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Thinking of getting pregnant? Here’s how you can prepare.
Thinking of getting pregnant? Here’s how you can prepare.
As you and your partner consider pregnancy, there are a few things you should think of before you start trying to conceive. While 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, planning for pregnancy with the following things in mind can help to alleviate unnecessary anxiety and allow you to proceed with more excitement because you feel empowered and ready.
First, consider your medical history. Do you have any medical diagnoses that could complicate pregnancy? Consider having a physical or consultation with your primary care or specialist to discuss your medical history in the context of planning for pregnancy. Are there any goals that should be met prior to getting pregnant, any medications that are unsafe for pregnancy that should be stopped or changed? You can make a consultation appointment with us too, your OB/GYN, to review your medical history and recommendations we may have as you plan for pregnancy. Often times high risk pregnancies can be managed well, as a team, and there are measures that can be taken to minimize risk in your pregnancy.
Consider your mental health as well, is your anxiety or depression under control, and again, are you taking any medications that aren’t safe in pregnancy? We do not recommend discontinuing medications without consulting with your prescriber first, but it is a good idea to discuss these things with them before getting pregnant. Decisions are made after discussing risks and benefits for you and baby. It is important to understand that fetal development occurs early in pregnancy, so making changes to unsafe medications should occur before getting pregnant.
Think about your lifestyle and routines. If you haven’t incorporated a healthy diet and exercise into your routine, it can be helpful to start this prior to getting pregnant. An optimal weight can increase your chances of conceiving. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help to minimize excess weight gain in pregnancy, reduce your risks of developing diabetes or high blood pressure in pregnancy and keep you more comfortable throughout your pregnancy. Exercise can improve your mood, sleep and reduce your likelihood of getting constipated, it can also help your labor and delivery go smoother. (1) There are so many benefits here, but it’s ideal to get into the routine before pregnancy, the first trimester of pregnancy can be a challenging time to be starting an exercise routine.
In addition to healthy levels of exercise, about 30 minutes per day on most days of the week, eating a balanced diet is recommended as well. This should be rich in assorted fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Fish is beneficial to you and your baby and can be consumed once or twice per week. It helps to promote both heart and brain health. Just avoid large fish like king mackerel, tuna, and sword fish as they contain high levels of mercury. Good options are salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, cod and catfish.(2) Generally, weight loss is not recommended in pregnancy, so if you are trying to lose weight, to reach your ideal weight, this should be done prior to getting pregnant, but should also be done with a well balanced diet. You may find it helpful to see a nutritionist for a plan, this will help you to avoid a restrictive diet that could be lacking in essential nutrients.
Prenatal vitamins are recommended at least 3 months before you conceive. Folic acid in prenatal vitamins is beneficial in reducing the risk of neural tube defects. The neural tube develops early in pregnancy, so it is important to increase these levels before you get pregnant. Also, there are times when prenatal vitamins can be hard on the digestive system, and it can take some time for you to get used to them, so it can be more difficult to incorporate them during the first trimester when your stomach may already be more sensitive. Increasing fluids and fiber can be helpful in reducing any associated constipation caused by prenatal vitamins. (3)
Avoidance of drugs and alcohol is important to your pregnancy and developing baby. Smoking increases the chances of low birth weight, prematurity, birth defects and can increase chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in newborns. While quitting smoking is difficult, planning for pregnancy and raising a child can be an excellent motivator to quit. (4)
Drug use in pregnancy is also not recommended, if you suffer from a substance use disorder, reach out for help prior to planning pregnancy. There are many risks associated with drug use in pregnancy including low birth weight, birth defects, preterm delivery, maternal infections, and neonatal withdrawal. Drug use in pregnancy can also contribute to slower than normal growth for the child as well as learning and behavior problems. (5)
Lastly, alcohol use is not recommended in pregnancy, so it is also not recommended when trying to conceive. You may not know you are pregnant until 4-6 weeks and alcohol can be unsafe at any point in the pregnancy. No amount of alcohol consumption has been proven to be safe. Consuming alcohol in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, still birth, birth defects, premature birth, intellectual and developmental disabilities including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. (6)
Intimate partner violence is serious. If you are feeling unsafe in your relationship, please feel free to reach out for help before planning a pregnancy. 1-800-799-SAFE is a national domestic violence hotline, it is available in 200 languages and 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. (7)
Familiarize yourself with your family history. It can be helpful to your OB/GYN team for you to be aware of any family history of genetic conditions or birth defects in family members. If you are unaware of how these conditions may impact your pregnancy, we can help you get more information. We can also perform testing to see if you are a carrier for various genetic conditions.
We hope you find this information helpful as you plan for your pregnancy. This is such an exciting milestone in your life. If you happen to find yourself pregnant and you’re feeling less than prepared, we will still support you in the same way as you navigate this journey of pregnancy and birth of your special bundle.
You can find more in depth information through any of the following resources, and please reach out if you need our assistance or advice.
Written by Janelle Murphy NP