If you're planning a pregnancy, you shouldn't wait until you're pregnant to start thinking about your health. Just because you don't have a fetus to worry about yet, it doesn't mean you can continue making unhealthy choices. Paying attention to your health when you're trying to have a baby can help you get pregnant. A healthier body can be better prepared to have a baby, so you might get pregnant quicker or have an easier pregnancy. There are also some health issues it's wise to address before getting pregnant, like vaccinations or checking if you're a carrier for common health conditions. These are some of the things you might want to do before you start trying for a baby.
Stop Smoking and Drinking
Smoking is bad for you and, if you get pregnant, bad for the baby too. If you smoke while you're pregnant, you can increase the risk of your baby having a low birth weight or breathing problems. It can also mean you have a higher chance of miscarriage or premature birth, as well an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). While you could stop smoking when you find out you're pregnant, it's better to try and do it before you start trying for a baby. Drinking during pregnancy can also cause problems, including fetal alcohol syndrome if you're a heavy drinker. You should cut out or at least limit your drinking while you're trying to get pregnant, especially as you could be pregnant for a while without realizing it.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight could make it more difficult for you to get pregnant, and if you need fertility treatments, they could be less likely to work. There's also a possibility of some problems during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and blood clots. Losing weight before you try for a baby could help you to get pregnant and avoid problems when you are pregnant. A balanced diet and moderate exercise can help you to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight when you're pregnant. If you want to adjust your diet, it's a good idea to get into healthy habits before you get pregnant.
There are some illnesses that are dangerous to have while you're pregnant, but you might not be able to get vaccinated for them during your pregnancy. For example, rubella (or German measles) can cause birth defects if you get it during the first half of your pregnancy. You should make sure you're vaccinated, along with measles and mumps, at least a month before you want to get pregnant (if you aren't already fully vaccinated). Other vaccinations you might consider include chicken pox and hepatitis B.
Sexual Health Check
Having a sexual health check before you try for a baby is a good idea, and often a routine part of health checks when you're pregnant. Many sexually transmitted diseases can cause harm to a baby, either during development or during labor. Others, such as chlamydia, can affect your fertility. If you want to get tested before you start trying for a baby, you can find pricing and locations for nearby testing clinics. Both you and your partner should get tested, even if you've been in a monogamous relationship for a long time. If nothing else, it will help to reassure you. Some of the important infections to test for include HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. STDs don't always present symptoms, so it's important not to assume you couldn't have one.
Managing a Long-term Health Condition
If you have a health condition you need to manage, whether it's physical or mental, it's important to take this into consideration before getting pregnant. Being pregnant could cause complications or in some cases might mean that taking your usual medication is unsafe. The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor about what getting pregnant might mean for you. You might need to be monitored carefully during your pregnancy and birth, just to make sure you and the baby are as healthy as possible. You also could benefit from taking your condition into account when making certain decisions, such as choosing a hospital to give birth or a doctor to manage your pregnancy.
There are some things you might want to screen for before you get pregnant, in case there is a chance you could pass something to your baby. These include conditions such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia, for which you could be a carrier, even if you don't have one of these illnesses yourself. These two blood disorders are particularly common in people from certain ethnic groups, such as those of African, Caribbean, Mediterranean or south and south-east Asian descent. If you're of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, your doctor may also recommend testing for a number of conditions.
Visit Your Dentist
It's a good idea to also go to your dentist before getting pregnant. Gum disease could increase the risk of having a preterm or low birthweight baby, according to some studies. So it's important to get a health checkup for your teeth and gums to see if you might have gum disease and treat it. Even if you don't have gum disease, which many people do without realizing, you should make sure to maintain good oral hygiene so you can prevent it.
Take Folic Acid
Finally, you've probably heard that it's a good idea to take folic acid during early pregnancy. It's also recommended if you're trying to get pregnant. Folic acid helps to prevent birth defects, and it's recommended that you take it for three months before getting pregnant, plus during your pregnancy. 0.4mg a day is the recommended amount to take, in addition to a balanced diet. You can take it as part of a multivitamin so that you get some of the other nutrients you need to stay healthy too.
Start your pregnancy off right by paying attention to your health before you start trying for a baby. You could have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby if you do.