Preparing to Get Pregnant? 5 Things to Do
| 3 min read
Pregnancy can be such a joyful time. For many people, there’s the initial excitement of finding out they’re expecting and then later sharing the news with family and friends. More than 3.5 million babies are born in the United States each year, so that’s a lot of celebrating amid bottles, diapers and new baby gifts. But there’s actually a lot women – and couples – can do before the big day arrives. In fact, a healthy pregnancy really starts before a woman ever gets pregnant. Let’s talk about how to prepare your body for pregnancy.
A pre-pregnancy checkup. Before you start trying to get pregnant, it’s smart to talk to your regular healthcare provider. They can best assess your current health, look at any issues you may have had with previous pregnancies, and make sure you don’t have any problems with your heart rate or blood pressure that could cause concern in the future. According to John Hopkins Medicine, a routine pre-pregnancy checkup could include:
- Blood tests
- A pelvic exam
- A pap smear
- A physical exam
Pre-conception counseling. Some first-time or veteran parents choose to do a deeper level of preparation and sign up for pre-conception counseling. This can often be done with a woman’s regular physician with the help of a specialist or counselor. Some things that parents-to-be may discuss during this appointment include:
- Family medical history: Does either parent’s family have a history of diabetes, heart conditions, cognitive impairments or other life-altering health issues?
- Genetic screening: Some genetic conditions and disorders may be inherited and may even skip a generation. Talk to your doctor about the need for genetic testing before you get pregnant.
- Vaccines: Your doctor will make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations and talk about the risk of viruses like COVID-19 during a pregnancy.
- Behavioral health concerns: Discuss any history of depression, anxiety, bipolar personality disorder and any prior diagnosis requiring medication with your doctor. Make sure you understand how to safely manage your behavioral health with medication during pregnancy and during the post-partum period.
- Any workplace or occupational conditions.
- Domestic violence: Women should be safe during a pregnancy and babies should be born into violence-free households. Health care providers and social workers can help address any safety concerns.
5 ways to prepare your body for pregnancy. Once you are ready to get pregnant, there are some nutrition and lifestyle changes you can make to help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
- Take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This typically comes packaged in a prenatal vitamin. Folic acid is especially important for pregnant women because it can help prevent birth defects in a baby’s brain and spine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Stop drinking alcohol, smoking, vaping, and taking certain drugs. If you are not sure which prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications are safe to take during the months or weeks before a pregnancy, call your doctor’s office.
- Stay away from toxic substances/environmental contaminants. Any kind of synthetic chemicals like bug spray or fertilizers should be avoided. Also, if you have cats, find someone else to clean out their litter boxes. Exposure to toxins can make it harder to get pregnant, and can harm a pregnancy.
- Maintain a healthy weight. This is important before you get pregnant, not just during a pregnancy. Being at a healthy weight and getting regular, moderate exercise is a good pattern to be in before you get pregnant.
- Check your mental health. Everyone goes through ups and downs, but if you are having mental health issues, it’s best to address those first with your doctor or a therapist before becoming pregnant. If you are on medication for your mental health, discuss this medication and your intentions to get pregnant with your doctor.
Photo credit: Getty Images