Discover important factors in reaching your best state of health before getting pregnant.
Connect with Your Women’s Health Provider
If you are planning for pregnancy, we at Stork Advisor® applaud your desire to promote life and family. Now, one of the best things you can do is make an appointment with a women’s health provider. This exam is important, even if you have previously been pregnant since your health may have changed since the prior pregnancy. Here are some of the important points that are covered for the benefit of your health and the health of your baby:
Review Your History
Do you eat meat? Do you follow a certain kind of diet as vegan or gluten-free? This information is helpful to know what your future nutrition needs could be during pregnancy. Also, what is your occupation? Do you have a labor-intensive job that might be a problem in later pregnancy? Are there job hazards such as exposure to pesticides, toxic chemicals or radiation?
New or chronic medical problems may affect pregnancy. Physical problems such as diabetes and high blood or mental health problems as depression. Mental wellbeing is critical during pregnancy and especially after the baby is born. If you have had mental health challenges in the past, please be good to yourself and your family by honestly sharing this information with your provider. Your provider should not be judgmental but document your history and feelings. Possibly, there could be recommendations to be supportive.
Most medications are safe during pregnancy. Your current and over-the-counter medications should be reviewed to make sure that they are safe and acceptable during this time. Your provider may offer reassurance and identify any medications or supplements which not considered safe for pregnancy.
Previous problems in pregnancy are important to share with your provider. Previous pregnancy loss such as miscarriage, premature labor and birth should be reported. Let your provider know of any pregnancy and delivery complications, interventions, and treatments.
Living conditions are important for the mother and baby’s health. Do you consider your home to be safe and clean? There are significant lifestyle habits that should be stopped prior to pregnancy. Smoking, vaping, marijuana use, illegal drug, and alcohol consumption are examples of practices that are unhealthy for the baby and mother.
There are inherited medical conditions and genetic disorders that appear in families, for example sickle cell anemia. The family history of the mother and father is important to share at this visit. Some pregnancy complications may have a family connection.
Physical Exam and Screening
No one likes a physical exam. But it can provide good news that there are no obvious problems to be concerned about for the planned pregnancy. Your blood pressure and weight are measured. A breast and pelvic exam are usually performed. Other screening may be performed at that time as a Pap smear for cervical problems and sexually transmitted disease screening. Sorry, but weight is an important number. Being significantly overweight in pregnancy increases the possibility of complications. Being underweight is also a factor for pregnancy because the baby needs nutrition to grow appropriately.
Sometimes, blood work will be performed for future reference. A complete blood count, blood type and blood glucose with urinalysis are examples of needed information. Some sexually transmitted disease lab work is part of routine testing.
If you are on medication for a chronic medical condition, this visit is an opportunity to review how to manage the condition during pregnancy and the implications of the current treatment with pregnancy. Some medications may need to be eliminated because of interaction with the baby. If you use birth control, this encounter is a good time to discuss timing to stop the method
Vitamins and supplements
Prenatal vitamins are typically recommended during and prior to pregnancy. Many women continue these multivitamins during breast feeding. You should start a daily folic acid supplement (400-800 mcg) to reduce the incidence of neurologic birth defects for the baby.
Vaccinations are often recommended to protect our general health. Some vaccines are important during or prior to pregnancy to protect the mom and the baby from serious infections. These infections can cause severe illness and premature birth. If you are willing, a COVID-19 vaccine is currently recommended. It is also currently approved for pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding. If flu season is near, a flu shot is good to schedule. Serious complications may occur with the flu during pregnancy. The tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine (known as Tdap) is recommended for the pregnant mom between 27 and 36 weeks so that the baby is protected after birth.
Healthy habits - exercise
If you do not have a regular exercise routine, now is a good time to start. About 2.5 hours of moderate activity is recommended. Walking in a safe place is a great choice that can be continued in pregnancy if there are no complications. That’s about 30 minutes of walking each day for 5 days per week. Being active can improve your flexibility, reduce muscle aches, increase your energy, prevent unwanted weight gain, and improve rest.
Healthy habits – rest
Young adults who are of reproductive age are recommended to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Proper rest increases energy and productivity and decreases stress. If you are having trouble getting this amount of sleep, evaluate your activities near your planned bedtime. Avoid eating a big meal close to the planned bedtime. A lot of noise never helps rest. Watch caffeine intake (see below). Avoid the screen stimulation of electronic devices and tv for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
Healthy habits – caffeine
Most everyone loves their coffee or tea. However, too much caffeine in pregnancy has been linked to increased risk of miscarriage. It can raise blood pressure and heart rate. The current suggestion for pregnancy is to limit caffeine to 200 mg per day. So, you want to be a label reader. The amount of caffeine varies with your drink choice whether it is coffee, tea, or cola. There are also caffeinated waters, gums, energy drinks, and let’s not forget coffee ice cream. The bottom line is that not all caffeine drinks are the same.