Promoting a Healthy Pregnancy
Before You Get Pregnant
Every mother wants to give her baby the best start in life. One of the ways to do that is by taking certain actions before getting pregnant. These steps can help both mother and baby avoid having health problems later on. Getting care before conceiving – referred to as preconception care – benefits first time moms as well as mothers who have given birth before.
“Preconception care has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of having a premature birth or an underweight baby,” notes Sara Soto MD, obstetrician/gynecologist at PIH Health. “Even if you’re just beginning to think about having a baby, it’s good to have certain health measures in place.”
Dr. Soto recommends making an appointment with your physician for a preconception checkup. During this visit, the doctor will speak with you about your health history and current medical conditions. Some conditions that can affect pregnancy – or be affected by it – include asthma, diabetes, oral health, obesity and epilepsy. If you have any of these conditions, your doctor will work with you to get them under control before you conceive.
During the preconception checkup, tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you take, including dietary or herbal supplements, since certain medications can cause serious birth defects. Also ask your doctor about vaccinations. Some are recommended before you become pregnant, while others may need to be taken during pregnancy or right after delivery.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent two types of serious birth defects. “These birth defects occur very early in pregnancy, often before a woman might know she’s pregnant. So start taking 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid daily at least a month before trying to get pregnant,” advises Dr. Soto.
Watch what you put in your body: Smoking, alcohol and drugs can hurt mother and baby. Certain types of fish – including swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark – can harm a developing fetus. In addition, avoid harmful substances around you, including synthetic chemicals, fertilizer, bug spray and cat feces.
Lastly, get to a healthy weight by adopting a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity. This will serve you during pregnancy and throughout your life.
Your best health begins with a supportive relationship with your doctor. You need someone who will listen, who knows you as a person and who can take care of all your women’s health needs through every stage of your life. Visit PIHHealth.org/find-a-doctor to find a physician.