Your journey to motherhood starts long before the plus sign appears on that pregnancy test. Start now to ensure your pregnancy is as healthy and happy as possible, by understanding the basics from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the leading medical organization dealing with pregnancy and fertility.
Here’s what the experts at ACOG say you sound know about preconception care checkups, and topics to talk about with your doctor or midwife during that visit.
What is a preconception care checkup?
The goal of this checkup is to find things that could affect your pregnancy. Identifying these factors before you become pregnant allows you to take steps that can increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. During this visit, your health care provider will ask about your diet and lifestyle, your medical and family history, medications you take and any past pregnancies.
Who should have a preconception care checkup?
A preconception care checkup is a smart idea for anyone who plans to become pregnant. The first eight weeks of pregnancy are key for the baby growing inside you—most of the baby’s major organs and body systems have begun to form. Your health and nutrition can affect your baby’s growth and development in these early weeks.
You should also consider discussing the following questions with your OB-GYN or midwife:
Why is a healthy diet important?
Your body needs a regular supply of nutrients to grow, replace worn-out tissue and provide energy. How much of each nutrient you need each day is called the dietary reference intake. You can get your daily dietary reference intake of nutrients from food as well as from supplements. However, most of your nutrients should come from the foods you eat.
How can I make sure my diet is healthy?
To be sure your diet gives you enough nutrients, you need to know which nutrients are in the foods you eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food-planning guide, called MyPlate, can help you make healthy food choices. MyPlate takes into account your age, sex and how much you exercise every day.
How can being overweight affect my pregnancy?
Being over your body’s natural weight during pregnancy is associated with several pregnancy and childbirth complications, including high blood pressure, preeclampsia, preterm birth and gestational diabetes. Obesity during pregnancy also is associated with macrosomia, defined as a larger-than-normal baby, as well as an increased risk of birth injury and cesarean delivery. It also increases the risk of birth defects, especially neural tube defects. Having too much body fat may make it more difficult for your health care provider to monitor your baby with ultrasound and to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
How can I lose weight if I am overweight?
To lose weight, you need to use up more calories than you take in. The best way to lose weight is by making a few changes in your diet and by being more physically active. Talk to your doctor before you change your diet or start exercising.
How can being underweight affect my pregnancy?
Being underweight also poses risks during pregnancy. It increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby. These babies are at risk of problems during labor and may have health and behavioral problems that last into childhood and adulthood. Being underweight during pregnancy also increases the risk of preterm birth.
Should I take a vitamin supplement?
Although most of your nutrients should come from the foods you eat, it’s a good idea to start taking a prenatal vitamin supplement before pregnancy. Prenatal vitamin supplements contain all the recommended daily vitamins and minerals you will need before and during your pregnancy.
Why is it important for me to get enough folic acid before I get pregnant?
Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects when taken before and during pregnancy. It is recommended that all women (even if they are not trying to get pregnant) consume 400 micrograms of folic acid a day by taking a vitamin supplement containing folic acid.
Why is it important for me to get enough iron?
Iron is used to make the extra blood needed to supply oxygen to your baby once you’re pregnant. Some women struggle to get enough iron. Healthy sources include soybeans, kidney beans, lentils, spinach, spirulina, fortified cereal and pumpkin seeds.
Can my lifestyle affect my pregnancy?
Smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs during pregnancy can hurt your baby’s health. A fetus is most vulnerable to damage from these substances during the first trimester of pregnancy, so stopping these harmful habits before you try to conceive can lower or even eliminate the risks of some birth defects that occur early in a pregnancy.
How can my environment affect my pregnancy?
Some substances found in homes and workplaces can make it harder for women to become pregnant or could hurt a fetus. If you’re planning to get pregnant, find out which chemicals you use in your home or garden and ask your employer whether you could be exposed to radiation, pesticides, solvents or toxic substances like lead or mercury.
Can medical conditions I have affect my pregnancy?
Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and seizure disorders, can cause problems during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition, your health care provider will talk with you about changes you need to make in order to bring it under control before you try to get pregnant.
Can the medications I take affect my pregnancy?
Some medications, including vitamin supplements, over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies, can hurt your baby and shouldn’t be taken while you’re pregnant. During your preconception care checkup, it’s important to tell your health care provider about all the medications and supplements you’re taking. Don’t stop taking prescription medication until you’ve talked with your doctor.
If I have an infection, can it affect my pregnancy?
Infections can harm you and your baby. Some infections during pregnancy can cause birth defects or illnesses in the baby.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) also are harmful during pregnancy. Many types of STIs may affect your ability to become pregnant. They can also infect and harm your baby. If you think you or your partner may have an STI, get tested and treated right away.
Can I prevent infections?
Vaccination (also called immunization) can prevent some infections. Some vaccines aren’t safe to use during pregnancy, so it’s important to know which vaccines you may need and to get them before you get pregnant.
What if I had a problem in a previous pregnancy?
Some pregnancy problems, including preterm birth, high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, may increase the risk of having the same problem in a later pregnancy. But just because you had a problem in a past pregnancy doesn’t mean it will happen again, especially if you receive proper care before and during your pregnancy.
Why is it important for my partner and me to share our family health histories with my health care provider?
Some health conditions occur more often in certain families or ethnic groups. If a close relative has a certain condition, you or your baby could be at greater risk of having it.