Planning ahead for a baby is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your baby. By actively pursuing good health and proper nutrition and removing potential harm from your life before conceiving, you can increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Planning for a Healthy Pregnancy
There are so many things that you might think do not really have any bearing on whether or not you and your partner have a healthy baby. But more and more, research shows that what you do before you get pregnant or before you know you're pregnant can have a huge effect on the health of your pregnancy and baby.
Your Reproductive Health
Both you and your partner should be sure to be seen by your primary care providers. This helps you get any chronic conditions diagnosed and/or under control before getting pregnant, which in turn minimizes their effects on your pregnancy and baby.2 It's also important to:
Have a preconception checkup. This includes finding a practitioner (an obstetrician-gynecologist, family practitioner, or midwife) before you get pregnant.
Start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Prenatal vitamins can help reduce the likelihood of certain types of birth defects, called neural tube defects (NTD), like spina bifida and anencephaly.3
Discuss birth control use. Some methods of contraception can be stopped right before you want to start trying to conceive, while others will require a waiting period. Your practitioner can help you decide when to stop using birth control.4
Learn about the conception process and how to get pregnant. This certainly makes it easier to get pregnant when you both understand how the process works.
Healthier Conception and Pregnancy
Even before you're pregnant, begin eliminating hazards from your life (chemicals, x-rays, etc.). Whether it's in your kitchen, where you work or play, there are potential hazards you encounter every day. Knowing what's a hazard and how to avoid it can be helpful. In addition:
Discontinue smoking before trying to get pregnant. Many people think that they will stop once pregnant, but smoking can damage both sperm and eggs. It's much better for both partners to quit prior to conception.
Limit caffeine and alcohol. There is some evidence that excessive caffeine use can increase the risk of miscarriage and possibly impair fertility in women. But moderate use of caffeine and alcohol seem to be safe prior to conception (once you are pregnant, no amount of alcohol is safe).
Have a health insurance check-up. Does your insurance need revamping before baby? While the vast majority of health insurances will cover pregnancy, you should find out what is covered and what your potential out of pocket expenses would be. Financial planning for pregnancy will help decrease your stress levels.
Your Partner and Future Family
Have your partner join you on a road to good health, including diet and exercise. Both of you working towards a healthy lifestyle makes you more likely to succeed. Male health habits can affect sperm, which in turn can affect fertility and your future child.
You may also want to become aware of families you know and observe their lives. Having these families as role models of both what you want to do and what you don't want to do is beneficial.
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