Pregnancy is one of the most exciting and challenging times for women. So if you are trying to conceive a baby or even just thinking about having one, it is never too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. Having a healthy baby means giving importance to preconception health and health care that focus on things that you can do before and between pregnancies. Preconception health is vital in order to increase the chances of giving birth to a healthy child. 

Pregnancy planning involves discussion with a woman’s partner and her healthcare team. These discussions include nutrition and vitamins, exercise, genetic counseling, weight gain, and the need to avoid some medications, alcohol, and smoking. In some cases, pregnancy planning includes fertility planning and scheduling sexual intercouse in a specific time of the month, especially when the woman is at her most fertile. A fertility specialist is usually warranted if a couple who are having regular sexual intercourse, however they still were not able to conceive a child. Furthermore, generally, most physicians recommend that healthy couples in which the woman is under 35 years old try to get pregnant for a year before consulting a fertility specialist. Also, women over 35 years old may want to consult a fertility specialist after 6 months of trying to conceive. In addition to that, some women may not realize they are pregnant until specific symptoms of pregnancy start to develop because some of them experience light bleeding known as implantation bleeding around the time of the expected menstrual period, or because some women have irregular menstrual cycles. Because the woman does not know that she is pregnant, most likely at this time, she may have unknowingly exposed herself to substances that are harmful for the pregnancy and her developing fetus. Therefore, women should choose to begin pregnancy planning before even the start of conception so that she can take steps that will ensure that potentially harmful exposures are avoided. Lastly, it must be noted that getting your body to be ready for pregnancy takes a few months just like all other women. However, for some it might take longer. So whether this is your first or following babies, the following are vital steps and ways in order to help you get ready for the healthiest pregnancy possible.

  1. Schedule a check up

One of the first things you should do is to schedule a preconception checkup for yourself and your partner. During this consultation, your physicians will usually go over health concerns and issues such as your and your families health histories. Before getting pregnant talking to your doctor about preconception health care is a must because only through this way your doctor will be able to know comprehensively your health history and any medical conditions you might currently have that would significantly affect your pregnancy. Generally, the physician will talk about gynecological history and if applicable, past pregnancy experiences. Your immunization history will also be checked if it is up-to-date. The doctor will also focus on any medication you are currently taking. He or she will also discuss the steps you can take before pregnancy in order to prevent certain birth defects. Specifically, your doctor will discuss about the following:

  • Medical Conditions

Your physician will check if you currently have any medical conditions. They will make sure that these health conditions are managed well, under control, and treated. Some of these medical conditions include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), diabetes, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases. These diseases are required to be evaluated for they greatly affect the outcomes of your pregnancy. 

  • Lifestyle and Behaviors

Certain lifestyles and behaviors should be stopped when planning to be pregnant or when you are pregnant. These lifestyles and behaviors include smoking, drinking alcohol, and using certain drugs. Living in a stressful or abusive environment is also assessed by your physicians because your living conditions greatly affect your pregnancy. Your work schedule and your working conditions are also checked for doctors may suggest to stop working temporarily if the work poses a threat to planned pregnancy or ongoing pregnancy. With this, health care professionals can aid you with counseling, treatment, and other support services that would be beneficial for your planned and ongoing pregnancy.

  • Medications

Taking certain medicines during pregnancy and if you are planning on being pregnant can cause serious birth defects. So these medications are usually stopped or halted. These include some prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements. Hence, if you are planning a pregnancy, you should talk to your physician about the need for any medication or supplements before becoming pregnant. This is to make sure that you are taking only those medications that are necessary and not harmful to you and your pregnancy.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the first thing you should do is talk to your healthcare provider or your physician. This is important because there are other people who may utilize opioids as prescribed, may misuse prescription opioids, may even use illicit opioids such as heroin, or may utilize opioids as part of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Furthermore, some women are required to take an opioid medication during pregnancy in order to manage chronic pain or to treat opioid use disorder. Hence, with that, it is important to create a treatment plan before pregnancy for opioid use disorder, as well as other co-occurring medical conditions in order to ensure that the woman can increase her chances of a healthy pregnancy. 

