Maybe a Baby? Six Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy
Thinking about having a baby? Don’t wait until you know you’re pregnant to take smart steps toward a healthy pregnancy. A baby’s vital organs start to form in the first month of pregnancy — long before many women even know they’re pregnant.
How you care for yourself before you become pregnant can play a major role in your baby’s health — and yours.
- Schedule a pre-pregnancy physical exam.
Your physician can help you prepare for pregnancy by checking your general health, reviewing any medications you take, discussing your family health history and making sure you’re up to date on health screenings and immunizations. He or she can also let you know if you need to lose or gain weight, and answer questions you may have about becoming pregnant.
- Take folic acid.
If you’re not already taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day (usually found in a multivitamin), start now. Folic acid is vitally important to preventing birth defects in the earliest stages of pregnancy, when your baby’s brain and spinal cord are forming.
- Focus on good health.
You’ll be doing yourself and your baby a big favor if you make nutritious food choices every day, including fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins such as chicken, whole grains and non-fat dairy. Minimize fat and sugar, and keep caffeinated drinks to two a day at most. Also, be sure to exercise — cardio activities help you maintain a healthy weight and strengthen your heart, and strength training can help you build muscle (which you’ll need to carry baby around!). Ask your physician for dietary and exercise guidelines.
- Stop unhealthy habits.
If you smoke, quit before you get pregnant — for your sake as well as your baby’s. Studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy can slow a baby’s growth rate and create other risks. (Avoid secondhand smoke, too.) In addition, stop drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs — these can put your baby at risk of miscarriage and serious health problems.
- Avoid potentially harmful substances.
Wash your hands frequently, avoid potentially unsafe food such as undercooked meat or chicken, and keep a safe distance from people who are ill. Stay away from hazardous chemicals in cleaning solutions, paints and household products. Get someone else to change the cat litter and don’t touch soil — both may have a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis, and infection that may be dangerous to developing babies. If you have questions, ask your physician.
- Relax and enjoy this time!
Don’t let these guidelines create anxiety about becoming pregnant — they’re actually very easy to follow! Making the decision to have a baby is joyful and exciting. By taking good care of yourself, you’re also creating the best possible environment for your baby.
- Schedule a pre-pregnancy appointment with your physician. If you need a referral to an ob-gyn, visit our doctor finder, or call 1-800-SCRIPPS (800-727-4777) for personal assistance.
- Learn more about maternity services at Scripps.
- For new parent classes, workshops, support groups, and prenatal exercise classes, check out our , or call 1-800-SCRIPPS (800-727-4777).