prior to or during pregnancy can result in lowered fertility, premature birth, low birthweight, and birth defects.
discusses substances to avoid during Pregnancy.
Avoid Exposure to Lead, X-Rays, and Other Environmental Hazards
Exposure to toxic substances, chemicals, and radiation can make becoming pregnant more difficult and can harm the fetus. Avoid chemicals or inhaled substances at home and at work that may interfere with your health or the health of your baby.
To avoid toxoplasmosis—an infection transmitted through raw meats, cat feces, and the soil—cook all meats fully, have someone else change litter boxes, and avoid direct contact with the soil.
Make Sure Your Immunizations Are Up-to-Date
Because infectious diseases can affect your baby, all vaccinations should be current before you attempt to become pregnant. German measles (rubella), for example, can cause birth defects; women should be vaccinated prior to attempting pregnancy. Pregnant women should also avoid contact with children who are sick with fevers and rashes.
Discuss Genetic Testing With Your Healthcare Professional
Before you attempt to become pregnant, your healthcare professional may suggest that genetic testing be performed based on a couple’s family medical history or other factors. A genetic screening will examine the family histories of you and your partner in detail and can help predict the risk of certain inherited conditions, including Tay-Sachs disease, sickle-cell anemia and hemophilia. Genetic testing may also help detect the risks of certain genetic disorders, such as muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, and spina bifida.
Discover More Childbirth Graphics Educational Resources
Childbirth Graphics has hundreds of educational resources dedicated to fostering healthy pregnancies for healthy babies and families. For more teaching tools that focus on preconception planning and having a healthy pregnancy, visit our product sections dedicated to nutrition, pregnancy, and pregnancy hazards.
The information contained in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please contact your healthcare professional.
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