Having a healthy baby begins well before pregnancy so if you’re thinking about getting pregnant in the near future, it’s important to start making healthy choices now. The sooner you start living a healthier lifestyle, the better your chances for having a healthy baby.
Helpful tips before you get pregnant:
Folic acid or folate is important for brain development and preventing certain birth defects. Include 400 micrograms (or 0.4 mg) of folate in your diet or in pill form before you get pregnant and in the first three months of pregnancy.
Foods fortified with folic acid include: leafy green vegetables, kidney beans, orange juice and other citrus fruits, peanuts, broccoli, asparagus, peas, lentils and whole-grain products. Folic acid is also added to some foods like enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals.
If you smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs — STOP! Quitting is hard, but you can do it. Ask your doctor for help. For more information, see the “Take Care of Your Lungs” section on page 12 in this booklet.
Talk to your doctor about how your health issues might affect you and your baby. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels. If you have high blood pressure, monitor these levels as well. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about how to reach a healthy weight.
Once you get pregnant, you can’t increase your exercise routine by much. So it’s best to start before the baby is on the way.
If you haven’t had chickenpox or rubella, get immunized at least three months before getting pregnant.
Get checked for Hepatitis B and C, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV. These infections can harm you and your baby. Tell your doctor if you or your sex partners have ever had an STD or HIV.
Go over all of the medicines you take (prescription, over-the-counter and herbals) with your doctor. Make sure they are safe to take while you’re trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy.
As soon as you think you are pregnant, schedule your first prenatal checkup. Studies show that pregnant women who receive prenatal care are less likely to deliver prematurely or have other serious problems related to their pregnancy. Your first exam should be within the first six to eight weeks of your pregnancy or when you first suspect you are pregnant.
At these checkups, your doctor will likely want to talk about nutrition and physical activity, what to expect during the birth process and basic newborn care. The first appointment usually takes the most time because it often involves:
A full physical including a pelvic exam
Urine and blood samples for lab tests
Calculating your due date
After your delivery, the best thing to do to ensure your newborn’s health is to take care of your health. You can start with a postpartum checkup three to six weeks after you deliver or sooner if you had a Cesarean section (C-section) or any complications during your pregnancy. Take this opportunity to discuss any concerns with your doctor on such topics as:
Proper nutrition and supplements
Birth control and when to resume sexual activity
Baby care, breastfeeding and immunization schedules
Postpartum “baby blues”