Are you waiting to get pregnant before you improve your health habits? If so, you may be going about things in the wrong way. To make sure that you’ll have the healthiest baby possible, it’s best to make positive changes months before you conceive.
“Most women don’t consider their health before they get pregnant, but they should,” says Merry-K. Moos, R.N., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. (Moos was on a task force coordinated by the March
of Dimes that issued a recent report on newborn health.) Studies show that a woman’s health before pregnancy has a significant impact on her baby’s health and on the ease of her pregnancy and delivery.
Get in shape- Why is your prepregnancy weight so important? Studies show that overweight women have a greater risk of infertility and that losing weight increases ovulation among some obese women. If you need to lose weight, start your eating and exercise program six months or more before you try to conceive, depending on your weight-loss goal.
Being too thin (a body mass index, or BMI, of less than 18.5) or overweight (a BMI of 25 or more) during pregnancy puts your baby at an increased risk for birth defects and fetal growth restrictions, Moos says.
Improve your eating habits- As you consider the idea of pregnancy, eat a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and reduced fats and sugars if you’re not already doing so. To reduce the risk of neural-tube defects in your baby, you should also increase your intake of folate-rich foods and take a daily folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms starting at least one month before trying to conceive.
See your doctor- “The vast majority of patients don’t have a preconception visit with their doctors,” says Richard H. Schwarz, M.D., chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at New York Methodist Hospital in New York City, “but they should.” If you’re considering getting pregnant, make an appointment now with your OB-GYN. At this visit, you’ll talk about any existing or potential health problems that could affect your fertility, put you at risk or harm your developing fetus. (For instance, among women with uncontrolled diabetes, the rate of birth defects in their newborns is five or six times higher than among non-diabetics.) It’s also important to discuss any medications you’re taking. To avoid the possibility of birth defects, most doctors will recommend that you stop using any drug that is not necessary.