Many people think that planning for a new addition to the family doesn’t start until after a positive pregnancy test. But the reality is: Planning for pregnancy starts much earlier and involves preparing your body for a healthy pregnancy.
In fact, there’s a special type of preparation you should do if you’ve decided to try to conceive—it’s called “preconception health” or “preconception care.”
As you begin to think about conceiving or plan ahead to become pregnant, there are a few steps you’ll want to take to ensure you’re at your healthiest. Pregnancy, after all, can be challenging, causing many changes to a woman’s body, mind and emotions.
Not quite sure where to begin when it comes to planning for pregnancy? The five tips below are a good starting point.
Planning for pregnancy tip 1: Check in with your medical providers
When’s the last time you had a checkup with your team of providers? Before trying to conceive, check in with all of them, including your primary care provider and a provider overseeing your women’s health needs, like an obstetrician.
Because pregnancy can put a strain on the body, it’s important to have a clean bill of health before conceiving. If you have chronic medical conditions, you’ll want to have a good understanding of how to manage those conditions if you become pregnant. You’ll also want to make sure you’re up to date with any necessary vaccines.
Your care team will be able to provide guidance about ways you can improve your health prior to conceiving. They may suggest getting to a healthier weight, making changes to your eating habits or even adjusting some medications.
Planning for pregnancy tip 2: Prepare your body
This falls into the category of “ways you can improve your health prior to conceiving,” but it’s also important enough to stand alone.
When you become pregnant, you want to make your body a safe and healthy environment for your baby. That means not smoking, not drinking alcohol, limiting caffeine and trying to minimize stress.
These are essentials during pregnancy but changing your habits prior to pregnancy is the safest bet. It can take up to 21 days to build a new habit—or to break an old one—so the sooner you implement these changes, the better.
Planning for pregnancy tip 3: Start taking a prenatal vitamin
You probably associate taking prenatal vitamins with pregnancy itself. But ideally, you’d start taking a prenatal a month or two prior to conceiving.
Why? Studies have shown that having folic acid in the mother’s body one month prior to conception helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine. The Office on Women’s Health of the Department of Health & Human Services recommends that women looking to conceive take 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid daily.
You can get this nutrient in a standalone supplement or through a prenatal vitamin, so talk with your medical provider about what’s best for you.
Planning for pregnancy tip 4: Have your partner prepare, too
While a lot of the prep work for pregnancy is related to the mom’s health, dad may need to make some changes, too.
Your chances of conceiving and carrying a healthy pregnancy are improved if both mom and dad are eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, limiting stress, not using illegal drugs and avoiding smoking and secondhand smoke. Both of you should be screened for sexually transmitted infections prior to trying to conceive and be treated, if needed.
If your partner works around chemicals or toxins, such as pesticides, he should take special care to change out of clothing and wash up prior to coming in contact after work.
Planning for pregnancy tip 5: Work on your whole self
Many of the other steps talk about what you should do to prepare physically to conceive and carry a healthy pregnancy. But you also need to spend some time working on ensuring you’re in a healthy space mentally.
Some of the steps you’ll take to prepare physically can help in this regard. Moving your body more often to get to a healthy weight can also give your mood and mental health a boost. Fueling your body by eating plenty of fruits and veggies and lean protein will do the same. There are even certain foods you can eat (like salmon and tuna, which contain omega-3 fatty acids) that are known mood boosters.
Carve out time for yourself regularly, taking the time and space needed for activities you enjoy and simple peace and quiet. Becoming a mom is a big step in life, so make sure you’re ready—mentally, physically and emotionally.
When you’re in need of OB/GYN care, our team of family medicine OB/GYNs are here to help at Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Family Medicine in Gainesville. In partnership with NGPG OB/GYN, these providers offer you the same expert care you’ve come to trust at NGPG.
Call 770-219-9445 or visit ngpg.org/family-med-obgyn to learn more or schedule an appointment.