So you and your partner are thinking about starting on the journey to parenthood. Many of my patients come in to the office for what is now known as “pre-conception” advice. “What can I do, Doctor to prepare my body for pregnancy?” Is the number one question I am asked.
Here are a few simple actions you can take to increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
1. If you have preexisting medical conditions, these should be treated and/or under the best control possible to avoid potential problems in pregnancy. For example, women who are diabetic need to have optimum blood sugar control for 3 months before they conceive. The glucose control for a diabetic when pregnant is much stricter than for a non-pregnant woman. Glucose control for a 3 month period can be measured by a blood test called the hemoglobin A1C. The higher this number is, the higher the risk for miscarriage and birth defects. Women with thyroid conditions provide another example. If a woman has thyroid disease, her thyroid levels must be under control to conceive. Untreated thyroid disease during pregnancy can lead to lower IQ for the developing fetus.
2. Take folic acid on a regular basis 3 months before conception to insure adequate levels of this nutrient. Folic acid helps with cell metabolism also helps prevent birth defects. We recommend either a prenatal vitamin or 800mcg of folic acid for at least 3 months before conceiving.
3. Obesity leads to infertility, increased risk of miscarriage and cesarean delivery. If you are overweight now, the best thing you can do for your baby is to try and decrease your body weight to a healthier level before conceiving.
4. Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use should be avoided once a woman has conceived. The risks from these substances begin right after conception, even when you do not know you are pregnant. Abstain from these substances after ovulation or at the minute you become pregnant.
5. Myth buster: if you are on a hormonal form of contraceptive, you do not have to take a break or give time for the hormones to be “cleansed” from the body. As soon as you are on the placebo pills or week break from the patch or ring, those hormones are metabolized from your body. A woman will ovulate a week after stopping these methods, so go for it!