Plan for a Healthy Pregnancy Before Conception

When you decide you are ready to have a child, your first stop should be your OB/GYN’s office for a preconception checkup. Preconception visits are important since your baby begins developing organs only 17 days after fertilization, about the time of your missed period. To ensure your baby grows well, you should take steps to be healthy before you are even pregnant.

During a preconception counseling visit, you and your physician will asses your obstetric history, risk of genetic disease, current medical conditions and risk of exposure to teratogens, substances that may harm your child’s development. Genetic evaluation may include talking about increased pregnancy risks in certain ethnicities, maternal age or paternal age groups. Your physician can also suggest lifestyle and health changes to prepare your body for motherhood, talk to you about what to expect while you try for a baby and monitor any conditions that might affect your pregnancy.

In general, you and your healthcare will take the following actions before you begin trying to get pregnant.

1. Manage your health. If you have any chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, the condition needs to be well managed before you try to conceive to ensure a safer pregnancy. Your obstetrician may suggest diet, exercise or medication changes to help control these conditions. Some medications may also be unsafe to take while pregnant; your doctor will help you identify these medications.

2. Look at your lifestyle. You may need to make some changes to your lifestyle before pregnancy, such as gaining or losing weight. By eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity, you could increase your likelihood of conceiving as well as improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy. You should also avoid smoking and alcohol and learn to better manage stress.

3. Get your vaccines up to date. Certain infections can be especially dangerous to unborn babies; updating your vaccinations can protect both you and your child.

4. Take folic acid. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid per day at least three months before you conceive and throughout pregnancy helps reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine, such as spina bifida.

Preparing for pregnancy by making lifestyle changes can help you have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby. Though there are no certainties in any pregnancy, give yourself and your child the best start possible by planning for conception with your physician.

-by Emily Thomson, DO

About Dr. Thomson –  Dr. Thomson practices at Hampton Roads OB/GYN Center at Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center in Norfolk. She received her medical degree from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, Pomona, Calif. She went on to perform her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Summa Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio. Her prior professional experience includes private group practice at a Canton, Ohio, women’s clinic.

Dr. Thomson’s special interests include providing compassionate care for women during pregnancy as well as gynecologic care utilizing minimally invasive procedures with the da Vinci® robotic surgical system. Dr. Thomson has participated in several research studies and given numerous medical presentations. She is professionally affiliated with The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Medical Association and American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists.

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