Whether you’re actively trying to conceive or you’re just thinking about having a baby, it’s never too late to prepare your body for pregnancy. Preconception health involves taking steps to improve your odds of getting pregnant, reduce your risk of complications when you become pregnant, and increase your chances of having a healthy baby.
Ideally, you should begin preparing for pregnancy at least three months before you’d like to try to conceive. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or another underlying health condition that could affect your pregnancy, you may need more time to get your body ready to carry and deliver a baby.
At Panhandle Obstetrics and Gynecology in Amarillo, Texas, we offer a full scope of obstetric services, ranging from preconception health and prenatal care to labor and delivery and postpartum care. Here, our team of women’s health experts offers six important steps you can take toward optimal preconception health.
Even if you’re healthy and feel ready for pregnancy, it’s important to schedule a well-woman visit and preconception checkup when you’re thinking about having a baby. In fact, it may be the most important foundational step you can take on the road to a healthy pregnancy.
Your doctor goes over your personal and family health histories, reviews any medications or supplements you may be taking, makes sure you’re caught up on important immunizations, and asks about any previous pregnancies you may have had. They also discuss your lifestyle choices and habits, and offer adjustment recommendations and support as needed.
Finally, a preconception visit is a chance to catch up on basic well-woman gynecology needs, such as a pelvic exam and Pap smear, if you’re due, and STD testing, if you’re at risk.
The best time to get in the habit of taking a daily prenatal vitamin is before you get pregnant. Taking prenatal vitamins for at least one month before conception ensures you have enough folic acid in your system to prevent serious birth defects in your baby’s brain and spine during the first trimester.
It also helps ensure you get a continuous supply of micronutrients to nourish your body and, following conception, sustain fetal growth.
If you use tobacco, consume alcohol, or take drugs, now’s the time to get help and break the habit. Smoking, drinking, and using — even at levels that might not be considered excessive — can negatively affect your ability to conceive. Once you conceive, these habits can elevate your risk for miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects, and low birth weight.
If you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages each day, try cutting back before you get pregnant. Consuming large amounts of caffeine can make it harder to conceive; once you’re pregnant, it can increase your risk for miscarriage.
It can be harder to conceive if you’re underweight or overweight. Being at or near a healthy body weight also supports a healthier pregnancy. Women who are overweight or obese have a significantly greater risk of pregnancy and delivery complications, while low-weight women who don’t gain enough during pregnancy are more likely to deliver underweight babies.
If you’re not consistently active, developing an exercise routine before you get pregnant can better equip your body to handle the changes it will go through from one trimester to the next. It can also help you prepare your body for the physical challenges of labor and delivery.
To see a significant improvement in your strength and endurance, aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise most days. If you already work out, make sure your routine is varied. A well-rounded prenatal fitness routine includes aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching.
Eating a wholesome, balanced diet is always a good idea, as it helps you maintain a healthy body weight and reduces your risk of chronic disease. But choosing nutrient-dense, whole foods and minimizing your consumption of high-calorie processed foods that are rich in added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat are even more important when you’re trying to conceive and when you’re pregnant.
A healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and calcium-rich foods gives your body the nourishment it needs to stay healthy and support a growing fetus. It also gives you an excellent nutritional foundation if you plan to breastfeed your baby.
If you’re ready to improve your preconception health, we can help. Call 806-359-5468 today to schedule a visit with one of the seasoned women’s wellness experts at Panhandle Obstetrics and Gynecology.