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Preparing for Pregnancy

What can you do to prepare yourself and your body for pregnancy? The key is to live a healthy lifestyle. Evaluate your daily habits and take some time to make the necessary changes for you and your future baby. Emotionally, you should be ready to commit to a lifetime of parenthood.

If you have ongoing medical conditions, it is important for those conditions to be stable before getting pregnant. If you have any of the following medical conditions, plan to see your doctor before you conceive:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • Hepatitis
  •  Herpes
  • High blood pressure
  • Hypo- or hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney disease
  • Lupus
  • Sickle cell trait or disease
  • Urinary tract infections

Obviously, you should report any other medical condition that might have an impact on you and the baby. You also will be asked about your family history because some medical conditions are inherited, such as:

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • 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 Smoking
Smoking is bad for unborn babies. Studies have shown that women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have babies with lower birth weights. Smoking also increases the risk of:

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

It is best to stop smoking before you get pregnant rather than waiting to quit once you become pregnant.

Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol can have damaging effects on a developing fetus, even in small quantities. When 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 effects, such as mental retardation, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and facial and heart defects. Finally, alcohol may decrease your ability to get pregnant. We don’t know what amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, so it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

What to Eat
A balanced diet is always important, and you should try to make the appropriate changes to your diet before you get pregnant. Consider reducing your intake of empty calories, artificial sweeteners and caffeine. To make yourself healthier before you get pregnant, balance your diet with:

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

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, during pregnancy. If you are underweight or overweight, it is best to try to reach your ideal weight before you get pregnant.

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. Taking 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.

Exercise Before Getting Pregnant
Exercising before you get pregnant may help your body cope with all of the changes you will go through during the pregnancy and labor. The amount of exercise you are able to do during pregnancy will be determined by your overall health and how active you were before you got pregnant.

Stress, Rest and Relaxation
While you are trying to get pregnant, it is important to try to relax and be as stress-free as possible. Practicing stress-reduction techniques and getting plenty of rest and relaxation may make it easier for you to become pregnant.

Stopping Birth Control Pills
Women who are planning pregnancy should stop taking birth control a month before they are planning to try 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.

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