Health Information

Planning a Pregnancy

The decision to have a baby is one of the biggest you will make in your lifetime. When you are ready to take this step, there are a few things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

A Preconception Healthcare Visit

Schedule a preconception visit with your doctor before you try to get pregnant. During this visit, you can discuss your health and get advice on how to prepare your body for pregnancy.

If you have health problems (such as diabetes, high blood pressure , overweight or obesity ), your doctor can prescribe medicines or lifestyle changes to help control these problems before pregnancy.

You will want to tell your doctor about all the medicines you take. He can determine whether they are safe to take while trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy. For example, if you are taking isotretinoin (an acne medicine), you must stop it before pregnancy. You may also be advised to avoid aspirin, some types of antidepressants, antihistamines, antibiotics, anticoagulants (used to treat blood clotting disorders), and anticonvulsants (used to treat seizure disorders). But, do not stop taking prescription medicines without talking to your doctor.

During the preconception visit, your doctor may do tests to determine whether you have had rubella or a rubella vaccination, have sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and/or hepatitis, or have other health problems, such as anemia. If you have not had all of your immunizations, especially rubella, you should have that done at least three months before getting pregnant.

Finally, if serious genetic diseases run in your family, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia , talk to your doctor about whether you or your partner should have genetic testing before becoming pregnant.

Pre-pregnancy Diet, Exercise, and Weight Control

Make sure you are eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats or meat alternatives. Your doctor will probably also suggest that you begin taking a prenatal vitamin that contains 400-800 micrograms of folate (folic acid). Folate deficiencies during early pregnancy have been linked to an increased risk of neural tube defects. Iron is another essential nutrient that is usually added to prenatal vitamins. Iron has a number of important functions, like helping red blood cells carry oxygen to cells throughout the body.

Try to get 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as walking, jogging, biking, swimming) on most days of the week. The more fit you are, the healthier and easier your pregnancy will be. Some healthcare professionals recommend that you do not increase your physical activity after you are pregnant. Try to get in a regular exercise routine before becoming pregnant. However, excessive exercise is associated with difficulty becoming pregnant, so do not overdo it.

A healthy diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight if you are overweight. Women who are overweight are at increased risk of high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy . Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to determine whether you are overweight.

Some Things to Avoid At All Times, Particularly During Pregnancy

If you smoke or use illegal drugs , it is very important to quit before trying to become pregnant.

Smoking is associated with increased risks of miscarriage , bleeding, pelvic pain, congenital heart defects, premature birth , low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), lower IQ, and slower physical growth.

Marijuana, cocaine , and other illegal drugs can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects, and infant drug withdrawal. If you drink alcohol , you should also limit or avoid drinking while trying to become pregnant. Alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) . FAS can lead to mental slowness, poor growth, and physical defects. Your partner should also limit alcohol and try to quit using illegal drugs or smoking, since this can affect his sperm. Your doctor can help you find ways to quit.

You should limit your caffeine intake while trying to become pregnant. Drinking more than two cups of coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda a day may decrease your chances of getting pregnant.

Make sure you are not being exposed to toxic substances, such as radiation or heavy metals. Avoid having x-rays while you are trying to get pregnant or while pregnant. The radiation from x-rays can put your developing baby at risk. If you are concerned about anything you are being exposed to, talk to your doctor.

Revision Information

  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

    http://www.acog.org

  • American Pregnancy Association

    http://www.americanpregnancy.org

  • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

    http://www.sogc.org

  • Women's Health Matters

    http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

  • Health before pregnancy. National Women’s Health Information Center website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/minority-health/taking-care-health/before-pregnancy.html. Updated May 18, 2010. Accessed December 26, 2012.

  • Pregnancy calendar: week 1. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy%5Fcalendar/week1.html. Accessed December 26, 2012.

  • Pregnancy: things to think about before you’re pregnant. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/pregnancy-newborns/your-body/things-to-think-about-before-youre-pregnant.printerview.html. Updated January 2011. Accessed December 26, 2012.

  • Reproductive health. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website. Available at: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/repro-health/. Accessed December 26, 2012.

  • 7/2/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Biering K, Aagaard Nohr E, Olsen J, Nybo Andersen AM, Juhl M. Smoking and pregnancy-related pelvic pain. BJOG. 2010;117(8):1019-1026.

  • 7/6/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Alverson CJ, Strickland MJ, Gilboa SM, Correa A. Maternal smoking and congenital heart defects in the Baltimore-Washington Infant Study. Pediatrics. 2011;127(3):e647-653.

  • 2/9/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Imdad A, Yakoob MY, Bhutta ZA. The effect of folic acid, protein energy and multiple micronutrient supplements in pregnancy on stillbirths. BMC Public Health. 2011;11 Suppl 3:S4.