Countdown to a Healthy Pregnancy

Lynsey Caldwell Owen, MD, FACOG

If this year seems like the right time to add to your family, check out our “top 10” list. In order to maximize your chances of having a happy and healthy pregnancy, it’s important to consider a few things before you start trying to conceive.

10. Discuss your plans with your gynecologist or primary care doctor: Based on your medical history, your provider may want to discuss some pertinent issues with you and/or order some testing to determine that you don’t have any underlying medical issues that, if treated, could improve the likelihood of your pregnancy being uncomplicated. Your provider may also be able to give you some information about how to maximize your chances for conception.

9. Update your vaccinations: There are a few viruses that can cause significant problems for a growing baby, but if you are vaccinated, this risk can be significantly decreased. Unfortunately, some vaccinations cannot be given during pregnancy. Your provider can help you determine whether you need any testing or vaccines.

8. Start taking prenatal vitamins: It is important to take these vitamins BEFORE you get pregnant. Having appropriate stores of folic acid in your body prior to conception can help decrease the risk for having a baby with a neural tube defect, like spina bifida. You can get vitamins over-the-counter or with a prescription from your doctor.

7. Know your BMI: Body mass index is a number that reflects the relationship between your height and weight. BMIs between 18 and 25 are considered normal. If your BMI is above this range, start thinking about changes you could make to lose weight. The closer you are to your ideal body weight, the higher the likelihood that you will conceive faster and have less complications (like diabetes, cesarean delivery, etc) during your pregnancy.

6. Start (or continue!) exercising: Exercise can help you reach your weight goals, but it also can improve your mood, lower your risk for certain diseases, and improve pregnancy outcomes if continued throughout. It is best to start a new regimen prior to conception, and if you have any medical conditions, always talk to your doctor first.

5. Stop bad habits: Smoking, binge drinking, excessive stress, distracted driving, emotional eating . . . All of these can affect your ability to get pregnant and your or your baby’s safety and health during your pregnancy. If you need assistance with any of these, your doctor may be able to provide a referral.

4. Learn about your family: Are there any diseases that run in your family? Any babies born with significant medical problems? Knowledge of your family’s medical history may be helpful in identifying specific screening tests that may be beneficial to you either before or during your pregnancy.

3. Prepare your finances: Having a baby is a very expensive venture. Make sure that you have an emergency fund and that you’ve started to consider how diapers, clothes, food, and especially childcare may impact your income.

2. Consider your support system: The African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is not without some truth. Make sure that you know who will be there to help if the going gets tough. Whether it’s a spouse, partner, family member, or friend, it is important to have a plan for who can help you through a difficult pregnancy and/or with childcare.

1. Have fun: Try to relax and enjoy the ride! Stress and anxiety do not help your chances of conception. Remember that about 90% of couples will have a positive pregnancy test in the first 12 months of trying.

If you have any questions about this list, make an appointment with your obstetrician/gynecologist, midwife, or primary care doctor to get more information.

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