  • Vaccinations or Immunization shots

Your physician will also check your vaccination or immunization history. This is vital because some vaccinations are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or right after delivery. With the right vaccinations at the right time, it increases your chances of being healthy, while keeping your baby from getting very sick or having lifelong health problems.

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  1. Stop smoking, drinking alcohol, drugs and limit caffeine intake

As stated above, your physician will check you are smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs. It is important to highlight these lifestyle habits and behaviors for they significantly affect pregnancy. So if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs, then you must stop before you get pregnant because they can make it harder for you to get pregnant and also increase the chance that your will have a miscarriage. There are a lot of rehabilitation programs that your doctor can offer you in order to help you in quitting smoking, alcohol, or drugs.

Smoking should be stopped if you are planning to get pregnant because it is harmful for unborn babies and puts your child at greater risk of health problems later in life. Studies show that women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with a lower birth weight. Furthermore, several studies have proven that smoking also makes it harder for women to recover post-pregnancy. In addition to that, studies also show that a woman who smokes is less fertile compared to those who do not smoke. Women also is at greater risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and having a low-birth-weight baby. Furthermore, children of mothers who smoke are also posed with a  higher risk for several medical problems such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is important to note that if you are a nonsmoker but your partner is a smoker, you must tell him that he should also stop smoking because recent studies have found out that there is no significant difference between having a mother who smokes or having one who is exposed to secondhand smoke. Hence, it still poses a great medical risk to the developing fetus. 

On the other hand, alcohol, even in small amounts, can still be harmful to a growing fetus or unborn baby. Long term problems may be issued to your baby if you drink alcohol while you are pregnant. These problems include intellectual disability, behavioral issues, learning disabilities, and facial and heart defects. Furthermore, there is a group of conditions reflecting the possible effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol termed as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). These include fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disabilities (ARND). The primary cause of cognitive abilities in children is fetal alcohol syndrome. Mothers who drink during pregnancy face a significant risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and having a low birth weight baby or one with possibly severe birth defects. Alcohol also can bring down sperm counts, and marijuana use decreases sperm density and motility and increases the number of abnormal sperm. Furthermore, there is no known limit for safe alcohol consumption in pregnancy because the exact amount of alcohol exposure that is associated with fetal alcohol syndrome has not been determined. For this reason, it is vital that women who aim to conceive and be pregnant should be strongly advised not to intake alcohol.

As stated above, you must consult with your physician if you are intaking maintenance drugs because they may pose a risk for medical problems for the fetus. It is also important to stop any drugs that are not prescribed by a doctor, including street drugs, for it can be dangerous for you to take not only if you are planning to be pregnant, but at any point in your life. Furthermore, limit unnecessary medicines or supplements. You must discuss first with your doctor both prescribed and over-the-counter medicines and supplements you take before you try to conceive. Most medicines have some risks however several have unknown risks and have not been thoroughly studied for safety. It is important to note that if medicines or supplements are not absolutely necessary for you, then you must not take them.

Lastly, it is also important to minimize caffeine intake when you are trying to get pregnant. Women who intake daily more than 2 cups or approximately 500 mL of coffee or 5 cans or 2 L of soda that contains caffeine may have a more difficult time getting pregnant. You do not have to cut out caffeine entirely. However, you must not intake caffeine excessively because studies have shown that too much caffeine intake is linked to fertility problems as well as to an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and a low birth weight baby. With that, moderation is still the key.

  1. Maintain A Healthy Diet

Whether you are planning to get pregnant or you are not, a balanced diet is always good for you. Hence, it must be a lifestyle to always follow a healthy diet. However, if you are planning to get pregnant, there are a few simple guidelines that you should consider such as reducing your intake of empty calories, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine; eating foods that are high in protein; and also consuming more fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products for they will make you healthier before you get pregnant. It is also important to limit the intake amount of fish because seafood might contain mercury that can cause birth defects if eaten in large amounts. With that, pregnant women should not eat more than 12 ounces, or 340 g, of fish a week and also avoid large ocean fish including shark and tilefish. It is also important to limit tuna intake to 1 can or 85 g of white tuna or 1 tuna steak per week, or 2 cans or about 170 g of light tuna per week.

