Preparing for Pregnancy

ACCORDING TO THE MARCH OF DIMES, THE BEST GIFT you can provide to your future baby is 9 months of a healthy pregnancy. There are some things you can do before you even conceive to be as healthy as possible for your pregnancy.

Questions You Should Ask

Before you get pregnant, the March of Dimes recommends you ask your healthcare provider what you need to know about the following nine topics:

  1. Diabetes, high blood pressure, infections or other health problems. These things can harm your health and the health of your baby during your pregnancy.
  2. Medicines or home remedies. Street drugs, over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs and even some herbal preparations can harm your baby.
  3. Taking a multivitamin pill with folic acid every day. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken before and during early pregnancy.
  4. How to make sure you are at a healthy weight before you get pregnant.
  5. Smoking, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs. These things can seriously harm you and your baby.
  6. Unsafe chemicals and other things you should avoid. Some of the things you should stay away from while trying to get pregnant and during your pregnancy are cigarette smoke, lead, carbon monoxide, mercury, solvents, paint, paint thinners, benzene and formaldehyde.
  7. Taking care of yourself and lowering stress. Pregnancy can be a stressful time for many women. You can help reduce your stress by eating regularly and nutritiously; drinking a lot of water; resting when you need to; exercising if your healthcare provider says it is OK; relaxing; avoiding alcohol, smoke, herbal products and drugs (unless prescribed by your healthcare provider); avoiding people and situations that cause you stress; and talking with your partner, a friend or family member, healthcare professional or a counselor. In addition, going to all your prenatal care appointments will reduce your stress level because you’ll know you are doing your best for your baby.
  8. The time you should wait between pregnancies. According to the March of Dimes, you should wait at least 6 months between the delivery of a baby and becoming pregnant again
  9. Gathering your family medical history. Ask your family members questions about their health history and those of family members they know about. Also, you can find a questionnaire to assist you with this step on the Internet at www.marchofdimes. com/files/GYP_PrenatalQuestionnaire.pdf.
    Discussing these topics with your healthcare provider will help start your pregnancy in a healthy way and give your baby the best chance for a full-term birth.

Other Considerations for Women Age 35-Plus

Prenatal care is especially important for women older than 35. Women in this age group are more likely to get high blood pressure or diabetes for the first time during pregnancy, and also may choose to be tested for potential birth defects such as Down syndrome.

Women older than 35 are also at increased risk of fertility problems; miscarriage; placenta previa, in which the placenta covers the cervix; cesarean section; premature delivery; stillbirth; and having a baby with a genetic disorder.

Women in this age bracket can help reduce these risks by doing the following:

  • eating healthy foods;
  • gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy;
  • exercising with the guidance of her healthcare provider;
  • not drinking alcohol, smoking or taking illegal drugs; and
  • not taking medications or herbal products without checking with her healthcare provider.

A Healthy Start

After you have talked about these issues with your healthcare provider, your partner also can help get your pregnancy off to a healthy start by:

  • quitting smoking;
  • limiting how much alcohol he drinks;
  • not using marijuana or other illegal drugs;
  • wearing boxer shorts and loose pants; and
  • talking to his healthcare provider about any medications that may be affecting his fertility.

Compiled by Barbara Drosey, associate editor at ADVANCE.

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