Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Pregnancy is like a journey, which actually starts before a woman becomes pregnant. Women who plan on having a baby can take steps to help ensure that they have a healthy pregnancy so their baby can have a healthy start in life. Here are several ways to help your little one start off on the right foot.
Step 1 – Begin Taking Folic Acid
To help reduce the risk of some birth defects, begin taking 400 micrograms (400 mcg or .4 mg) of folic acid every day for at least one month before and during pregnancy.
Step 2 – Get a Checkup
Have a medical checkup before pregnancy. Preconception care, which is medical care you receive before you are pregnant, can help evaluate your health and identify lifestyle risks that could affect you and your baby.
Step 3 – Get to a Healthy Weight
Be at a healthy weight before you get pregnant. Being underweight can cause problems getting pregnant and could increase the possibility of having a baby with a low birth weight. A woman who is obese has a higher risk of complications during pregnancy.
Step 4 – Stop Smoking
Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Smoking and drinking alcohol can make it more difficult to get pregnant. Smoking during pregnancy also can increase the risk of complications and sudden infant death syndrome. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause lifelong problems for a baby, including heart defects and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Step 5 – Talk to your Doctor
Talk to your doctor about all medicines you are currently taking. This includes over-the-counter or prescription medications, herbal supplements and dietary products. Some may not be safe to take while pregnant. Also be sure to have vaccinations for chickenpox or rubella (German measles) before getting pregnant. These diseases can hurt your baby.
Step 6 – Manage your Conditions
Manage preexisting medical conditions. Certain conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy can affect your pregnancy and may require special care.
Step 7 – Keep Hazards at Bay
Limit exposure to hazards. Stay away from toxic substances or chemicals, such as solvents, lead, mercury, and pesticides. Exposure could make it more difficult to become pregnant or harm your developing baby.
Step 8 – Avoid Infections
Avoid infections. Early treatment is important for sexually transmitted diseases and the human immunodeficiency virus, which can be passed to the baby if not properly managed.
Step 9 – Check for Inherited Diseases
Check for certain inherited diseases. Genetic testing may be recommended to see if you or your partner carry a gene that is linked to a disease that may be passed down to your baby, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia.
Step 10 – Get Fit
Get fit. If you have no medical problems, regular exercise may help you maintain or lose weight and may improve your overall fitness and reduce stress. Being in shape before and during pregnancy may improve your chances of being comfortable and active while pregnant.
By putting your best foot forward and planning for your pregnancy, you can help prevent problems that might affect you and your baby. For more information about preconception planning, visit our Preparing for Pregnancy Health Center or talk with your doctor. If you need a referral to an obstetrician, call our Physician Referral Line at 205-877-8800.