Preparing for Pregnancy
What you need to know:
Being a parent is a great big, full-time job. There is no right or wrong time to have a baby—it's up to you and your partner. Before you get pregnant, think about the emotional and lifestyle changes you will face as a parent. It’s important for you and your partner to agree on most of the major issues. Discuss your differences before you get pregnant.
For more information on being emotionally ready for pregnancy check out information from The March of Dimes (http://www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/173.asp)
It is best to plan ahead to become pregnant so you can get your body ready. But only about half of all pregnancies are planned. That is why it is important to always be prepared months before you expect to get pregnant. Most women do not know that they are pregnant until they miss their menstrual period. Conception occurs around two weeks before a missed menstrual period. This means a woman may have been pregnant for about three weeks without realizing it. The early weeks of a pregnancy are critical to help baby develop properly. The most important time for the development of a baby’s organs is between 2-8 weeks. Take steps to make your body as healthy as possible to be ready for those early weeks. You can do this by eating healthy, avoiding harmful substances and being physically active. You will then increase your chances for having a healthy pregnancy, whether it is planned or unplanned.
A great way to prepare your body for pregnancy is to participate in regular exercise. It can help you reach a healthy weight before pregnancy. If you are overweight it is a good idea to lose weight before you get pregnant. This may also make it easier to become pregnant. Being overweight during pregnancy can increase your risk for complications like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Starting or continuing a habit of exercising before you get pregnant can help you maintain the routine throughout your pregnancy and afterward.
In addition to a healthy diet it is recommended that women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily at least 3 months before becoming pregnant. This can help prevent Neural Tube Defects (NTD), which are very serious birth defects. For women who have already had a baby with a NTD it is recommended that you consult with your primary health care provider about the daily amount of folic acid you need.
Taking other vitamins and minerals might not be necessary before pregnancy unless you are breast-feeding. However, some research shows that taking a multivitamin mineral supplement before pregnancy may be helpful. It may decrease problems such as preeclampsia during pregnancy. You should talk to your primary health care provider to decide if you need a supplement to give your body extra nutrients.
If you are breast-feeding, it is suggested to take a daily multivitamin mineral supplement with 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for all nutrients listed. This can be either your prenatal vitamin or a general multivitamin mineral supplement. However, a prenatal vitamin has more iron than is needed for breastfeeding and may cause constipation or stomach upset in some women. A general multivitamin mineral supplement does not usually cause these discomforts.
Eating a balanced diet including fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats, legumes, and whole grains can help prepare your body for pregnancy. Before pregnancy is the best time to build up your body’s stores of nutrients such as calcium, iron, and folic acid. Eating a healthy diet can help provide the nutrients that will be used to help baby grow. It is important to have enough nutrients for both you and baby.
(link to WOMEN___Healthy Eating and WOMEN___Pregnancy___Nutrition During Pregnancy)
Using tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, and other harmful substances can cause serious harm to you and your baby. Quit and avoid these substances before you get pregnant to help ensure a healthier pregnancy. These substances can hurt your growing baby and can cause lifelong problems.
Learn More (link to What Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?)
It is good idea to make an appointment with your primary health care provider before you get pregnant. Your primary health care provider may recommend a physical exam to make sure your body is ready for pregnancy. At this visit you may receive good advice and answers to questions you might have. It is also a good time to review your lifestyle and medical history with your primary health care provider.