Before You Start Trying to Get Pregnant
For many people, pregnancy is easy and natural. It often
happens without even trying. According to research published by the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of all pregnancies in the
U.S. are unplanned.
However, if you are thinking of getting pregnant soon,
it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Preparation can help you have both a healthy
pregnancy and a healthy infant.
There are a number of steps a
couple can take to increase their chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
Couples trying to get pregnant should see a doctor for
pre-conception guidance and support. This is particularly important if one or
both of the parents has a history of medical issues that might affect fertility.
Such issues include:
- high blood pressure
- a history of cancer
- thyroid disease
- sexually transmitted infections
- endometriosis (women)
- fibroids (women)
A doctor can make sure that any medications either of
you might be taking don’t negatively impact either fertility or the developing
baby. If particular types of medication are necessary for the health of either
parent, your doctor may be able to prescribe safer alternatives.
During a pre-conception appointment, your doctor will
also assess your overall health and well-being. It’s a great time to discuss
potential lifestyle changes that can help you achieve a successful pregnancy
and healthy child.
Make Regular Appointments
Work with your healthcare provider to monitor your fertility
and general health. This can help ensure a healthy and safe pregnancy.
Regular visits will continue to be important once you
have conceived. Post-conception visits are known as prenatal care. Prenatal care is important for a healthy
pregnancy. It can reduce the risk of:
- low birth weight
- preterm birth
- complications from gestational
- birth defects, particularly neural
Take Folic Acid
Women looking to become pregnant should get at least 400
micrograms of folic acid a day starting at least one month before pregnancy.
They can supplement their daily multivitamin with folic acid. They can also
look for a multivitamin with added folic acid, such as a prenatal vitamin.
Folic acid has been shown to decrease the risk of
certain serious birth defects and miscarriage. It is important to start folic
acid supplementation before trying to get pregnant.
Your body is going to need all the vitamins and
nutrients it can get while you’re pregnant. Get a head start on eating well.
Eating well is key to a healthy life and a healthy pregnancy. You should also take
a daily multivitamin to make up for whatever your food leaves out.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being underweight or overweight can dramatically reduce
fertility. This is true for both men and women.
Couples should work with doctors or nutritionists to
achieve a more optimal weight. This will also help get the mother on a good
footing for the weight she will gain during pregnancy.
Exercising for 30 minutes five to seven days a week is a
good way to help:
- maintain or lose weight
- build physical health
- reduce stress
Moderate exercise is a great way to stay healthy before,
during, and after pregnancy. However, overly intense exercise can cause
fertility problems. Talk to your doctor about establishing a pregnancy-positive
Cut Back on Vices
Certain vices can decrease fertility. In men, for
example, sperm problems can be caused by:
- heavy drinking
- use of illicit drugs including
anabolic steroids, marijuana, and methamphetamine
For women, the best time to stop smoking is before you
are pregnant. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of complications and
birth defects. The same goes for use of illicit drugs. For example, women who
use cocaine or methamphetamines are at a higher risk of:
- low birth weight
- birth defects
- preterm labor
Drinking alcohol, or even lots of caffeine, can also
make conception more difficult for women. Pregnant women should not drink
alcohol, and should significantly limit their caffeine intake to no more than
150 mg a day. Both substances significantly increase the risk for premature
birth, birth defects, and infant death.
Avoid Exposure to Toxins
Toxins found in the workplace and the home may affect
your fertility. They can also potentially impact the health of your pregnancy
and future child.
You can look for ways to reduce exposures to toxins at
home and work. Using protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, while
cleaning or working on repair projects may help.
Pregnant women should also try to avoid exposure to cat
and rodent feces as much as possible. Droppings may contain the parasite that
causes toxoplasmosis. Infection could potentially harm a developing fetus, or
may cause problems later in life, such as blindness or mental
Learn Your Family History
Talk to your relatives about whether any genetic
diseases run in your family. You should also find out if your families seem
particularly prone to chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure or cancer.
These risks may affect your pregnancy process.
Your doctor may recommend genetic counseling if you are at very high risk of passing on an