You’ve reached childbearing age and you’ve started thinking about having a baby. You also need to be thinking about being as healthy as possible for pregnancy, long before you actually starting trying to conceive.
Preconception care will help you minimize possible risks associated with pregnancy. Change begins with your lifestyle choices today. What are you doing that might negatively affect your unborn baby?
1. Do you have a healthy diet and weight? A healthy diet and weight contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Work to bring your weight into the recommended range. Overweight women are more susceptible to medical problems such as high blood pressure, while underweight women are more likely to have low birth weight babies. Do you exercise at least three to four times a week?
2. Do you get adequate sleep on a regular basis?
3. Are you getting enough folic acid? Don’t forget about prenatal vitamins or supplements with folic acid. Folic acid is vital to fetal growth, especially the brain and spine. To prevent possible birth defects, all women of childbearing age should be taking a supplement with folic acid.
4. Are you up to date on all recommended adult vaccinations? Do you take prescription medications regularly? Before becoming pregnant, make sure your vaccinations are current and talk to a pharmacist to find out if your prescription medications can affect an unborn baby’s health.
5. Do you smoke? Babies born to mothers who smoke are more likely to be premature, lower in birth weight and more likely to be stillborn or die of sudden infant death syndrome. Secondhand exposure also contributes to lower birth weights.
6. Do you use alcohol or drugs? Are you in frequent contact with possible harmful substances, such as pesticides and other chemicals? All of these can negatively impact your baby’s development.
7. Are you in a safe place? Being involved in an abusive relationship is not only a danger to you, but also your baby. If you are being abused before pregnancy, you are at risk of this abuse accelerating during pregnancy.
Before you decide to get pregnant, make an appointment with your primary care provider for a prepregnancy or preconception care examination. This exam includes an overall health assessment and identification of potential risk factors that could complicate your pregnancy.
If you smoke, drink, use drugs or are in regular contact with chemicals, ask your doctor to help you make appropriate changes. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or an underlying infection, this exam will also help you get possible medical conditions under control.
Other possible areas of concern your doctor can help you with include assessing family history and the possibility of genetic abnormalities, slightly higher pregnancy risks associated with women age 35 and over, and a referral for assistance if domestic violence is an issue.
Take the necessary steps today, to help you and your baby live a healthy, happy, fulfilling life.