Starting a family is one of the most exciting times of anyone’s life. The healthier you are the greater your chances of conceiving and carrying a child to full term. Preconceptual planning is the time to take a close look at the medical history of both partners and to change behaviors or habits. Ideally partners should take at least three(3) months getting healthy and preparing for conception.
Stages in planning should include:
- Make a Doctor’s appointment. A general physical exam, review of medical history, family history, medications, screening test for immunity to Rubella and Varicella and possibly STD screening is recommended.
- Coming off the pill or removing a birth control device. It’s generally recommended you wait until after one “normal” menstrual cycle after stopping contraception before trying for pregnancy.
- Track your menstrual cycle. This is very important and will also help predict ovulation to increase chances of getting pregnant.
- Stop harmful habits. There is a direct relationship between cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption and premature births, low birth weight and miscarriage. Decrease caffeine intake to less than 300 mg/day, or 1-2 cups of coffee. Limit your amount of stress as much as possible. Talk with your healthcare provider about any and all prescription drugs and over the counter supplements you are taking.
- Replace bad habits with healthy habits. You are what you eat, and so is your baby. Eat a well balanced diet including fresh fruits and vegetables. Start taking folic acid. Studies show that 400 mcg/day help reduce neural tube defects when taken before conception. A good multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid started 3 months prior to conception is recommended. Certain foods are said to boost your fertility – whole grains, oily fish (Salmon), full fat dairy (1 portion/day), garlic, lean red meat, honey, spinach, green chilies, avocado and zinc containing foods (oysters, nuts, eggs). Start exercising now. Regular exercise reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and prepares your body to carry a baby.
Every parent wants the best possible outcome for their newborn. One way to insure a healthy baby is to take these factors into consideration before the child is even conceived.