Once you start thinking of expanding your family, your thoughts naturally skip ahead in time to determine the needs of your junior. Most of your planning will focus on post-pregnancy and you completely forget about the present stage. Most women do not make alterations in their current habits before they plan their pregnancy. You must understand that a properly planned pregnancy is important for you and your future baby. Some of the important things that you must consider before you plan your pregnancy are listed below:
1. Visit a Preconception:
Get a preconception checkup from your doctor or midwife before you plan your pregnancy. Your doctor will review your family medical history, your present health, medications etc. There are several medicines that you should not consume during pregnancy. Your doctor will likely recommend you multivitamins, immunization injections and will also suggest you exercises which will keep you fit and healthy during the pregnancy. You will be asked for several medical tests to determine your immunity levels. Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma have to be controlled before you consider getting pregnant.
2. Genetic Screening:
There are several inherited conditions such as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis etc. which have to be screened before you consider pregnancy. If you or your partner have any of these diseases, there are 25 percent chances that it will be transferred to your child. Consult a genetic counselor who will be able to guide you properly so that these genetic diseases are not transferred to your baby. Genetic carrier screening requires either blood sample or saliva of you and your partner and in most cases, this test is covered under insurance policies.
3. Folic Acid Supplements:
Folic acid supplements are crucial even at the starting stage of pregnancy. Start taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of Folic acid supplements at least a month before you plan your pregnancy. Chances of neural tube defects are lowered as much as 50-70 percent if you take proper dosage of folic acid. As your pregnancy will advance, you may have to take a higher dosage of folic acid as per the suggestions of your doctor and regular blood tests. Even if you take multivitamin tablets, ensure that it contains 400 mcg of folic acid. Another important vitamin that you must watch for is vitamin A. Make sure that your multivitamin does not contain more than 770 mcg (unless it's in the form of beta-carotene) as excess vitamin A can cause birth defects.
4. Unhealthy Habits:
It's now time to stop smoking, consuming alcohol or any other drug. Smoking can lead to premature birth, miscarriage and low birth weight in babies. The usage of these drugs can also lower your fertility. Moderate drinking (i.e. one drink per day) is fine while you are trying to conceive but do not drink when you are pregnant as a small amount of alcohol can harm the baby inside your stomach. Talk to your counselor if you are unable to quit drinking. Your counselor may prescribe you some therapy or group programs that will help you in quitting these bad habits.
Low or high Body Mass Index (BMI) is likely to cause complications while you try to get pregnant. Higher BMI will cause delivery issues and low BMI will increase the probability of underweight babies. Talk to your healthcare provider and start with the proper exercises at least one month before you plan your pregnancy. Create a fitness plan and follow it properly. Include normal exercises such as cycling, walking, and weight training (if required). You may also include meditation and yoga in your daily fitness program.
6. Healthy Food:
Although you are not eating for two (you and baby) yet but start making healthy choices when it comes to food. Include whole grains, calcium-rich foods such as milk or yogurt, and proteins (beans, seeds, nuts, soy products, poultry etc.) in your day-to-day diet. Also, include fresh fruits and vegetables in your health regime as they will help you in staying fit and will put a check on your weight.
7. Oral Health:
Do not overlook your oral health when you are considering getting pregnant. There will be several hormonal shifts during the pregnancy which will make you more susceptible to gum disease. Higher estrogen and progesterone levels can cause swelling or tender gums which may bleed when you brush. Hence, check with your dentist if you need any special care during the pregnancy.
Above guideline will definitely help you in planning your pregnancy. Remember that a healthy mother is a key to a healthy baby. Plan your pregnancy at least 1-2 months before so that even the minor issues get resolved.