Source: Women’s Health Encyclopedia
When planning for pregnancy, the ideal situation is to be in the very best of health before attempting to conceive so that you can maximize your chances of a safe and successful delivery of a healthy baby. Here are 12 steps that can increase your chances of enjoying a healthy pregnancy.
‘ Stop smoking. By far the single most important thing you can do to increase your chances of a healthy baby.
‘ Ditch toxins. Cut out alcohol and illegal drugs and limit caffeinated beverages to one or two a day.
‘ Eat right. Consume plenty of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruit and vegetables.
‘ Add folic acid. Eat foods rich in folic acid, and take a dietary supplement, to lessen the risk of bearing a child with a neural tube defect (also called spina bifida or anencephaly) by up to 75 percent. Taking 800 mcg daily is advised, ideally for three months prior to conception.
‘ Watch weight gain. Eat to gain weight if you are underweight, and cut down on high-fat foods as well as improving the overall quality of food that you eat if you are overweight. The old adage of "eating for two" is far from accurate. A woman of normal weight needs only 300 extra calories per day (the equivalent of a small meal or two snacks) in order to maintain healthy fetal growth.
‘ Move. Get plenty of exercise, about 30-45 minutes, at least 3-4 times a week. You should avoid heavy lifting, high impact exercises and activities that put you at risk for falling or abdominal trauma (for example, horseback riding, volleyball, scuba diving).
‘ Sleep. Get at least eight hours of sleep per night, and nap as needed.
‘ Stay hydrated. Drink at least eight glasses of water every day in order to encourage the elimination of toxins from the body and prevent bladder infections.
‘ Check your immunity. Checking your immunity for rubella and varicella (chicken pox) by means of a simple blood test is helpful. If you find out you are not immune to these infections, it’s best to be immunized prior to pregnancy, as both can cause serious problems in the developing fetus. These vaccines cannot be given during pregnancy.
‘ Check for STDs. Getting tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV is reasonable prior to pregnancy. It is generally routinely done during the first prenatal visit. Any treatable STD can be safely treated during pregnancy.
‘ Tend to your teeth. Having any necessary dental work done prior to your pregnancy is advised, so that you can limit the need for X-rays or anesthesia while you are pregnant. Good dental hygiene is important as inflammation of gums, called periodontal disease, has been linked to increased risk of preterm delivery. You should continue having your teeth professionally cleaned by your dental hygienist twice a year even during pregnancy.
‘ Check out your past. Your personal and family medical history are significant in prepregnancy planning, as is the personal and family medical history of your partner. In your case, menstrual problems, infections, STDs, pre-existing health problems (for example, epilepsy, hypertension, diabetes) will need to be discussed with your doctor, nurse or midwife as part of your care.
If you or any of your family has any inherited condition, for example cystic fibrosis, you may want to see a genetic counselor recommended by your doctor to discuss and assess the level of risk for you and your baby and the screening options available.