Preconception Health a Good Start for a Healthy Pregnancy

Pregnancy goes beyond the nine months a woman carries her child. It begins before conception with healthy habits that can improve the overall pregnancy.

It is important to see a doctor before becoming pregnant. The doctor will ask about personal and family medical history because some medical conditions- diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, thyroid problems, and sexually transmitted diseases- could affect her pregnancy

During the visit, the doctor might also test urine and blood as well as provide suggestions for exercise and a healthy diet, which also includes taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

It is important to be mindful of the following: 

Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of low birth weight up to 3.5 times and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked.  Smoking over a half a pack of cigarettes a day also increases the risk of miscarriage up to 3.5 times and increases risk of still birth, preterm birth and the risk of death in the baby’s first month of life.

Drinking alcohol: There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume while you are pregnant.

Recreational drug use: Smoking marijuana, for example, can increase the chance of miscarriage, low birth-weight, premature births, developmental delays, and behavioral and learning problems.

Prescription drugs: There are many prescription drugs that cause birth defects. Share with the doctor about any and all prescription drugs being used. Your doctor may want to switch you to a safer alternative.

Hazardous chemicals: There are some that, if exposed to, can cause infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects, and childhood cancers.

Herbs: Most herbs and herbal remedies are not mandated by the Food and Drug Administration, and therefore, there is little to no research on the effect they have on pregnancy. Discuss any herbs and over-the-counter supplements with your doctor.

Caffeine: Pregnant women are advised to keep their daily caffeine to less than 200-300 mg per day.

Practice healthy habits like exercise such as walking, swimming, bicycling, aerobics and yoga; reading; relaxation techniques; getting lots of sleep; and eating healthy.

By Daniel Sutton, MD, ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.