Pregnancy should not be considered only a 9 month journey but as a yearlong journey. Knowing that the first few weeks of pregnancy are the most vital to the development of the baby, a mother should be healthy and avoid any harmful activities and substances near the time of conception. Some habits are harder to break, and some health issues take longer to address.
Preconception Care for Women
Preconception health for women will be beneficial to you and your baby. Some habits are harder to break, and some health issues take longer to address.
These habits include:
- Smoking - Smoking during pregnancy is estimated to account for 20 to 30% of low-birth weight babies, up to 14 % of preterm deliveries, and about 10% of all infant deaths according to the American Lung Association.
- Drinking Alcohol - There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume while you are pregnant.
- Recreational Drug Use – Recreational Drug Use during pregnancy can increase the chance of miscarriage, low birth-weight, premature births, developmental delays, and behavioral and learning problems.
- Prescription Drugs – There are many prescription drugs that are teratogenic (cause birth defects). Talk with your healthcare provider about any and all prescription drugs you are taking.
- Hazardous Chemicals – Some chemicals can also be teratogenic. For example, most studies show that the greatest risk of exposure to pesticides is during the first three to eight weeks of the first trimester when the neural tube development is occurring. This is often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
- Stress – Stress has been linked to delayed or missed periods which can cause difficulty tracking ovulation and getting pregnant. Limit your amount of stress as much as possible. You may find it helpful to employ relaxation techniques or yoga to help calm things down.
- Caffeine - Some studies have shown a link between high levels ofcaffeine consumption and delayed conception. A few studies have shown that there may be an increase in miscarriages among women who consume more than 200 mg (one 12oz cup of coffee) a day versus those who do not consume any caffeine.
You should replace these old habits with new healthy habits.
These healthy habits include:
• Exercise – Start exercising now. Set goals for what you want to achieve. Ask yourself if you want to lose weight, gain weight, build muscle, or improve lung capacity. Some good exercise options include walking, swimming, bicycling, and aerobics. Yoga is an excellent choice for exercise because it incorporates posture, breathing, and concentration which will be beneficial for you during labor.
• Read – Read books on pregnancy and child birth. It makes you educated and prepared.
• Track your menstrual cycle –Keeping track of your cycle will also help you track your ovulation and increase your chance of pregnancy
• Practice relaxation techniques – Relaxation can help minimize stress, and as you have already read, stress is not a woman’s best friend.
• Get lots of sleep –Adequate amounts(8 hours) of sleep can also help relieve stress and tension.
• Eat healthy – Nutrition is vital to your health. The healthier you are the easier the pregnancy will be for you. You might start on some supplements to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. Just make sure to tell your health care provider about any supplements you are taking. Order Fertility Supplements
You are what you eat, and so is your baby. Make sure that you are prescribed rich to supplements in your diet. It can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects when taken before conception.
Maintain An Ideal Weight
Your weight can play a significant role during conception and pregnancy. When planning to conceive you want to avoid being over or under weight.
Underweight (10% below normal range)
• Exercise to build muscle Increase energy intake
• Eat at least three meals a day
• Eat more food at each meal
• Eat more snacks
• Drink juices and milk
Overweight (20% above normal range)
- Choose a realistic eating plan
• Make sure your eating plan includes nutritional adequacy
• Drink adequate amounts of water
• Combine your eating plan with exercise
Make A Doctor’s Appointment
It is important that you see your doctor before you become pregnant. There are medical conditions that you may not be aware of that can affect your pregnancy.
Some of the most common conditions include:
• Diabetes – If you are diabetic you should get your diabetes under control. Pregnancy increases the chances of diabetes, and it can make it hard for a mother who is already suffering from diabetes.
• High blood pressure – If you have high blood pressure before pregnancy, you must closely monitor your high blood pressure during pregnancy.
• Anemia – A complete blood count (CBC) can measure your hemoglobin, red & white blood cell count, and the appearance of your platelets. Anemia can cause weakness and fatigue during pregnancy.
• Thyroid problems – The test to check for thyroid issues consists of a blood test which measures your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Hyperthyroidism (overactive) can lead to premature birth and low birth weight if left untreated. Hypothyroidism (under-active) can lead to infertility or miscarriage when left untreated.
• STDs – It is best to know if you have an STD before getting pregnant, since some STD’s can cause pregnancy compilations.
Other testing and screening that is common during a preconception health check up are:
- • Pap Smear – A pap smear can check for cervical dysplasia.
• Breast exam – If over the age of 35, you may receive a mammogram.
• Blood type – If you are RH negative you will have to be desensitized prior to labor.
• Immunity to Rubella (measles) –. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that a woman wait at least 4 weeks after receiving the vaccination before trying to conceive.
• Immunity to Varicella (chicken pox) – As with rubella it is recommended that all women be tested for immunity to varicella before they become pregnant .The CDC recommends that a woman wait at least 4 weeks before trying to conceive after receiving the vaccination.
At your appointment you will also be asked for your medical and family history.
Medical history may include:
- • Medications you take
• Past pregnancies
• Medical conditions
Family history may include:
- • Diabetes
• High blood pressure
• Seizure disorders
• Mental retardation
Preconception Care for Men
When most people hear the term preconception health, they think about women. However, preconception health is important for men, too. There are things men can do for their own health, as well as for the women and children in their lives.
Prevent and Treat Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Get screened and treated for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Continue to protect yourself and your partner from STDs during pregnancy. In addition, some STDs can cause infertility (not being able to get pregnant) in a woman.
Stop Smoking, Using “Street” Drugs, and Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol
Smoking, using “street” drugs, and drinking too much alcohol (binge drinking) is harmful to your health and can cause infertility among men.
Second hand smoke can cause early death and disease among children and adults who do not smoke. A pregnant woman who is exposed to second hand smoke has 20% higher chance of giving birth to a baby with low birthweight than women who are not exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.
Sometimes a man is born with problems that affect his sperm. Other times, problems start later in life due to illness or injury. A man's sperm can be changed by his overall health and lifestyle. Some things that can reduce the health or number of sperm include:
• Type 1 diabetes
• Heavy alcohol use
• Some “street” drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and anabolic steroids
• Smoking cigarettes
• Hazardous substances, including bug spray and metals, such as lead
• Diseases such as mumps, serious conditions like kidney disease, or hormone problems
• Medicines (prescription, nonprescription, and herbal products)
• Radiation treatment and chemotherapy for cancer
Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. In addition, obesity among men is associated directly with increasing male infertility. People who are underweight also are at risk for serious health problems.
Learn Your Family History
Collecting your family's health history can be important for your child's health. You might not realize that your sister’s heart defect or your cousin’s sickle cell disease could affect your child, but sharing this family history information with your doctor can be important.
Get Mentally Healthy
Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. To be at your best, you need to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, get help. Talk with your doctor or another health care professional about your feelings and treatment options.
Support Your Partner
As partners, men can encourage and support the health of women. For example, if your partner is trying to eat healthier to get ready for pregnancy you can join her and eat healthier, too. Or if your partner has a medical condition, you can encourage her to see her doctor and remind her to follow her treatment plan.