Prenatal health care is a given once you become pregnant. You will have doctor visits, prenatal vitamins and abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, but what about the months leading to the conception? Getting ready to start a family means more than buying a larger house and a sedan. It also means taking care of your body so that it is as healthy as possible when you start trying to conceive.
Stop the birth control pill several months before trying to conceive. According to MayoClinic.com, some health care providers recommend you get off the pill several months before you want to start trying to get pregnant. This will give your body time to go through several normal cycles, making it easier to determine when you ovulate and to predict the due date, once conception occurs. You can get pregnant immediately after stopping the pill, however, so be sure to use alternate forms of birth control for those months between stopping the pill and trying to conceive.
Take vitamins. Planned Parenthood recommends you begin a daily vitamin regime several months before you try to conceive. Focus on pumping up your daily intake of folic acid. Folic acid has been proven to protect the fetus against certain neural tube birth defects, including spinal bifida. Increasing the amount of folic acid in your diet for the months leading to the pregnancy as well as during the pregnancy will reduce the chance of your baby developing such a birth defect. You can increase your folic acid intake through a daily supplement or by eating leafy green vegetables, beans and oranges.
Evaluate your vitamin A intake. Taking too much vitamin A can be harmful to your fetus. If you have been taking mega doses of vitamin A, cut back to the recommended daily dose in the months leading to conception.
Make an appointment with your health care provider. Tell your provider of your desire to conceive. Answer all the provider’s questions truthfully. Include not only your family’s medical history, but also any important medical issues, disorders or diseases that you are aware of in your partner’s family history. Your provider will also give you a physical that will include a Pap smear, urine and blood tests. She may start you on prenatal vitamins at that time so you are receiving the daily recommended amounts of each vitamin and a protective increase of folic acid in the months leading to conception. Discuss any concerns or questions that you have before leaving the office so you leave armed with the knowledge you need to move forward toward starting your family.
Exercise regularly. Following a consistent exercise regime in the months leading to conception will help your body maintain optimal health. It will also prepare your body for a regular exercise routine during your pregnancy.
Get screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Though this will probably be done during your preconception appointment with your health care provider, if it is not or if you suspect you may have been exposed since that visit, get tested again.
Take steps to stop smoking and drinking. Alcohol is not recommended in any amount during pregnancy as it puts your baby at risk for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to contribute to low birth weight, a higher risk of miscarriage. Because you will not know the instant you conceive, it is important to cease all tobacco and alcohol exposure in the months leading to conception.
Eat healthy foods. Focusing your diet on whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products will help get your body ready for pregnancy, labor and delivery.