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Tips for Healthy Pre-Conception
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It’s best to keep a healthy lifestyle similar to the guidelines recommended during pregnancy in pre-conception as well. That will make any changes—such as limiting caffeine, staying away from alcohol or stopping smoking—easier to handle. Some of the best advice we can give you is:

Eat healthy, be healthy. Follow the nutrition guidelines for pregnancy to get in the habit of eating right for you and your baby. You don’t have to eat more right now, but it’s important to eat more of the good stuff, and less of the junk, including saturated fats and refined sugars. Additives can make the symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea and vomiting even more severe, so it’s a great idea to cut out junk food now. This is also a time to cut back on caffeine, including coffee and soda. Although the studies that you read about caffeine affecting fertility have never been proven, and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) agrees that caffeine does not pose a significant risk to fertility; caffeine should be limited during pregnancy. Because caffeine is not recommended for consumption during pregnancy, long-time “users” may find it difficult to cut back in a short period of time. In order to ease the process of caffeine withdrawal, start now while you have a chance so you don’t feel overwhelmed when pregnancy begins and you have one more thing to remember!

Talk to your provider. If you’re planning on getting pregnant, it’s always best to talk to your healthcare provider about the steps you should take, any specific risks you may have, medications you should stop taking and vaccinations or medical procedures that should be done prior to conception. This time is a perfect opportunity to find a provider for your pregnancy and birth. A pre-pregnancy check-up will allow your doctor or certified nurse midwife (CNM) to assess your overall health condition, and make sure that you’re physically ready for a pregnancy. You should talk about your pregnancy history, and if you’ve had any pregnancy complications in the past. Most pregnancies are uncomplicated, but after a full assessment, your provider might feel that your pregnancy is high-risk and refer you to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, an obstetrician with additional training in high-risk pregnancies.

Your provider will perform various tests at your pre-pregnancy check-up. These tests are very important. If there are unexpected results, you and your provider will have the chance to discuss and plan for any potential problems. Talk with your provider about pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or a kidney problem, before you get pregnant so that she/he can guide and counsel you.

It’s recommended that you talk to your doctor about updating your immunizations before you become pregnant. For example, if you’ve never had chicken pox, you should be tested to see if you’re immune. If not, you can be immunized. If you haven’t had your tetanus booster in the past ten years, now is the time. You should have other immunizations as an adult, but it isn’t recommended when you’re pregnant. In order to prevent yourself or your baby from becoming sick with these preventable diseases, the time before conception is the best for an immunization update. Also, there are some vaccinations that are administered over a period of time, in which case it’s best to put off conception until the immunization is completed. Talk to your doctor about timing and concerns when it comes to pre-conception immunization.

Quit smoking. Smoking is harmful for your pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy is associated with many risks for your baby including prematurity and low birthweight. Exposure to smoke (even secondhand smoke) during pregnancy may also affect your child's long-term development. But, right now, smoking can cause problems with your fertility, making it difficult for you to conceive.

Eliminate alcohol and drugs. If you have any unhealthy habits such as drinking or using illicit drugs, now is the time to cut out those habits. Alcohol is extremely harmful for a baby and it’s widely understood that a pregnant mother should abstain from drinking alcohol altogether. If you drink more than one drink per day, try to stop now, before conception, to avoid any alcohol-related fertility problems. Many women stop drinking altogether once they start trying to conceive in order to ensure that no alcohol is present in their body at any stage of pregnancy. If you use any types of illegal drugs for recreation, you should see this as a time to stop use altogether. Drugs are extremely damaging for pregnancies and can cause lifelong birth defects in your baby. If you're addicted and don’t think that you will be able to stop using drugs, talk to your doctor, midwife or a counselor about ways to cut out drugs before and during pregnancy. Professional support and concerns about the health of your unborn baby may help you stop using drugs.  If you drank or used drugs before you knew you were pregnant, the chances of your baby being affected in very early pregnancy are low.  Remember, during pregnancy it's never too late to quit drinking, smoking or using illegal drugs.

Get to your ideal body weight. It is better for your health and your baby's health, for you to be at a recommended ideal weight. Your provider can discuss this with you. If you have suffered from an eating disorder or still do, talk to your provider. You will need to make sure that you get the right nutrients and attain the bodyweight that will help you have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Underweight women may give birth to babies with a low birth weight. And if you’re obese, you should also talk to your provider about a safe way to shed some pounds before conception to have a healthy and low-risk pregnancy. Overweight women have a higher chance of developing complications during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes and higher blood pressure.

Minimize or eliminate exposure to toxins and infection. Make sure you avoid all contact with chemicals and radiation now and into the pregnancy. That means limiting exposure to X-rays—make sure if you need an x-ray, the exposure is minimal and your abdomen is well-protected. Avoid contact with lead, which is found in paint and some tap water—drink bottled water if you need to, or invest in a good filter. If you work around dangerous chemicals, talk with your provider about possible exposure. This also means avoiding contact with any cat litter, wearing gloves while gardening, and protecting yourself from insect bites. Cat feces carries an infection called toxoplasmosis. This can be harmful for the baby.

Get financially prepared. Now is the perfect time to start preparing for providing for a child, and to look into your health insurance options. A child will cut into your income and cost a lot, no matter how you look at it. Learn to practice restraint and save for a child. If this is your first child, you might start avoiding impulse purchases for yourself in order to keep some extra money to spend on the child. Talk to your healthcare provider about hospital coverage and prenatal care.

Click below to read about related topics.

Tips for Healthy Pre-Conception
Pre-pregnancy Nutrition
Predicting Your Fertility
Genetic Counseling
Problems with Conception