Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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Put your money where your mouth is: Gum disease is associated with preterm delivery, so see a dentist to make sure you're in good dental health before getting pregnant. If you need dental treatments, X-rays or medications, take care of that before you start trying to conceive.
On-the-job safety: If you're concerned about anything you're exposed to at work--such as harmful chemicals, prolonged standing or even intense stress--talk to your employer, and do some research. Your partner also should do some digging, even though it can be difficult to get some employers to acknowledge that reproductive health issues are important for men, too.
Vitamins and veggies: Start eating a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables every day, and reduce your unhealthy-fat intake. Boost your consumption of foods that are rich in iron and calcium, and consider taking a multivitamin supplement, too. Just make sure you don't overdo it with vitamins A or D. (Recommended: vitamin A, 770 micrograms, up to 3,000 mcg; vitamin D, 5 mcg, up to 50 mcg.)
One of the most important ingredients in your multivitamin supplement is folic acid. A minimum of 400 mcg daily is recommended to reduce the risk of neural-tube defects such as spina bifida in babies. (Note: If you are at increased risk, you may need approximately 10 times that amount, or 4 milligrams.)
Would-be dads also should get plenty of folic acid, zinc and vitamin C, nutrients that are vital for optimal sperm production and quality.
Weight matters: If you're heavier than you should be, try to get to within 15 pounds of your goal weight before becoming pregnant, then switch to a maintenance diet of 1,800 calories per day while trying to conceive. Obese mothers face an increased risk of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, oversize babies and Cesarean section.
Of course, it's not healthy to be seriously underweight either. Women who are too thin are at risk of experiencing fertility problems, going into preterm labor, having a low-birth-weight baby or becoming anemic.
Get with the (fitness) program: If you already have a regular fitness routine, by all means continue it (unless you are into marathons or extreme sports, in which case you should consult a physician to make sure your activities don't affect your fertility). And if you've been more into the couch than cardio, consider starting a program now--one you can continue throughout your pregnancy. Being physically active when you're pregnant can help relieve pregnancy aches and pains. It also boosts your energy, helps you sleep, improves your mood and helps you cope with stress.