Women who are planning to get pregnant should start eating a variety of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables every day, and reduce unhealthy fat intake. It is important to increase intake of food rich in iron and calcium. You can also consider taking a multivitamin supplement, just make sure you do not overdo it with vitamins A or D. Furthermore, one of the most important ingredients in your multivitamin supplement is folic acid. A minimum of 400 mcg daily is recommended to reduce the risk of neural-tube defects such as spina bifida in babies. Lastly, if you are planning to get pregnant, it is important for your partner to also get plenty of folic acid, zinc, and vitamin C, for these nutrients are important for optimal sperm production and quality.

Healthy Diet

  1. Maintain Your Weight

It is important that you take note of your weight if you are planning to get pregnant. If you are underweight or overweight, it is best to try to reach your ideal weight before you get pregnant. A pre-pregnancy weight should be taken into consideration when estimating how much weight you need to gain in order to have a safe and healthy pregnancy. With that, the Institute of Medicine has placed a recommendation for the weight gain in women who have a singleton pregnancy. This guideline includes: 

  • Underweight women, BMI < 18.5, should gain 28 to 40 pounds.
  • Normal-weight women, BMI, 18.5-24.9, should gain 25 to 35 pounds.
  • Overweight women, BMI, 25-29.9, should gain 15 to 25 pounds
  • Obese women, BMI, 30 or higher, should gain 11 to 20 pounds.

It is important to take note of your weight because being overweight during pregnancy may increase your chances of medical problems including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects, and need fot a cesarean birth or C-section. Hence, if you are overweight, you must lose weight if you are planning to get pregnant. It must also be noted that it is not a good idea to try to lose weight during pregnancy. If you are underweight, you are also at greater risk for serious health problems. Hence, it is a very good idea to attain a healthy pregnancy body weight before conceiving.

Weight

  1. Exercise 

Studies show that exercising before pregnancy aids the body to deal with all of the changes that it goes through during the pregnancy and labor. It must be noted that throughout the most of their pregnancy, most women who already exercise can still safely maintain their current exercise program. Furthermore, those women who are not currently active and are not exercising should really begin their exercise program of 30 minutes of simple exercise routines 5 days per week. This should be done both before conceiving and throughout pregnancy. 

Your overall health and level of activity before your pregnancy should be that basis of the amount of exercise you are able to do during pregnancy. If you are already under a regular fitness program, you can continue doing it. Moreover, if you have been more into the couch than cardio, then you can consider starting a program as soon as possible, especially a kind of program that you can continue throughout your pregnancy. Being physically active when you are pregnant can help relieve pregnancy aches and pains. Moreover, studies show that exercising before pregnancy can significantly boost your energy, help you sleep, improve your mood, and aid you in coping with stress. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise, and how much, is good and beneficial for you.

Maintain Weight

References: 

  1. Centers For Disease Prevention and Control. 2019. Planning For Pregnancy. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/preconception/planning.html. Retrieved on 24 July 2020.
  2. MedlinePlus. 2019. Steps to take before you get pregnant. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000513.htm. Retrieved on 24 July 2020.
  3. Parents. 2018. Preparing for Pregnancy: Your 3-Month Guide. Retrieved from: https://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/trying-to-conceive/ready-set-conceive/. Retrieved on 24 July 2020.
  4. Stoppler, M. Medicine Net. 2020. Pregnancy Planning Tips, Foods and Infections to Avoid, and How to Prepare for the Baby. Retrieved from: https://www.medicinenet.com/pregnancy_planning_preparing_for_pregnancy/article.htm. Retrieved on 24 July 2020.
  5. WebMD. 2017. Getting Started On Getting Pregnant. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/getting-started-on-getting-pregnant#1. Retrieved on 24 July 2020.