Making Plans to Become Pregnant

By Widmer, Lori

You make a lot of plans when you get pregnant. You choose nursery colors and baby names, expand your home or alter rooms. But you also need to plan before you conceive.

More doctors now suggest a preconception checkup and preconception counseling before getting serious about having a baby. Many problems that can affect a pregnancy can be avoided if addressed and dealt with before becoming pregnant.

Planning ahead is important because there is important organ development in the first eight weeks of pregnancy "A pre-conception checklist can help ensure that when conception occurs, there is an optimal environment to promote and support the normal development of all fetal organs.

A healthy weight

Obesity is one of many possible problems. The CDC says that obese and overweight women face a higher risk of giving birth to babies with heart problems and other defects. And if you have diabetes that isn't treated before you conceive, the risk increases for brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal, and heart defects in your child.

Weight is a key issue for mothers-to-be. Underweight women have a higher risk of low-birth-weight infants, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Couples who plan a baby should set up a counseling session with their doctor.

You should also discuss diet and exercise. Diet issues include the mother's calcium intake, as well as the use of multivitamins before pregnancy. For example, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends all women get 400 mcg of folic acid a day. Getting enough folic acid helps with healthy development of the unborn baby's neurological system.

Other issues

Another problematic issue: use of over-the-counter or prescription drugs, as well as any ailments that require medication. Many women with chronic health problems don't know that medications may put the baby at risk. Women should talk with their doctors about strategies to minimize risk to the fetus.

Both parents' family histories play a role in determining genetic disorders or defects. Pre-conception counseling can provide insight into certain genetic risks that you and your partner may not be aware of, the College says.

Fathers also play a large role in the child's health. Eliminating alcohol, tobacco, or drug use three to six months before conception can lead to more and better sperm, the College says.

Pre-conception checklist

Here's a suggested checklist for women who may want to have a child:

  • Control your weight. Women who weigh too much or too little should talk with a doctor to learn their ideal body weight.

  • Get in shape. Women who are in good physical condition generally have easier pregnancies and better outcomes.

  • Eat a nutritious diet. Good nutrition is part of good health, both for the woman and for the planned or current pregnancy.

  • Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.

  • Stop drinking alcohol.

  • Talk with your doctor about any medications you're taking. Include herbal or alternative medicines.

  • Start taking a multivitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid at least two months before you conceive.

  • Your doctor will verify your immunity to rubella and chicken pox. If you think you had them or were vaccinated as a child, a blood test can show whether you're still immune. If you are not immune, get new vaccinations. Immunizations should be given a month or more before conception.

  • Get tested for HIV and hepatitis B.

  • Look at your and your partner's family histories to identify any possible genetic problems.

  • Avoid soft cheeses, deli meats, and uncooked hot dogs. These foods may be contaminated with the bacterium Listeria. An infection in the first trimester of pregnancy may be associated with miscarriage.

  • Avoid raw and undercooked meat and fish. Check with the CDC for a list of fish that contain unacceptable levels of mercury.

  • Get a screening for cystic fibrosis. If you're Jewish, get screened for Tay-Sachs disease. If you're African American, get screened for sickle cell anemia. Make sure you're up-to-date on all other screenings.

  • Consider any occupational hazards that your job may entail.

  • Cat feces can transmit toxoplasmosis. Your partner should change the litter box. If you change the litter box, wear a mask and gloves.

  • Review your hobbies and sports with your doctor and ask what is safe for you to do.

Medical Reviewer: [Bowers, Nancy RN, MPH, Dolan, Mary, MD] Last Annual Review Date: 2008-06-11T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: © Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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