Getting healthy before pregnancy is important for both mom and baby. In the first 8 weeks of pregnancy most of the baby’s major organs have already begun to form, so your health and nutrition even before your pregnancy has begun has a large impact on the baby’s growth and development. Optimizing your health before pregnancy will also help you feel better overall. so you can enjoy this precious time in your life.
Here’s a list of some important things to consider before getting pregnant:
- Get a preconception check-up. Having an appointment with your doctor prior to getting pregnant can help you identify things that could affect your pregnancy. It gives you a chance to take any steps that may be needed to have a healthy pregnancy. This also gives you a chance to get a fertility evaluation, so that you can identify any barriers to fertility early on and not lose precious time while trying to conceive.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Your body needs a regular supply of nutrients to help your baby grow and develop. A healthy diet will also help you feel better and maintain a good energy level to enjoy your pregnancy.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being both overweight and underweight can pose risks during pregnancy. Both can make it more difficult to conceive and increase the risk of miscarriage. Being overweight during pregnancy puts patients at increased risk of having preeclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes. It is also associated with an increased risk of birth defects, especially neural tube defects. Being underweight increases the risk of having a preterm birth and a low-birth-weight baby. These babies can have health and behavioral problems that last throughout their lives.
- Start a prenatal vitamin. It’s a good idea to start a prenatal vitamin at least one month before conceiving. Prenatal vitamins contain the recommended daily vitamins and minerals that are important for having a healthy pregnancy. Choose a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 mcg of folic acid, which will decrease the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
- Start an exercise regimen. This will help get your body conditioned for pregnancy. Regular exercise can help reduce back pain in pregnancy, ease constipation, decrease the risk of gestational diabetes, and improve the way you feel overall during pregnancy. The CDC recommends that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Moderate-intensity activity would be something like brisk walking. It would be enough to get your heart rate up and start sweating. A good gauge of appropriate intensity would be being able to talk normally, but not sing.
For patients who are struggling with fertility, I always tell them that optimizing their overall health is key. Not only will it improve their response to fertility treatment, but it will also improve their success rates. And, when they do conceive, it will lead to a healthier pregnancy for mom and baby.
So, if you’re starting to think about getting pregnant or know you want to have a family in the future, be proactive and contact your doctor for that initial consultation. This will get you started on the path towards having a healthy pregnancy.