In some cases, pregnancy is unexpected. In fact, half of American pregnancies are unplanned. But for many women and families, there’s at least some planning involved.
When a woman is trying to conceive, that’s where some advanced preparation can come in handy, benefiting both mama and baby. But what exactly can a woman do to prepare her body for pregnancy?
While a lot of things are certainly out of our control when it comes to conceiving and carrying a baby safely to term, there are steps you can take ahead of time to prep your body.
Let’s take a look at a five of those.
- See your doctor. You know of the importance of regular checkups once you’re pregnant, but it’s also important to talk with your doctor before you begin trying to conceive.
This is a key step for many reasons. Your doctor will be able to review your health history and current vital health numbers and determine if you’re safe to become pregnant. Beyond that, a visit to the doctor can ensure you’re up to date on the latest tests and vaccinations.
He or she may recommend lifestyle changes to get your body in better shape to carry a pregnancy. And your doctor may prescribe folic acid, a B vitamin that’s vitally important for a baby’s brain development. Research has shown that having folic acid in the body a month before pregnancy can help prevent major birth defects.
- Find out your family history. It’s important for everyone to know their family health history, but if you don’t know it already, now’s the time!
Sketch out your family health tree so that you and your doctor will know medical conditions that are common among your family members.
It’s also important to note the pregnancy experiences of female family members, including any history of miscarriage or stillbirth. During this conversation, your mother may be able to provide you helpful details related to her pregnancy that may also affect your pregnancy.
- Stop smoking and drinking. Because so many pregnancies are unplanned, it’s often not possible to stop smoking or limit alcohol consumption before a pregnancy is confirmed.
But when you’re actively trying to get pregnant, these can be important steps. Smoking, using illegal drugs and drinking alcohol can all cause issues during pregnancy for both the mother and baby.
Cutting out these habits while you’re trying to conceive — and during pregnancy — can help limit the risk of premature birth, birth defects and even infant death.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re carrying a bit of excess weight, there’s no better time than now to get to — and maintain — a healthy weight.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. And being at a healthier weight can help lead to a healthier pregnancy.
Drastic measures aren’t necessary. Take steps toward a healthier weight by getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet.
Experts recommend being physically active for at least 150 minutes a week, or just more than 20 minutes per day. Find an activity you enjoy — and feel free to mix it up!
Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. A good rule of thumb is to fill one-half your plate with fruits and veggies, one-fourth of the plate with lean protein (like chicken or fish), and the other one-fourth with whole grain or starchy vegetables. A small amount of healthy fat, like what’s found in olive oil or nuts, is also part of a balanced diet.
- Reduce stress. Excessive stress is good for no one. Whether you’re impacted by stress at work or at a home, it’s important to manage it effectively.
To keep your stress in check, regularly practice stress management. Being physically active, meditating or performing another relaxing activity, and getting plenty of rest are all ways to effectively manage stress.
Need help preparing for pregnancy? Erlanger Center for Women offers a wide variety of services to help patients maintain a healthy lifestyle, including ultrasound services, gynecologic surgery, midwifery, and holistic medical practices. Learn more here.