Are you ready to have a baby? When you think of starting or expanding your family, your thoughts can naturally skip ahead to what you can expect during pregnancy and after junior is born.
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Most women don’t focus on making adjustments before they get pregnant. Yet, this is the best way to set you up for a safer pregnancy — and a healthier baby.
So before you start looking for a blue line on your pregnancy test, make sure you are as prepared as you can be. OB/GYN Erin McKelvey, MD, shares five things to think about before pregnancy.
1. Smash the ash
It’s no surprise that smoking can cause a range of nasty health problems for the smoker. Of course, smoking also has an impact on your child, both before and after birth.
Smoking during pregnancy makes you are more likely to deliver prematurely. And your baby is more likely to have a low birth weight.
Also, children whose parents smoke are more likely to have respiratory problems such as asthma. And they are also at higher risk of death from SIDS (sudden-infant death syndrome), Dr. McKelvey says.
Having a hard time quitting? You don’t have to go it alone. Join a smoking cessation program to get the support you need to help you kick cigarettes to the curb for good, she advises.
2. Avoid those extra pounds
You may think going into pregnancy carrying extra weight won’t hurt. After all, you’ll soon need to eat for two, right? Unfortunately, obesity is the second biggest threat to a healthy pregnancy — right behind smoking, Dr. McKelvey says.
If you are overweight or obese, you are more at risk for pregnancy complications. Diabetes, high blood pressure, preterm delivery and even fetal loss are all more likely to occur if you are overweight, she says.
“Going into a pregnancy at a healthy weight is important because when you go into it at a higher weight, we are going to recommend you gain less weight during pregnancy, which is often challenging,” Dr. McKelvey says.
Of course, losing weight is easier said than done. But keep in mind that losing even 5 percent of your body weight can improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Dr. McKelvey’s advice? Work with a registered dietitian. He or she can advise you on healthy eating habits that can have lasting benefits for you and your baby.
3. Don’t forget your teeth and gums
It might surprise you to learn that dental health can have a big impact on your pregnancy, but it’s true. That’s because dental health has a big impact on your overall health.
There is even a link between dental issues, such as periodontal disease (gingivitis), and having a baby with low birth weight, Dr. McKelvey says.
If it’s been more than six months since your last dentist visit, make an appointment for a cleaning and exam before trying to conceive, she advises.
4. Take care of preexisting health issues
Preexisting health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, won’t necessarily keep you from having a healthy pregnancy. But it’s a good idea to work with your doctor to make sure any health conditions are under control before you try to get pregnant.
“In pregnancy, OK numbers aren’t really OK,” Dr. McKelvey says. “We need numbers that are really tightly controlled to help maximize good outcomes for your baby. The best time to do that is before getting pregnant.”
5. Review your medications with your doctor
While it’s safe to take some medications during pregnancy, there are many drugs that aren’t safe for your baby. It’s important to discuss all medications you take with your doctor before you get pregnant, says Dr. McKelvey.
In some cases, your doctor can recommend an alternative medication that is safer for your baby.
It all starts with you
It makes sense to do as much as you can ahead of time to prepare for a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.
“People put more time into planning to buy a car, in some cases, than they do preparing for pregnancy,” says Dr. McKelvey. “But with pregnancy, you are the one carrying your child around for nine months, so it’s important that you are as healthy as possible before getting pregnant.”