Preconception Health

A woman’s health during her fertile years is called her “preconception health.” Before you are pregnant – even before you being thinking about becoming pregnant – there are things you can do to make sure your body will be healthy and strong enough to sustain a healthy pregnancy if and when you decide you are ready for one. Your health should matter to you whether or not you are planning a pregnancy!

It’s best to be at a healthy weight when you become pregnant. (Of course, it’s best to be at a healthy weight even if you’re not pregnant or planning to become pregnant!) Being underweight or overweight puts you at increased risk for problems for both you and your baby during pregnancy.

You should begin to prepare for pregnancy at least three months before you intend to get pregnant – but ideally you should try to make these changes already from the time you become sexually active. After all, more than half of all pregnancies are unplanned!

If you are planning on getting pregnant, these are the most important things you need to do to prepare your body:

  • Take folic acid, which prevents some birth defects of the spine and brain, every day for at least three months before you start trying to get pregnant. Talk to your doctor about how much folic acid you need and when you should start taking it – some women’s bodies need longer than three months to prepare.
  • Stop smoking and drinking.
  • Make sure any medical conditions you may have are under control. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, asthma and oral health problems can affect or be affected by pregnancy, so it’s important to be under a doctor’s care and to do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy.
  • Make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date. Discuss with your doctor all medications you are taking, including over-the counter medications and dietary and herbal supplements, which may or may not be safe to take while you are trying to conceive or pregnant.
  • Avoid contact with anything that is toxic or that could cause infection. Stay away from cat and rodent feces, and from chemicals.

Make sure your partner discusses his health with his physician too, and finds out what he should do to prepare his body to make a healthy baby. Tell your doctor about any health problems that run in your or your partner’s family, problems you have had with prior pregnancies, including preterm birth, and any personal concerns, such as domestic violence or lack of support.