Planning for your pregnancy: the importance of good health:
If you are planning to become pregnant it is a good idea to have a preconception care check-up. The first 8 weeks of your pregnancy are keys for the baby growing inside you. Most of the major body organs and systems have begun to form. Your health and nutrition can affect your baby’s growth and development.
What is a preconception care checkup?
This checkup identifies and reduces the risk that could affect your pregnancy. Identifying these factors before you are pregnant increases the chance of having a healthy baby and healthy pregnancy. At this visit you will be asked about your lifestyle, diet, medical history and family history, any past pregnancies and any medications you are taking.
How does diet affect my pregnancy?
- Your body needs regular supply of nutrients to grow, replace worn out tissue and for energy.
- If you are underweight this can increase the risk during pregnancy of having a low birth weight baby. These babies are at risk of problems during labor and delivery. They may also have behavior and health problems that continue through childhood and adulthood. These babies are also at risk of preterm delivery.
- Being overweight during pregnancy is associated with several pregnancy and childbirth complications, including high blood pressure, preeclampsia, preterm birth and gestational diabetes.
Obesity during pregnancy is also associated with the baby being larger than normal, called macrosomia. This can lead to increased risk of birth injury and caesarean section. It also increases the risk of birth defects, especially neural tube defects (NTD’s).
- Exercise and the proper amount of food intake can help avoid these problems, adjusting your intake up or down depending on whether you need to lose or gain weight.
Are there any supplements that are especially important?
- Folic acid helps prevent NTD’s when taken before pregnancy and for the first 3 months. It is recommended that all women, even if they are not trying to get pregnant, to take 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) every day
- Iron is also important during pregnancy. Iron is used to produce extra blood to carry oxygen to the baby. This can be a problem for some women during pregnancy.
- Although most of your nutrients should come from the food you eat, it is a good idea to take prenatal or multivitamin supplement before pregnancy. Prenatal vitamin supplements contain all the recommended daily minerals and vitamins you need before and during your pregnancy.
Can my lifestyle affect my pregnancy?
Cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs during pregnancy can have harmful effects on the baby. The first trimester of pregnancy is a time when the fetus is most vulnerable. Stopping harmful behavior before pregnancy may reduce or even eliminate the risks of some birth defects that occur in early pregnancy
How can the environment affect my pregnancy?
There are many substances at home and work that may have harmful effects on the fetus. These may be substances such as lead, mercury, and chemicals like pesticides or solvents or radiation. You should check the labels on products used at home and in the garden and ask your employer for any information on substances that you come in contact with at your work place.
Should I discuss medical conditions with my provider?
Some medical conditions – like diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and seizure disorders – can cause problems during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition your health care provider will discuss with you changes to have the condition under control prior to becoming pregnant
Should I stop any medications?
Do not stop taking prescription medications until you talk with your health care provider. Your medications are important to your health.
Some medications, including vitamin supplements, over-the-counter medications, and herbal remedies can be harmful to the fetus.
It is important that you tell your health care provider about all the medications that you are using during your preconception checkup so that you can receive complete advice. Bringing in any supplements or herbal remedies is especially helpful.
Are there any infections that are harmful if I become pregnant?
- Infections can harm both mother and fetus. Some infections during pregnancy can cause birth defects or illnesses to the baby. Infections passed through sexual contact – sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) - also are harmful during pregnancy. Many types of STD’s may affect your ability to become pregnant. They may also infect and harm your baby. If you think you or your partner may have an STD get tested and treated right away.
- Vaccination can prevent some infections. Some vaccines are not safe in pregnancy. It is important to know what vaccines you may need and to get them before becoming pregnant.
Can problems during a prior pregnancy happen again?
If you had a complication during your previous pregnancy it is important to share this with your health care provider. There may be an increased risk for it to happen again. Some of these conditions include preeclampsia, diabetes, preterm birth, high blood pressure. Monitoring or preventive care may be available to try to decrease the risks
Why is my and my partner’s family history important?
Some conditions may be inherited through genetics. There can be effects on you or your baby during pregnancy. It is important to identify these risks for proper care and monitoring.