Realizing that you’re emotionally ready to have children is just the first step. Embarking on healthy pre-pregnancy practices will then help you achieve a good pregnancy, a healthy baby, and a happy family.
by Fran Giordani
If you have decided that it’s time to think about getting pregnant, you’re on the right track. There is no better time than several months before conception to gather medical, material, and psychological information to help you get the best possible start.
The Healthy Start Coalition, a Florida organization dedicated to improving maternal and child health, advises that before you decide to embark on child parenting, get some advice from people who can help you, like your doctor or a genetic counselor.
Important issues to think about
Some diseases run in families. They include diabetes, high blood pressure, Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis. These can be passed on to your child or might cause problems with your pregnancy. If any of these or other genetic conditions run in your family, genetic counseling is the best pre-pregnancy route for you.
If you’re taking any medicines, prescriptions, or over-the-counter products, discuss them with your doctor prior to getting pregnant.
Have you ever had problems having a baby? Have you had a baby with a birth defect or one that was born prematurely or very small, or needed extra care for any other reason? If so, these situations, too, should be discussed with your physician.
This is also the time to think about issues other than your physical condition. Are you planning for the financial needs of your child? In addition to the medical bills related to pregnancy and throughout childhood, the baby will need good food, clothing, and a comfortable home. Do you have a support group of family members and friends that you can depend on to enjoy the good times together, and lend you a hand when you need it?
Get advice from reliable sources
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that preconception health focuses on the conditions and risk factors that could affect a woman if she becomes pregnant. This applies both to women who have never been pregnant and to those who could become pregnant again.
Preconception health also looks at factors that can affect a fetus or infant. These include taking prescription drugs or drinking alcohol. The key to promoting preconception health is to combine the best medical care, healthy behaviors, strong support, and safe environments at home and at work.
Five steps to get ready for a healthy pregnancy
In the pregnancy section of the CDC’s website, the CDC recommends that every woman who is planning to try to get pregnant take these steps:
1. Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day for at least three months before getting pregnant to help prevent birth defects.
2. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
3. If you have a medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, oral health, obesity, or epilepsy, be sure it is under control. Also be sure that your vaccinations are up to date.
4. Talk to a health care professional about any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are taking, including dietary or herbal supplements.
5. Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials that could cause infection at work and at home. Stay away from chemicals and cat or rodent feces.
Family planning counseling helpful
Advice for the promotion of healthy behaviors such as appropriate weight, nutrition, exercise, and oral health is available through family planning counseling.
The United States Agency for International Development reports that enabling couples to determine whether, when, and how often to have children is vital to safe motherhood and healthy families. Voluntary family planning has profound health, economic and social benefits for families and communities.
Family planning counseling can help a woman avoid substance abuse and toxic substances. It can help women and couples understand genetic risks, mental health issues such as depression, and intimate partner domestic violence.
Preconception health care must be tailored to each individual woman. It means helping women and their partners reduce risks and get ongoing care. Men and other family members are also very important in supporting the goals of preconception health.
Good preconception health care is about managing current health conditions. By taking action on health issues before pregnancy, future problems for you and your baby can be prevented.
Good pre-pregnancy practices help to insure a good pregnancy, a healthy baby, and a happy family.
Fran Giordani’s background includes 15 years of in-house editing and copywriting for national periodicals. Fran lives in Boston with her husband, Jay, a graphic artist, and their twin cats, Mutt and Jeff.