If you're planning to conceive, you may already be wondering what you should be doing to improve your chances of having a healthy baby. (And congratulations for thinking ahead: It's never too early to start creating a healthy environment for your baby to grow and develop in before it's born.)
Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself:
- Make sure you are at or close to your ideal weight. Being too thin can interfere with ovulation - production of an egg each month - which is obviously a prerequisite for conception. Being overweight is not ideal, either, since extra fat is associated with problems, such as diabetes, that affect the health of both mother and infant.
- Get a gynecologic exam. Thyroid abnormalities, anemia, iron deficiency, high blood pressure, diabetes, and vaginal infections should all be identified and sorted out before you attempt to conceive.
- Review your medication list with a physician, since some common ones are not safe or not preferred during pregnancy.
- Verify that you are up-to-date with immunizations, particularly the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella. If you were born prior to 1975, you likely did not receive the recommended two doses. This should ideally be given at least one month prior to conception.
- Start taking vitamin supplements. Iron supplements will build up your stores of this essential mineral, which is rapidly gobbled up by the body during pregnancy. Folate is known to reduce the risk of spinal cord and heart defects in the fetus, while omega-3 fatty acids improve the development of its brain and eyes. Most over-the-counter prenatal vitamins contain these important substances.
- Stop your bad habits. Stop smoking, alcohol use, and limit caffeine intake. Smoking is associated with low-birth-weight infants, never mind its ill effect on your lung and heart health. Even drinking more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day doubles the risk of miscarriage. And heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy causes fetal alcohol syndrome, an irreversible condition that leads to severe developmental and cognitive problems in children.
- Start exercising. You'll require lots of physical stamina to endure a pregnancy and delivery, not to mention the high energy you'll be needing to care for your newborn and the healthy child he or she will grow up to be!