The stage before a woman becomes pregnant is known as preconception, and if she is hoping to become pregnant, then staying healthy is very important during this stage.
Preconception health includes understanding risk factors that could affect you and your baby if you become pregnant. It also includes learning how certain health conditions you may have can affect pregnancy and childbirth.
Everything from preexisting health problems, medications, diet, and lifestyle habits during preconception can affect a woman’s pregnancy.
Preconception Health and Unplanned Pregnancy
Roughly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, which means it can be difficult if you find yourself in a situation where you’re pregnant and unprepared. Taking care of yourself is the first step in being prepared.
Experts agree that women need to strive to be healthier overall because of unplanned pregnancy complications. Unplanned pregnancies tend to have a higher risk for preterm birth, resulting in low birth weight babies and a higher potential for health complications. All of these risks are lowered if a woman is healthy and has health problems under control.
Genetic Risk Factors
Your genes and the genes of your baby’s father contribute to your baby’s genetic makeup. If you talk to your doctor ahead of time about your family health histories, it’s easier for your doctor to catch potential issues and genetic risks ahead of time. Your doctor can help you decide if genetic counseling is indicated for your specific situation.
How to Stay Healthy During Preconception
Ideally, women and their partners should start preparing at least three months before trying to get pregnant.
Here are some important things to start doing during preconception:
- Stop smoking
- Limit alcohol intake
- Reach a healthy weight (this can look different for everyone, so talk to your doctor about what that looks like for you)
- Evaluate your medications (OTC and prescription) and supplements with your doctor in light of potential pregnancies
- Start taking 400-800 mcg of folic acid every day (this helps reduce the risk of some congenital disabilities of the brain and spine)
- Get known medical conditions and issues under control, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid issues, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, epilepsy, obesity, depression, and oral health
- Make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations
- Avoid toxic substances, chemicals, and pet feces
- Start family planning with your doctor
- Get a pap test and screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Reduce stress and establish ways to destress
- Learn ways to avoid illnesses such as colds and the flu
- Document your health history and the health history of your partner (as well as family health histories) and share those with your doctor
- Discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor, including domestic violence or lack of support
One of the best things you can do before a doctor’s appointment is to document a list of questions you have for your doctor so that you know your bases are covered. A good doctor will sit with you until you’ve gotten through your notes and will schedule a follow-up if needed to continue the conversation.
At OGA, we care about every stage you’re in from preconception, through pregnancy, and beyond. Any recommendations we make, you can be reassured, are based on conclusive scientific rationale. We always have your best interests in mind and will care for you every step of your journey. Contact us to set up an appointment or learn more about pregnancy health.