Planning For Pregnancy

Deciding to become a parent is a life-changing commitment with immeasurable rewards as well as challenges.

If you’ve decided to attempt to become pregnant or you are contemplating making this decision in the future, there are actions you can take now to help you evaluate and improve your own health and lessen some avoidable risks you may not be fully aware of.

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Regardless of your current weight, a nutrient rich balanced diet is an essential part of preparing for pregnancy. The proper balance of healthy foods will allow your body provide energy, function well, and later support the growth and development of your baby. You can access the US department of Agriculture’s food planning guide, called MyPlate. If you have special concerns regarding your dietary choices, it may be beneficial to schedule an appointment with a qualified dietician. This can help you both evaluate your current nutrition and learn how to make the best choices for you and your baby.

Most of your nutrients should come from the food you consume but it recommended that women planning pregnancy begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin. These are available without a prescription and contain the recommended vitamins and minerals you will need. 400 micrograms of folic acid is recommended daily at least one month before pregnancy and 600 micrograms of folic acid daily during pregnancy which is the average amount found in prenatal vitamins. Folic acid may help to prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. 

Lifestyle & Environment Concerns

The use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs during pregnancy can have harmful effects on your baby. Eliminating these habits before you begin to attempt to become pregnant is best. The first trimester of pregnancy is when the baby is most vulnerable to the effects these substances may have. Many women find it very difficult to rid themselves of the dependence they have on these substances and seeking help from your healthcare provider before you become pregnant is ideal. Openly discuss your concerns with your healthcare team so that they are able to assist you with the resources you may need to quit.

Discuss any prescriptions you may be taking with the physician that prescribed the medication to determine if changes should be made prior to attempting pregnancy. Do not discontinue any prescribed medications without discussing with your health care provider. Although some medications may increase the risk of birth defects it is important to determine if the benefits may outweigh the risk of discontinuing a medication. Some over the counter medications, including supplements and herbal remedies, may increase risk of birth defects as well so it important to discuss these with your healthcare team as well.

Consider the chemicals or toxins you may encounter in your home, hobbies, and work. It is wise to avoid exposure to toxic substances such as lead or mercury if at all possible. Abdominal shielding can be used for exposure to small amounts of radiation such as X-ray but high levels of radiation such as that used to treat diseases such as cancer. 

Medical Concerns

Speak to your health care provider to determine if you may wish to update any immunizations. Some immunizations, such as the influenza vaccine, are recommended even during pregnancy while others should be updated at least one month before becoming pregnant or postponed until after pregnancy.

It is important to discuss any on-going medical conditions you may have with your health care provider. Some may require closer monitoring or a change in the way you manage your health during pregnancy. Hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disease, depression, and seizure disorders are some examples of this type of condition.

Some types of sexually transmitted diseases may affect your ability to become pregnant or even be passed from mother to baby without treatment. If you think you or your partner may have such an infection it is important to for both of you to complete treatment. Neither of you should have sex until treatment has been completed.

Testing is available for some inherited or genetic disorders that may be more common in certain ethnic groups or families. Carrier testing shows rather you have a gene for a disorder that may be passed along to your baby even if you have no signs of having the disorder yourself.

This type of testing helps to make you and your partner aware of your chances of having a child with a specific disorder. Some couples may decide to speak with a genetic counselor (a health professional specially trained to help you understand the chances of having a baby with an inherited disorder) to help them understand their options.