Take a moment to learn what you can do now to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy - and a healthy baby. If you can, give yourself at least 3 months to prepare your body and mind for pregnancy.
- Take a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid for at least 3 months before getting pregnant.
- Talk to your doctor now about tests, medications, and risk factors.
- Stop smoking.
- Don’t drink alcohol or abuse drugs.
- Control chronic illness.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Take a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid for at least 3 months before getting pregnant. Taking folic acid before and during a pregnancy can reduce your chance of having a baby with serious birth defects of the spinal cord or brain. You can get prenatal vitamins through a prescription from your doctor, or you can buy them over-the-counter at the store. For more information on the importance of folic acid, visit the March of Dimes website.
Talk to your doctor now about tests, medications, and risk factors. Even if you’re not actively trying to become pregnant right now, discuss your plans with your doctor. Ask the following questions:
- “Do I need any tests or vaccinations?” Your doctor can tell you if you need a Pap test, a screening for a sexually transmitted disease (STD), or a vaccination. These are important to help prevent, detect, and treat conditions that can affect your pregnancy.
- “Let’s review the medications I take. Are they okay for me right now?” Tell your doctor about all the substances you take regularly or occasionally. Include over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as vitamins, supplements, herbs, and other substances. Many common medications can harm your developing baby, and since you may not know the exact moment you conceive, you need to be careful now.
- “Do I have any risk factors for my pregnancy or baby?” You may have a health condition or family history that increases the risk of certain problems in pregnancy or with your baby. You and your doctor should discuss these factors now, so that you can get the information and care you need. Some factors to discuss:
- Any previous miscarriages or problems in pregnancy. You may need monitoring or treatment to prevent a recurrence. See the section on high-risk pregnancy.
- Any risk factors for birth defects. For example, your age and family background can increase the chance of having a baby with a genetic disorder.
- Any physical or mental health conditions that can affect - or be affected by - pregnancy. Asthma, depression, diabetes, thyroid problems, HIV, eating disorders, and high blood pressure are just a few examples of conditions to discuss.
- Family support and lifestyle habits. Pregnancy and parenthood can put extra stress on your whole household. Talk with your doctor about how this stress may affect your relationships and finances. Your doctor can help you find resources that offer the support and safety you need.
- “Is there anything at work or home - any substances or materials - that I should be careful about?” Your doctor can advise you if, for example, you need to stay away from certain chemicals on the job, avoid second-hand smoke, take special care cleaning the cat litter box, and so on.
Stop smoking. You’ve always had a great reason to quit smoking: your health. Now, you have three more reasons to quit:
- Improve your chances of becoming pregnant,
- Lower your chance of having a miscarriage or serious problem with your pregnancy
- Increase the chance that your baby will be born healthy
Call Utah Tobacco Quit Line (1-888-567-8788).
Don’t drink alcohol or abuse drugs. Drinking isn’t safe for your baby at any time during pregnancy. And since harm can occur early on - before you even know you’re pregnant - it’s best to quit now. The same goes for other drugs, too. For help quitting, talk to your doctor or contact (801) 538- 3939.
Control chronic illness. Before you become pregnant, you want to be as healthy as you can be. For many women, this means taking extra care to manage a chronic illness. If you need to, talk to your doctor about steps to control your asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure, thyroid problem, or other chronic condition. Follow your treatment plan faithfully.
Reach and maintain a healthy body weight. Studies show that being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases the health risks for you and your baby.