Pregnancy means major changes for your body. If you’re trying to get pregnant or thinking about it, you can take steps to have a healthy pregnancy.
Dr. Sarah Goetz, a Marshfield Clinic OB-GYN physician, offered tips for improving your health as you prepare to grow your family.
Optimize your health
A big part of preparing your body for pregnancy is doing things to better your health that are important even if you aren’t trying to get pregnant.
Start by scheduling wellness visits with your primary care and OB-GYN providers. Let your doctor know you’re thinking about having a child. Get up to date on health screenings including a Pap smear and STD tests so any needed treatments or procedures can be done before trying to conceive.
Your doctor can help you manage any medical conditions that might make it hard to get pregnant or cause pregnancy complications, like high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid problems or obesity. A balanced diet and regular exercise are important for improving or maintaining your health before and during pregnancy.
“It may not be possible for all women to reach a normal BMI before trying to conceive, but working toward a healthier weight will make pregnancy easier,” Goetz said.
If you use tobacco or recreational drugs, talk to your doctor about resources for quitting. Partners of women trying to get pregnant also should stop smoking because secondhand smoke is associated with miscarriage, premature labor and low birth weight.
Consider a pre-conception visit
Your doctor may recommend a pre-conception visit if you have medical problems that can affect pregnancy. This appointment is also time to talk about family history of hereditary genetic conditions that you or your partner may pass to your child.
“Not everyone needs a pre-conception visit, but your doctor will be more than happy to talk to you and your partner about pregnancy questions,” Goetz said.
Tips for trying to conceive
Start tracking your periods using an app on your smartphone a few months before you want to start trying to get pregnant. A few months of data will help the app predict when you should have sex for your best chance to get pregnant and alert you of any irregularities in your cycle that could make conceiving difficult.
Stop using birth control or make an appointment to have implanted birth control removed once you’re ready to try getting pregnant. It may take a few months for your body to start ovulating again after stopping certain types of hormonal birth control, like Depo-Provera.
Take steps to prevent pregnancy complications as soon as you stop using birth control. Avoid alcohol and start taking a prenatal vitamin with 800 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid prevents problems with early development of the baby’s spine and brain. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause many developmental problems.
Goetz recommends a fertility evaluation if you’re under 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year or if you’re over 35 and have been trying for more than 6 months.
This chart will help you figure out when to start taking steps to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Begin by thinking about when you want to start trying to conceive, then follow the steps based on your target date.