A to-do list to use before you get pregnant

Planning for a baby or thinking about it? Take these steps to give you and your baby a healthy start:

  • Quit smoking and avoid alcohol. When you smoke or drink alcohol during your pregnancy, so does your baby. The effects of smoking on your baby, even secondhand smoke, and alcohol are connected to premature birth, learning disabilities, birth defects and even infant death.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or underweight puts you and your baby at increased risk, so eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins—and be sure to exercise before, during and after pregnancy.
  • Include 400 micrograms of folic acid in your daily diet. Folic acid is a B vitamin needed for normal growth and development and lowers your baby’s risk of developing birth defects of the brain and spine, such as spina bifida.
  • Get existing medical conditions under control. If you have a medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or epilepsy, be sure it is under control before you get pregnant.
  • Talk to your doctor about any and all medicines you take. Some medicines—including over-the-counter drugs and supplements—can affect your baby’s health.
  • Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. Even while you are pregnant, you protect your baby when you vaccinate. Check with your doctor about which vaccinations are safe during pregnancy.
  • Share your family medical history—and your partner’s family’s medical history—with your doctor. This will help your doctor to look out for potential problems.
  • Avoid contact with toxic materials at home and at work. Can include synthetic chemicals, fertilizer and bug spray.
  • Have someone else clean up after your pets. Toxoplasma is a parasite found in cat and rodent feces that can cause your unborn child serious health issues.
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. These put you and your unborn child at risk for miscarriage, prematurity or infant death.

FYI:

Medical experts advise all pregnant women to receive at least 13 prenatal visits during a full-term pregnancy. Prenatal care is more likely to be effective when visits start in the first three months of pregnancy; good prenatal care can help reduce or prevent maternal and infant illness, disability and even death. Your first postpartum visit should be three to six weeks after your delivery date.
Mental health is also vital for new moms. Magellan offers phone assessment, screening, education and referrals (includes licensed behavioral health care professionals on a 24/7 basis, as needed) to assist new mothers who may be experiencing moderate to severe depression within the first four weeks after delivery. For more info, call 800.424.1778.

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