A healthy pregnancy begins long before the sperm meets the egg. Preconception refers to the weeks or months leading up to conception. Planning ahead of time for your future pregnancy allows you to address any health and nutritional concerns, as well as providing sufficient time to prepare yourself mentally for the upcoming experience of pregnancy and motherhood.
During a preconception visit, your doctor will review your medical history, including past pregnancies and current medications. This visit allows you and your doctor to discuss possible complications due to any existing health problems or conditions, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, hepatitis B or eating disorders. Talk to your doctor about your present method of birth control and discuss whether you require an alternative method for the period leading up to your planned conception date.
Consider how your current lifestyle will affect the outcome of your pregnancy. Certain habits, such as smoking, drinking alcohol and recreational drug use, can increase the risk of pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, birth defects and low-birth weight. Where you work can also affect your developing baby. Working with hazardous chemicals, such as pesticides, may increase your baby’s risk of developing neural tube defects. Use this preconception period to examine and correct any lifestyle choices that may pose a risk to the health of your baby.
Pregnancy causes many changes in your body. Getting in the best possible physical shape prior to conception can strengthen your body for the rigors of pregnancy and delivery, as well as help you maintain muscle tone throughout your pregnancy. Now is the time to begin an exercise that you can continue during your pregnancy, such as swimming or yoga. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. In addition to getting your body in shape, regular exercise may help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
During your pregnancy, your baby relies on you for all his nutritional requirements. Your doctor may advise you to begin taking between 300 and 400 mcg folic acid each day, a nutrient that can help reduce the chances of your baby developing neural tube defects. Address any weight issues before you get pregnant. Being overweight or underweight can pose certain problems, such as affecting your ability to conceive, creating a strain on your heart and depriving your baby of important nutrients.
In addition to getting your body physically ready for pregnancy, preconception provides an ideal time to prepare yourself mentally for your future pregnancy. Educate yourself on pregnancy and childbirth by reading books about this topic. Practice relaxation techniques to help minimize stress. Readjust your schedule to ensure you get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Use this time to do things you may have difficulty doing during pregnancy, such as making long trips to visit relatives, landscaping your yard, or remodeling your house.