Planning Your Pregnancy

If you're thinking about starting - or growing - your family, there's a lot you can do to prepare before your pregnancy. Thinking about your preconception health can help you prevent other challenges and complications later in pregnancy. Here are some of the things you can do now, before you get pregnant.

Your Body

Take Care of Your Own Health

One of the best ways to prepare for your pregnancy is to take care of your own health. If you don’t already have a primary care provider, find one. Make sure you are getting regular health exams and get up to date on all your vaccines. Be open and talk with your health care provider about pregnancy. He or she may want to talk about your family medical history to learn about possible inherited conditions.

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If you have a chronic health condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, you will want to work with your doctor to get these under control before you get pregnant. Pregnancy is a time where your health matters not only to you but your developing baby too.  Starting your pregnancy as healthy as possible is good for you – and your growing baby.

Start Practicing a New Healthy Diet

Talk to your doctor about starting a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, which can help prevent serious birth defects. Fortified foods like grains, pastas and breakfast cereal can also help you get more folic acid in your diet. Eat a variety vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins. Diet and nutrition can be a challenge during pregnancy, especially if you find yourself suffering from nausea, so get a jumpstart and start nourishing your body now.

Start from a Healthy Weight

Being overweight – or underweight – can cause complications during your pregnancy. Watch your diet and get plenty of regular physical activity. Talk to your health care provider about strategies to reach your ideal weight.

Stop Using Harmful Substances

Don’t wait until you are pregnant to give up bad habits. Start a new healthy lifestyle now. Alcohol, drug use and smoking all have negative effects on your growing baby. Quitting is difficult but there are resources to help you.

Avoid Risks

There are many substances or situations that are known to be harmful to developing babies. Lead is dangerous to everyone, but it is especially harmful to developing babies. If your home was built before 1978, have it tested for lead. Sanding or scraping old paint can release the dust into your home. Mercury is another substance known to cause problems in children, during and after pregnancy. While fish is often a good source of lean protein, it is at greater risk for mercury contamination. Talk to your doctor if fish is a regular part of your diet.

Other risks include exposure to viruses or disease. If you are traveling, be sure to research the risks beforehand. Even in the United States, insect-borne diseases like the Zika virus have affected portions of the country. Avoid traveling to affected areas if possible and take precautions such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves or using mosquito nets.

Almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. The fact that you are already thinking ahead means you’re off to a good start. Good luck preparing for one of the most exciting chapters in your life!