5 Ways to Boost Your Prenatal Health
By KD Reep
If you know you want to have a baby, a good rule of thumb is to start preparing at least three months prior to becoming pregnant. If you smoke, drink alcohol or are over- or underweight, you can work with your doctor to develop strategies to get healthier prior to becoming pregnant. If you take medicine that treats conditions such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension, a heart problem, allergies, lupus or depression, work with your doctor five to six months in advance of getting pregnant to adjust your medications accordingly.
“As long as you are honest with your physician, and willing to adjust your lifestyle habits and present health condition, your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy and delivery increase tremendously,” said Dr. Ananth Ranganathan, an obstetrician and gynecologist with the CHI St. Vincent Women’s Clinic in Little Rock.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, here are five things women can do to improve preconception health:
1. Take 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day if you are planning or capable of pregnancy to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine, including spina bifida. All women need folic acid every day. Talk to your doctor about your folic acid needs. Some doctors prescribe prenatal vitamins that contain higher amounts of folic acid.
2. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. “This not only will help your chances of getting pregnant and delivering a healthy baby, but it will help your energy for when the baby arrives,” Dr. Ranganathan said. “Trust me, you will need all the energy you can get.”
3. If you have a medical condition, be sure it is under control. Some conditions that can affect pregnancy or be affected by it include asthma, diabetes, oral health, obesity or epilepsy.
4. Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are using. These include dietary or herbal supplements. Be sure your vaccinations are up to date.
5. Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials that could cause infection at work and at home. Stay away from chemicals and cat or rodent feces.
“The best thing you can do for yourself, your baby and your family is to find a doctor you trust and build a relationship with him or her,” Dr. Ranganathan said. “Pregnancy is a beautiful and wonderful time that is fraught with questions and new experiences. Anytime you have a question about what’s going on with your body or how you are feeling mentally and emotionally, you should have somewhere to go where you are informed, educated and reassured. It takes a team to have a baby, and knowing you are not alone and cared about is the most important thing you can do for yourself.”
Visit womenshealth.gov for more information.