There are many steps a woman can take prior to conception for a healthy pregnancy. A woman’s nutritional health, general health, fitness level and daily routines all affect the environment in which her child will grow.
A tiny new person within relies on its mother to provide a safe and nutrient-rich environment for a full nine months. The better prepared the mother is at the time of conception, the easier it will be for her body to adapt to the demands of pregnancy.
How to maintain a healthy pregnancy ?
It’s never too soon or too late to take good care of your baby’s first home, you! The following are steps you can take now to prepare for and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Step 1 – For a Healthy Pregnancy Have A Physical Exam:
- Visit your doctor and discuss your plans to become pregnant. Any minor or major health problems should receive the proper attention prior to conceiving.
Your doctor may recommend genetic testing if you have medical risks or a family history of genetic disorders.
- Have a complete gynecological exam. This may include testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Review your birth control method. It is usually advised that birth control pills be stopped several months before trying to get pregnant.
- If you take prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, medicinal herbs or dietary supplements, ask your doctor if they are safe to use during pregnancy. Certain drugs or supplements should be stopped before pregnancy.
Many other common pain relievers are not recommended during pregnancy. Be sure to your doctor’s advice about pain relievers, cold medicines, or any other chemicals (natural or pharmaceutical) before attempting to become pregnant.
- Make sure that you are up-to-date on your own immunizations.
- Once you become pregnant, it is important to have regular prenatal checkups.
Your health care provider will make sure important tests are done on schedule, guide you, educate you on key issues, and monitor you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.
Step 2 – Have A Dental Exam and Complete Needed Dental Work
- Have a complete examination and dental cleaning prior to becoming pregnant..
- Have any x-rays, procedures, fillings or dental surgeries done prior to becoming pregnant. Avoid any exposure to x-rays once you become pregnant.
Step 3 – Eat A Balanced Diet and Work On Weight Management
- Use the Food Guide Pyramid to balance food selections for general good nutritional health. Once you become pregnant, follow the nutrition guidelines for pregnancy.
The Food Guide Pyramid was developed to translate nutrition recommendations into a food selection guide. The design highlights the importance of plant foods at the base of a healthy diet.
The number of servings recommended from other groups decreases as you move from bottom to top.
This message is relevant to good health diets: grains, fruit and vegetables should be emphasized and menus should be low in fat and high in plant foods.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can follow the pyramid as a general guide, but increase servings of milk or other calcium rich foods and increase calories overall.
Avoiding alcohol is also very important during pregnancy.
You will need more calcium, protein, iron and other key nutrients fo a halthy pregnancy.
- Limit fats and sweets. Now is the time to cut down on the “empty calorie” foods and strive to make food choices that are “nutrient-rich”.
- Try to achieve and maintain a healthy weight prior to pregnancy. On one hand, excess weight can complicate a pregnancy.
On the other hand, if you are fiercely dieting while you are trying to conceive, you may be lacking very important nutrients needed to start a healthy pregnancy.
Once pregnant, never try to lose weight. Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy helps to protect both you and the baby.
- Take a general vitamin-mineral supplement and be sure it contains 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid is needed for healthy brain and spinal cord development very early in the pregnancy.
For women who had a previous child with a known neural tube defect , the recommendation for folic acid intake is significantly higher and should be discussed with your doctor.
- Starting supplement before you get pregnant will help assure that you have the proper intake of this, and several other important nutrients during the early weeks of pregnancy, a critical time.
Unless otherwise advised by your physician, prenatal vitamins with a higher level of iron are not started until the second trimester of pregnancy, since iron will reduce absorption of zinc and may cause stomach upset or constipation.
Step 4 – Build Your Strength and Fitness
- Exercise tones and strengthens muscles. This will prepare your body for carrying the baby throughout pregnancy. A higher level fitness also makes delivering the baby easier.
- Exercise can help reduce your risk of developing backaches and varicose veins during pregnancy.
- For a Healthy Pregnancy , Exercise can help you manage your weight before, during and after pregnancy
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion or overheating.
- Check with your doctor for individual advice about any health conditions that would require you to limit or modify your exercise.
You may need to avoid very intense exercise while you are trying to conceive. Once you become pregnant, there will be certain restrictions to avoid injury and protect the fetus.
Step 5 – Avoid Exposure to Hazards
- Chemicals and other hazards can reduce fertility and, once pregnant, can be dangerous to your baby. Lead, heavy metals, asbestos, chemical fumes, insecticides, strong household cleaning supplies, paint fumes, and countless other hazards loom in our environments.
- Find out about potential hazards are in your workplace. Avoid handling or breathing toxic substances. If in doubt regarding a particular substance, ask your physician or pharmacist.
- Strictly avoid all illicit drugs. If you use street drugs, get help to quit prior to becoming pregnant. All street drugs hold dangerous and even deadly consequences for the baby.
- Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol intake is toxic to the fetus. Drinking during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which can lead to brain injury and other defects.
- Quit smoking. Don’t smoke and don’t breath other people’s smoke. Smoking reduces fertility and is harmful to you and the baby.
- Reduce caffeine intake. Large intakes of caffeine (coffee, teas, cola-drinks) may reduce fertility. If you must have it, try to limit yourself to one cup per day. Too much caffeine can contribute to mild dehydration which is harmful to you and your fetus.
It also interferes with proper rest and sleep. Caffeine can interfere with absorption of certain minerals so, if you drink caffeine beverages, don’t take your vitamins or minerals at the same time.
- Don’t let your body temperature rise too much. Hot tubs, saunas, electric blankets, heating pads, excessive exercise or anything else that causes you to get too hot can reduce fertility, may cause miscarriage or result in other problems for you or your baby.
Step 6 – Rest and Relax!
- You are embarking on an exciting journey. Enjoy yourself. Too much tension or stress can reduce your chances of becoming pregnant. It can also create harsher environment for a developing baby to grow.
- Once pregnant, you will need more rest than usual. Your body may or may not tell you this, but it is true. Try to pamper yourself. Prioritize your day and save time for a healthy pregnancy.