The physical health of the mother and father before pregnancy will affect the health of their future baby. There are specific things you can do to help your baby even before you’re pregnant.
Did you know that a baby’s organs begin to form in the first four weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant?
What you can do:
- Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day before pregnancy.
- Get a pre-pregnancy checkup.
- Eat healthy food, maintain a healthy weight and get fit.
- Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
- Stop drinking alcohol.
- Don’t use illegal drugs.
- Avoid infections because some can harm a fetus.
- Avoid hazardous substances and chemicals.
- Talk to you healthcare provider about your family history, genetics and birth defects.
Avoid severe stress.
10 Steps to getting healthy before pregnancy
What you do before pregnancy can help you and your baby have a healthy pregnancy.
- Take folic acid: Take a multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid every day before pregnancy and during early pregnancy when the baby’s brain and spinal cord are developing. Look on the label of the vitamin bottle to see if it contains the necessary amount of folic acid.
- Get a pre-pregnancy checkup: Your healthcare provider can help you stay as healthy as possible. He/she can explain how pregnancy might affect you, review any medications you are taking and make sure you are up to date on immunizations.
- Eat right, maintain a healthy weight and get fit: You’ll feel better and start your pregnancy off right if you eat a variety of nutritious foods every day. Avoid foods high in fat and sugar. Also, cut back on caffeine. Drinking more than two cups of coffee, tea or caffeinated soda a day may make it harder for you to get pregnant.
- Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke: Smoking may make it harder for you to fall pregnant. Smoking during pregnancy can put your baby at risk for certain serious health problems. Research has also shown that smoking slows the growth of the baby.
- Stop drinking alcohol: Drinking any kind of alcohol (liquor, wine, beer, wine coolers, etc.) puts your baby at risk for miscarriage and serious physical and mental problems. If you need help to stop drinking, ask your healthcare provider.
- Don’t use illegal drugs: Taking street drugs can put your baby at risk for miscarriage, preterm delivery and serious physical and mental problems. Stop using any illegal drugs before you try to get pregnant and stay clean throughout your pregnancy. If you need help to stop, ask your healthcare provider. But don’t stop taking any prescription medications without first talking with you provider.
- Avoid infections: Some infections can harm a developing baby. Wash your hands frequently. Stay away from potentially unsafe food. Cook all meat and eggs thoroughly. Wash all fruits and vegetables well. Avoid unpasteurized milk products.
- Avoid hazardous substances and chemicals: Some cleaning products, pesticides, solvents and lead in drinking water from old pipes can be dangerous to your baby. Avoid chemicals and paint. Reduce your risk by wearing rubber gloves and working in a well-ventilated area. Ask your healthcare provider for advice about hazardous substances and chemicals.
- Learn about genetics: Your healthcare provider will take your health history and ask about the health of members of your family. Based on this information, your doctor or nurse may recommend that you see a genetic counselor to learn about your risk of having a baby with a birth defect.
- Avoid stress: Stress isn’t good for you or your baby — before, during, or after pregnancy. Too much stress may increase the risk of preterm labor, low birth weight and possibly miscarriage.
Don’t forget to help dad get healthy, too! To improve your chances of getting pregnant, it’s important for your partner to take care of himself, exercise, eat right and stop smoking, drinking or taking illegal drugs.