Pregnancy: how to prepare

Having a child is one of the most exciting, and stressful, experiences in life. A bit of knowledge and preparation can increase the likelihood of a healthy baby, and can give would-be parents some peace of mind.

What lifestyle changes can I make to help ensure a successful pregnancy?

A healthy lifestyle is always a very good idea, and never is this more true than before and during pregnancy. Things to strive for:

  • Eat well. Eat a balanced diet, making sure to include lots of green leafy vegetables and legumes. These will provide folic acid, one of the B-vitamins, which prevents birth defects such as spina bifida (a disorder of the spinal cord).
     
  • Take a daily multivitamin with folic acid. Take a daily multivitamin that contains at least 0.4 mg of folic acid to ensure that you have enough nutrients to feed your baby and to reduce the risk of fetal birth defects. Women with epilepsy, diabetes, a family history of neural tube defects (birth defects affecting the spinal cord), or previous pregnancies affected by neural tube defects will need a higher dose of folic acid per day.
     
  • Start taking folic acid well before you get pregnant. Talk to your doctor about how much folic acid you will need to take well before you start trying to get pregnant. It is important to take folic acid at least 10 weeks prior to conception, and given that 50% of pregnancies are unexpected, it's best for all women of child-bearing age to take folic acid even if they don't plan to become pregnant.
     
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help prepare your heart for pregnancy and can help you handle the stresses of pregnancy.
     
  • Watch your weight. An ideal weight will optimize your chances of successful pregnancy. Ask your doctor what's ideal for you.
     
  • Stop smoking. There is no better time to kick the habit, and there is no more important time either. Your health care professional can help.
     
  • Decrease your intake of caffeine. Decrease your intake of caffeine (which is found in coffee, tea, cola beverages, and some medications).
     
  • Stop drinking alcohol. There is no established safe amount one can drink during, or before, pregnancy.
     
  • Stop drug use and stay away from strong chemicals. Discuss with your physician before using any drugs or nonessential medications, and avoid exposure to strong chemicals or toxins.
     
  • Learn as much as you can about pregnancy. Read, listen, and talk to your friends and health professionals.
     
  • Discuss family issues with your partner regularly. It's best to start discussing family issues even before getting pregnant, and it's especially important to continue these discussions during the pregnancy, as well as after the birth. Having a baby can be a wonderful addition to a family, as long as both partners are ready.
     
  • See your doctor regularly. This is another important part of preparing for pregnancy. 

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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