Planning for a Healthy Pregnancy

Posted: November 2012

Most people when planning for a pregnancy think about their finances and making sure the timing is right for adding a baby to their family.  There are also health steps you should take to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. 

All women who are thinking about pregnancy should begin taking a prenatal vitamin. Folic acid is important for the formation of the fetal spine which occurs in the beginning of a pregnancy.  Prenatal vitamins contain a higher dose of folic acid than a standard multivitamin.  Any prenatal vitamin at your pharmacy will have an adequate amount of folic acid.

Prior to pregnancy also evaluate your eating habits to make sure your diet is well-rounded including dairy, protein, fruits and vegetables. 

Achieving a healthy weight prior to pregnancy can help prevent many complications including elevated blood pressure and gestational diabetes.  Try to increase your exercise level, too.  I encourage my patients to exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times per week.  Even if you are a healthy weight, you should aim for having an active lifestyle prior to pregnancy.

If you have any chronic medical problems, such as high blood pressure, depression, or diabetes, plan on seeing your primary care physician.  Having these conditions under optimal control prior to pregnancy also helps prevent complications.   More importantly, if you are taking medications, your doctor may want to switch you to a medication that would be safer in pregnancy.  There are several medications that can be safely used even in the beginning of pregnancy.  The best time to switch to a new medication is prior to becoming pregnant.

Tobacco use during pregnancy can stress your baby, leading to complications such as low birth weight. It is important to work on quitting smoking or reducing tobacco use prior to pregnancy. There are many resources that can assist with this including “The Missouri Tobacco Quitline.”  You can also contact your physician who can assist.

Recently, whooping cough (pertussis) has made a comeback in the St. Louis area, as adults do not seem to be as protected from the vaccinations that we received as children.  It is now recommended that any adults who will be around infants should receive a Tdap vaccination.  This is a tetanus booster vaccination that also provides protection against pertussis.  If you are planning on a pregnancy, I’d recommend you obtain this vaccine before pregnancy.

Taking these steps and thinking about becoming healthy prior to pregnancy can help to reduce the complications of pregnancy. Pregnancy will always bring about a few surprises, but hopefully by following the above steps you will be ready to proceed with this exciting journey.

Dr. Laura Bonebrake is an obstetrician/ gynecologist on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center and a member of BJC Medical Group. She received her medical degree from Creighton University School of Medicine. She completed a combined internship/residency in Ob/Gyn at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in Obstetrics/Gynecology.  Call 314-996-LIFE for a physician referral or appointment.

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