Ask the Expert: Getting Ready — Your Preconception “To-Do” List
A Simple Start to Preparing for Pregnancy
Q. My partner and I are thinking about having a baby. What are the best natural steps to prepare my body for pregnancy? Should I start taking vitamins now? Can I continue to work out?
A. Congratulations! Deciding to have a baby is an exciting time for you and your partner and being prepared is key. Creating healthy habits during this “preconception period” helps minimize complications during pregnancy and delivery and gives baby the best possible start.
Now is the time to schedule your preconception care visit with your health care practitioner. Talking about things like diet, lifestyle, medications and family history are important to prevent any future problems or difficulties for mom and baby.
Nutritionally preparing your body before trying to conceive is an ideal way to ensure you’re pregnancy-ready. Dr. Sapna Flower, a Naturopathic Doctor at Restore Integrative Health, suggests taking a prenatal vitamin with at least 1 mg of folic acid (and if you’re 35 years or older, supplementing with 5 mg of folic acid) approximately 3 months before conception. 50-70% of fetal neural tube deformities can be prevented if sufficient levels of folic acid are taken during the earliest weeks of conception. Speaking with a Naturopathic Doctor about which supplements are well formulated and ways to naturally improve your chances of conceiving can help.
Lifestyle modifications, such as ceasing to smoke and avoiding alcohol are at the top of the list during the preconception period and beyond. Smoking has been shown to decrease fertility and increase the chances of having a low birthweight or premature baby. Excessive amounts of alcohol have been shown to interfere with the fetus’ ability to receive a healthy amount of oxygen needed for brain and organ development.
Keeping your weight in check and exercising regularly will also ensure a healthy and happy pregnancy. Excess weight is linked to pregnancy related conditions such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Eating a balanced diet and maintaining an active lifestyle will benefit your body before, during and after pregnancy.
Here are a few other “to-do’s” on your pre-conception list:
Do avoid toxic substances or infections substances at home and at work. Things like pesticides, solvents, mercury, lead or radiation.
Do learn your family history. Identifying genetic diseases in your family history before pregnancy gives your health provider a chance to talk with you about any possible risks and may refer you for genetic counseling or testing.
Do make sure your body is balanced and healthy. A body free of aches and pains will function optimally. Seeking the care of a chiropractor or massage therapist will keep your body in check.
Do address any questions or concerns you have with your health care provider. This is an exciting time for you and it is important to be prepared and informed!