Here’s what you need to know to prepare for pregnancy and birth of a healthy baby.
Continue to protect yourself
Don’t stop using your contraceptives until you are physically and psychologically ready to conceive. After you stop taking hormonal contraceptives, it’s very likely you will conceive in the first cycle. In fact, one out of five women do. This means that you should start preparing for pregnancy before stopping your contraceptive.
Start taking folic acid
Doctors recommend to start taking 400 mcg of folic acid or folate daily before conception. A lack of this nutrient can lead to developmental problems in the baby.
Consult a doctor
Schedule a visit to the doctor, prepare a list of questions for discussion. Ask which tests you need to take and which examinations to undergo, taking into account your age, medical history and lifestyle. If you have already been diagnosed with a chronic disease like diabetes, hypertension, thyroid diseases and others, report it. Be sure to tell your doctor what medications you are taking as some may not be good to take while pregnant. And of course, before pregnancy, it is necessary to identify and treat all sexually transmitted infections.
Some diseases (for example, rubella) may be non-symptomatic for adults, but are deadly for an unborn child. It is important to prevent them, get vaccinated .
This advice is for both moms and dads. If a man smokes, then conceiving is likely to be more difficult. And women who smoke have a higher risk of miscarriages and premature birth.
Give up alcohol
If a woman drinks alcohol in the month she concieves, then the probability of miscarriage increases . If she drinks when pregnant, then the risk of physical, behavioral and mental disorders in the baby increases significantly.
Review your diet
It’s a good idea to give up fast food, reduce the amount of added sugars you eat, and monitor your balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates . Of course, all these changes can be made later during pregnancy. However, studies show that later changes in diet will benefit only the mother, but not the child.
Maintain a healthy weight
Both the lack of body weight and its excess can create problems with conception. For example, if doctors diagnose obesity, then the weight should be reduced before pregnancy, otherwise there is a higher risk of complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
Research shows that active mothers have a much lower risk for gestational diabetes and cesarean section. If you haven’t been very active before, then start with morning exercises or daily walks.
Discuss your plans with your partner
With a new baby, your roles will change. As a couple you took care of each other, as your family grows, you will both be focused on caring for your child. Therefore, all your plans, aspirations and doubts about the upcoming changes should be discussed in advance.
This article was created in association with UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
- Pregnancy Rates After Oral Contraceptive Use. Athol Kent. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009.
- Recommendations: Women and Folic Acid. CDC, 2021.
- Planning for Pregnancy. CDC, 2020.
- How Smoking Affects Reproductive Health. FDA, 2021.
- Volume and type of alcohol during early pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage. Avalos L. A., Roberts S. C., Kaskutas L. A., et al. Subst Use Misuse., 2014.
- Alcohol Use During Pregnancy. CDC, 2021.
- Before the beginning: nutrition and lifestyle in the preconception period and its importance for future health. Judith Stephenson, Nicola Heslehurst et al. The Lancet, May 2018.
- Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. ACOG Committee opinion, 2020, Number 804.