Pre-Pregnancy Checklist

Before getting pregnant, mothers-to-be can ready a body for a growing baby.

See a doctor. Make an appointment, even if there have been previous pregnancies. Talk to a doctor about family history, any health issues that need to be addressed and previous pregnancies. If there are some diseases that run in the family, consider seeing a genetic counselor or do preconception screening tests.

Quit smoking and drinking. These habits can make it harder to get pregnant and can raise the risk of miscarriage. Smoking and alcohol are also bad for a baby’s growth and development and can cause health problems for the child as he grows. Talk to a doctor about programs to help stop smoking and drinking.

Reduce caffeine. More than two cups of coffee or five cans of soda a day can make it harder to conceive and increase chances of miscarriage. Switching to decaffeinated coffee now will also reduce caffeine cravings during the first weeks of pregnancy.

Shed some weight. Obesity or being overweight can cause problems like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia (or high blood pressure.) Lose weight before becoming pregnant. And talk to a doctor about finding safe exercises that can help keep weight at healthy pregnancy levels. Getting in shape prepares a body for labor and delivery.

Watch what you eat. A healthy diet before conceiving can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes while pregnant. Make sure your diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Cut down on junk food.

Check your gums. Studies have shown that gum disease is connected to having a baby who is born too early and too small.

Get caught up on vaccines. Some illnesses during pregnancy could be harmful to a baby. Talk to a doctor about the vaccines needed now and ones for later. Doctors give some shots, like the Tdap vaccine for whooping cough, during pregnancy so a baby can benefit from the protection too.

Be mindful of medications. Let a doctor know about all the drugs you’re taking: prescription, over-the-counter, even vitamins and herbs. Some could affect the baby in the womb. Also talk about taking a prenatal vitamin or folic acid supplement before becoming pregnant to lower the risk of birth defects.

Mike Fetterolf, MDBy Michael Fetterolf, MD, ThedaCare Physicians-New London.