Preconception Health for Women

Preconception health should ideally start well before just the first few prior to trying to conceive. Your fertility is related to your overall physical wellness, so being in shape is one of the best things you can do to increase your chances of getting pregnant. If you are looking at starting the journey to try and conceive, the good news is that it is not too late to take steps to increase your chances of having a positive pregnancy experience and a healthy baby.

The most important thing now is to take the right steps. Some of them will be harder than others, but following through with these changes gives you the best chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. Some steps to good preconception health involve avoiding certain things where as other steps involve making some new positive choices.

Remember that preconception health is important because the first trimester is the most vulnerable time for the development of your baby. Taking these necessary steps for your preconception health is a direct investment in the health of your baby.

Preconception Health: Things to avoid

There are lifestyle choices and work environments that you may be ok with making regarding your own health even though you know the risks, but these need to stopped and avoided during your pregnancy because they have a better chance of harming your baby.

There are things that have been identified as teratogenic, which means they cause birth defects) or have a direct affect on the baby’s health. Here is a list of things that you should stop and avoid before your get pregnant:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Illicit or recreational drug use
  • Prescription drugs (check with your health care provider)
  • Hazardous chemicals

Preconception Health: Things to change

There are things that are part of our everyday lives that may need to be addressed during your efforts to conceive. Some health professionals vary on their views, but the safest thing is to change these aspects of your life:

  • Stress
  • Herbs
  • Caffeine

Stress can cause your periods to be missed or altered which may create a problem in monitoring your ovulation and lessening your chances of conception. Look at your life and your stress levels and see what you can do to lessen stress in your life.

Herbs in most cases are seen as things that invest in your health and wellness. For the most case this may be true, but there limited studies that attest to the effects on pregnancy. Additionally, the FDA does not regulate herbs further lessening the available knowledge about risks or benefits of herbs and your baby.

Caffeine has been linked to delayed conception and an increase in miscarriages. The problem is many health professionals vary in the amounts of caffeine that are permissible. The safest thing is to avoid caffeine, but a common recommendation is to at least have no more than 300 mg of caffeine a day.

Preconception Health: Things to do

Preconception health can also be enhanced by taking a few simple steps. If you will add the following into your routine, you will be investing in both your health and your fertility.

  • Exercise
  • Track your ovulation
  • Use relaxation tools
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Eat healthy well- balanced meals
  • Take prenatal vitamins with folic acid
  • Maintain or pursue a healthy weight

Folic acid is essential to the development of your baby during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Making sure that you are getting the appropriate amounts of folic acid prior to pregnancy is the best way to see that you are getting it during your pregnancy. You are what you eat and this is even truer for your baby.

Preconception Health: Screening and Checkups

It is always a good idea to schedule a visit with your health care provider to have an initial exam, which will include a medical history, family history and some simple tests.

Your health care provider will be discussing the following conditions which may affect your fertility or the health of your baby. In many cases, there are interventions that may be explored to help ensure that your baby is safe and healthy. Here are conditions of conern:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Thyroid problems
  • STDs

Your health care provider may easily include the following tests or exams as part of your initial fertility assessment:

  • Pap smear
  • Breast exam (if over 35)
  • Blood type
  • Immunity to Rubella
  • Immunity to Varicella

Your health care provider will also take an extensive medical and family history. This conversation will include discussion on the following:

  • Current medications
  • Previous pregnancies
  • History of twins or multiples
  • Diet and exercise practices
  • Medical conditions
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizure disorders
  • Mental retardation

Depending on the discovery from the medical and family history, your health care provider may recommend a further step by obtaining a genetic counseling or screening.

Preconception Health: Pursuing an ideal weight

Depending on your preconception weight, it may prove beneficial to pursue a more appropriate weight for conception. Drastic changes are not healthy and may interfere with your fertility so don’t crash diet and things like that. Of course if you are in the right weight range, you should avoid over eating or dieting and maintain a healthy weight through eating well balanced meals.

Here are a series of things to do if you are under weight:

  • Exercise and build muscle
  • Eat at least three meals a day
  • Increase your portion sizes at each meal
  • Eat occasional snacks between meals
  • Drink plenty of juices and milk

Here are a series of things to do if you are over weight:

  • Create a realistic eating plan that lessens your calorie intake
  • Make sure you still get the nutrients you need
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Start exercising and look for ways to be more active
  • Avoid soft drinks and other foods with unnecessary calories

Last Updated: 08/2008

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