Baby Steps: How to Protect and Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy
Thinking of adding a new little bundle of joy to your family? Then it’s time to get your body baby-ready.
In fact, one of the best times to do an inventory of your health and catch up on general preventive maintenance is before you try to get pregnant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, pre-conception health should be a routine part of primary and preventive care. Having a general exam and Pap smear, along with a few blood tests, is an excellent idea prior to conception.
Depending on your overall health and any specific medical conditions you have, your physician may recommend making some changes in your lifestyle or medical care.
Sometimes a change in medication is warranted, or disease management altered. Diabetes should be very carefully controlled in pregnancy, for instance, and some blood pressure medicines are preferred over others.
Your pre-pregnancy weight is another important factor in ensuring the long-term health of both you and your baby-to-be. Being at your ideal body weight before conception will go a long way to preventing problems during pregnancy and delivery. Being obese increases the chance of miscarriage, c-section rates, diabetes and infections.
It’s also a good idea to review your health insurance to see if your policy covers normal prenatal care, childbirth and potential complications for you and your baby, and if you are allowed to choose any physician and hospital you prefer.
Avenues for excellent prenatal care are almost always available, but a little forethought can certainly limit anxiety during a pregnancy.
Baby on board
Once you even suspect you’re pregnant, seeing a physician is a must.
Most doctors recommend you see them eight to 10 weeks after your last period. Genetic testing can be done as early as 10 weeks, so if you wait until 12 weeks you miss that first window.
Those early tests include blood work and detailed ultrasounds that can indicate the risk of Down syndrome or Trisomy 18, both conditions caused by chromosomal defects.
In addition to regular doctor visits throughout your pregnancy, physicians stress the importance of keeping your body in top condition by eating a well-balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruit and lean meat; limiting caffeine; and continuing a regimen of prenatal vitamins. Many doctors advise pregnant women to avoid eating fish that could contain high levels of mercury, such as tuna, shark, swordfish and mahi mahi, and to make sure that all fish is properly cooked.
Staying active can also help ensure your good health during pregnancy. Most pregnant women can safely continue their regular fitness regimens—preferably 30 to 40 minutes per session—as long as they warm up and cool down and don’t become overheated or dehydrated.
If you have a regular exercise routine, you can usually continue it at the same level. Activity will slow naturally as you get bigger. Women who exercise generally are healthier throughout the pregnancy and have smoother deliveries and shorter labors.
Following diet and exercise guidelines has the added benefit of making it more likely that you’ll maintain a healthy weight throughout and after pregnancy. If a patient is at her ideal body weight at the start of the pregnancy, we recommend that she gain 20 to 30 pounds over the course of the pregnancy. But if the patient is obese, we recommend minimum weight gain—the baby will ‘steal’ from the mom what it needs.
Taking care of yourself is essential to taking care of your baby too. But even if you’ve missed a few steps along the way, it’s important to begin to optimize your health and lifestyle habits as soon as possible.
It is much better to start late than never. Many factors that may adversely influence the health of your baby can be modified or even eliminated during prenatal care.
6 ways to prepare your body for pregnancy
- Visit your physician for an exam and consultation.
- Take prenatal vitamins that contain 400 to 800 mg of folic acid
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs.
- Get as close to your ideal body weight as possible.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Stay active.