Before your first pregnancy: Taking care of your body
Do you have babies on the brain? Then before you go rushing to prepare the nursery, there are many important things you should consider.
As an OB/GYN, I believe prepping your body before you ever conceive is the most important thing you can do for the health of you and your baby. Here is a checklist that can help you prepare for the pregnancy journey ahead.
Preparing Before Pregnancy
Finding the right OB/GYN
You will spend a lot of time with your doctor, so find someone you trust and feel comfortable with. Friends and family can be great resources, but it is also important to do research on your own. This person will be bringing your child into the world, so this can be a big decision.
Schedule a preconception check-up
Preconception care allows you to talk with your doctor about concerns that might affect your pregnancy, including fertility and potential risk factors. This will be one of the most important appointments throughout your pregnancy. During this appointment, your OB/Gyn will check to make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations, conduct tests and screenings, review your medications and discuss your health history.
There are many medical issues that affect pregnancy, so a preconception appointment can help you understand more about your body and any potential issues that may surface.
Take care of your body
This is the vessel your baby will live in for 40 weeks, so make sure it’s in tip-top condition. You may need to modify your nutrition or exercise plan to get ready for pregnancy. Your doctor is a great resource, but pregnancy books can also be a good source of information. You should also educate yourself on which foods to avoid while pregnant, and think about lifestyle changes you may need to make during your pregnancy.
Ask your doctor about prenatal vitamins
You should ideally start a prenatal vitamin at least two months prior to conception. Ask your doctor to recommend a prenatal vitamin that contains at least 600 mcg of folic acid. This pregnancy superhero helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
Consider genetic testing
The likelihood of your child’s risk for developing certain genetic disorders such as Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia can be determined through genetic carrier screenings. These tests can be conducted before you ever become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about your options at your preconception visit.
Cut back on caffeine
I recommend no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day or roughly one cup of coffee. Although there is much debate about safe levels of caffeine intake, consuming large quantities of caffeine is discouraged. It is also important to remember that caffeine is found in more than just coffee, so monitoring your intake is important.
Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
Smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol are not only harmful to the mother’s health, they can also cause birth defects, low birth weight and a host of other problems in a developing fetus. It is important to quit smoking before you try to conceive and start to reduce your alcohol intake so your body is in its best condition.
Check your health benefits
If you feel you are ready to start your journey, your first stop should be checking your health benefits. Finding out what coverage your insurance company offers and what your deductible is will help you create an economic plan that works for you and your family. I recommend that you know this information up front so you have time to arrange your finances.
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