If you are thinking about having a baby, it is important to prepare yourself before you try to get pregnant. See your healthcare provider for a physical exam and to talk about your pregnancy plans. Your baby has a better chance of being healthy if you are healthy. Your provider will ask about your personal and family medical history, lifestyle, and any past pregnancies. The answers to these questions and your physical will help identify any risks or problems you may have.
Some of the questions you and your provider will discuss are:
Have you been using birth control pills or another type of hormonal birth control? If you have, ask your healthcare provider when itâ€™s best to stop. It may help to use a nonhormonal form of birth control for 2 to 3 months before you start trying to get pregnant. This gives your body time to get back to your natural cycle. You can use condoms or a diaphragm for birth control during this time.
Are you up to date for shots? Your provider will check to see if you need any vaccines, for example, for flu or MMR (rubella, measles, or mumps). If you have an MMR shot, you should wait at least 1 month after the shot before you try to get pregnant.
Have you or your partner had any medical problems? Your provider will ask about illnesses and other medical problems that you, your partner, or other family members have had. For example, some injuries or infections may make it hard for you to get pregnant. If you have recently been exposed to someone with a disease like German measles (rubella) or chickenpox, don’t try to get pregnant now. These diseases can harm an unborn child if you get them. If you have had a sexually transmitted disease (STD), your provider will want to know how it was treated.
Do you have any medical problems now? Your provider can test you for infections, such as tuberculosis (TB) and STDs, including HIV/AIDs. Tell your provider about any medical problems you have, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Also tell your provider about any medicines you are taking, including prescription, nonprescription, and herbal medicines. You may need different medicines or treatments to control medical conditions during pregnancy. Itâ€™s sometimes better to start or change treatments, if needed, before pregnancy. Getting proper treatment for these problems can help you and your baby be healthy during your pregnancy.
Are you the weight you want to be? Itâ€™s best to start a pregnancy at a healthy weight for your height. If you are underweight, you are more likely to have a small baby. Small babies have more problems during labor and right after birth. Being overweight can also cause problems for you and your baby. For example, you have a greater chance of having high blood pressure or diabetes. If you want to gain or lose weight, itâ€™s best to do it before getting pregnant. Once you are pregnant, you should not diet because you may deprive your baby of needed nutrients.
Do you eat a healthy diet? A healthy diet gives you and your baby the nutrients you both need. Talk to your provider about the foods you normally eat to see if there are any changes you should make before you get pregnant. Ask your provider about prenatal vitamins and mineral supplements with iron and folic acid.
Do you exercise regularly? Starting or continuing a regular exercise program helps prepare your body for pregnancy and labor. Unless your healthcare provider tells you not to, try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.
Do you smoke? Drink alcohol? Use any drugs or medicine? Drugs, alcohol, and smoking can harm your body and your brain. If you are pregnant, these substances can pass from you to your baby and cause problems for your baby before, during, and after birth. If you abuse drugs or alcohol or smoke while you are pregnant, you are at risk for miscarriage, premature labor, stillbirth, or having a child with birth defects. If you are planning to get pregnant and you use any of these substances, now is the time to quit. Ask your healthcare provider to help you quit.
Have children with birth defects or inherited diseases been born to members of your family or your partner’s family? If so, you and your partner may want to talk with a genetic counselor about your family’s medical history. You may have tests of your genes and your partner’s genes. Genes are in each cell of your body. They contain the information that tells your body how to develop and work. Changes in the genes can be passed from parents to children. The counselor can give you a better idea if your baby might be at risk of inheriting genetic problems.
Are you exposed to any health hazards at home or at work? Tell your provider about any chemicals, radiation, or other health risks at home or at work.
Is there violence or abuse in your home? A partner who responds to stress, frustration, or anger with violence could hurt you and the baby. The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the greater the chance you or your baby will be seriously injured or killed. If you are being abused, get help now.
Are you under a lot of stress? Stress may make it harder for you to get pregnant. Learn ways to relax and manage stress.
Plan ahead and think about the many aspects of your life that will change. Having a baby affects your budget, work situation, daily schedule, health, and relationships with family and friends. Check your health insurance plan to see if it covers pregnancy and pregnancy-related issues.
During the time you are trying to get pregnant, try to relax and not let it become a stressful experience. And remember that you will probably be pregnant for a while before you know you are, so it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That way you can find comfort in knowing that you are providing the healthiest environment possible for your baby from the first day.
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-05-06 Last reviewed: 2014-09-21
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Getting Ready for Pregnancy: References
ACOG Committee Opinion: Update on Immunization and Pregnancy: Tetanus, Diptheria, and Pertussis Vaccination. Number 566, June 2013
ACOG Committee Opinion: Obesity in Pregnancy, Number 549, January 2013