Just as you wouldn’t run a marathon without training, a woman shouldn’t approach pregnancy without taking care of a few things before she gets pregnant. If you have baby on the brain and are hoping to become pregnant, Kris Barnsfather, M.D. F.A.C.O.G., of Norton Healthcare, has a few suggestions to add to your to-do list prior to pregnancy. From booking an OB appointment to selecting an appropriate multivitamin, consider this your cheat sheet to help prepare you for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
10 Things to Do BEFORE You Get Pregnant
Match your personality with your healthcare provider.
It’s important to find a provider/group that matches your beliefs and values. First and foremost, you want to be sure your provider has the necessary credentials to meet your needs. Some women prefer a doctor who adheres to the scientifically proven medical approach. Some women prefer a doctor who has all the necessary skills of traditional medicine while simultaneously supporting the wholistic natural child birth approach. You might prefer a formal, straightforward, strictly professional doctor, or perhaps you want your doctor to have a sense of humor and who engages in social conversation. Since most doctors are part of a group, and you might go into labor when a partner in the group is on call, you might want to get to know all the providers in the practice.
Discuss medications, vitamins and herbals with your provider.
Your baby’s organs develop during the first eight weeks of pregnancy (organogenesis), yet most women don’t know they are pregnant until four to six weeks into the pregnancy. It’s important to know which medicines, vitamins and herbals are safe and make modifications while you are actively pursuing pregnancy. For example, certain types of blood pressure medicines and pace inhibitors can cause concern or congenital malformation. Making the transition prior to pregnancy allows your body to adjust ahead and mitigates concerns you may otherwise have once you discover you are pregnant.
Have your provider conduct a carrier or gene screening.
It may be a good idea to know you and your spouse’s genetic makeup and be prepared for how your genes may manifest in your child’s development. As an example, Cystic Fibrosis is a very common abnormal gene that occurs in approximately 1 in 32 pregnancies. Early identification helps you plan for potential disorders.
Ensure your immunizations are up to date.
Immunizations reduce the risk of primary infections and even fetal death during pregnancy. The recent resurgence of the measles outbreak is top of mind. The measles can cause developmental disorders of the fetus’ brain if the mother was not properly immunized prior to pregnancy.
Discuss your recent past and future travel plans with your provider.
It’s important to consider the places you’ve been, where you are going and the exposure they bring to health risks. Even if you are traveling to the country of your origin, your body acclimates to your current environment. Knowing areas of the world to avoid or even how long to wait to become pregnant if you’ve recently returned from travels of an area with known health risks is important to a healthy pregnancy.
Consider your lifestyle habits and seek counseling from your provider.
Discuss your exercise routines, dietary habits and social habits, including use of marijuana, cigarettes, vaping and alcohol. While exercise is healthy, high-impact exercise might need to be modified to a lower intensity. Dr. Barnsfather stresses, the phrase “no pain no gain” does not apply when pregnant.
Keep your diet sensible, too. You don’t want to take in too many calories right away, but you do want to nourish yourself. In the beginning you are still only eating for one, the saying “eating for two” does not immediately apply. Eat a balanced diet including proteins, carbs, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods likes sliced deli meats, and minimize shell fish exposure. The CDC as well as your provider should be able to provide a list of foods to eat and to avoid during pregnancy. Make sure you have a healthy body mass index prior to pregnancy to avoid gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension, which can cause pre-term delivery and infertility.
Extended alcohol exposure has well-known risks associated with cerebral obstruction or reduction in IQ as it affects the fetus’ brain development as well as other physical developments. Since the first eight weeks of pregnancy is particularly important to organogenesis, and you most likely won’t know you are pregnant until you are one-third of the way in your first trimester, it’s important to make healthy lifestyle changes before you try to get pregnant. While Dr. Barnsfather notes marijuana use is still being discussed, science indicates marijuana risks are the same as smoking risks and can lead to lower birth weight, preeclampsia and even pre-term delivery.
Start pre-natal vitamins, and get your extra folic acid if you have the risk factors that require the boost.
The importance of healthy organ development during the first eight weeks of pregnancy cannot be overstressed. If you wait until you find out you are pregnant to start your vitamins, your baby’s organs may have already been halfway through the development stage.
Screen for STI’s.
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) during pregnancy can pose serious health risks for Mom and Baby. That’s why screening for STIs typically happens at the first prenatal visit. Plus some STIs like chlamydia, for example, do not manifest any symptoms yet can cause serious issues during pregnancy. Take care of any infections prior to pregnancy is obviously the ideal.
Discuss domestic violence with your provider.
The percentage of domestic violence is shown to increase during pregnancy, and it’s important to be transparent with your provider with regard to your relationship with your partner. It’s important to highlight any issues ahead of time and make sure you’re in an environment you want to be in when you bring a baby into the relationship.
Be an established patient with your provider so you can be seen early for an early dating of the pregnancy for accuracy.
Dating your pregnancy helps your provider determine milestone markers with accuracy, which is helpful if induction is desired and can have huge implications for childbirth when induction is necessary.
Once you decide you’re ready to become pregnant, you should begin living as if you are pregnant. Developing a human within your body is hard work, and your body deserves to be in top form to have the best possible experience!
Thank you to Dr. Barnsfather for sharing her wisdom with us. If you’re looking for a women’s health provider, visit Norton Healthcare online at nortonbaby.com.
This article is sponsored by Norton Healthcare.