Research shows that preparing before you conceive can be truly beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Here are some things to keep in mind...
Take a supplement containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid before getting pregnant. It can reduce the risk of complications such as neural tube defects (NTDs)abnormalities that can occur in the brain, spine, or spinal column of a developing fetus and are present at birth, according to a recent study.
Adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle: Doing so will reduce the chances that you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes (high blood sugar diagnosed during pregnancy). Gestational diabetes can increase the risk to your health as well as your infant's. In addition, pre-pregnancy exercise is also associated with lower risk for gestational diabetes, and the benefit increases with more vigorous levels of exercise.
Furthermore, here are some dietary suggestions for women who are planning to conceive_
Increase your intake of fiber.
Reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened cola.
Eat less red meat, processed meats, and animal fats and cholesterol.
Replace animal protein with protein from nuts to lower your risk of gestational diabetes.
Increase your intake of folic acid: Doing so helps produce and maintain new cells. This is very important in pregnancy, when cells are dividing and growing rapidly.
The United States Public Health Service recommends that all pregnant women and "women of childbearing age [15 to 44 years] in the United States who are capable of becoming pregnant should consume [a supplement containing] 0.4 mg of folic acid per day for the purpose of reducing their risk of having a pregnancy affected with spina bifida or other NTDs.
Get up to date on vaccines: Make sure to ask your healthcare provider if you need a booster for any vaccines. Some vaccines can be given during pregnancy, but others (such as the rubella and chickenpox vaccines) should be gotten before pregnancy.
Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs:Studies show that these activities can increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), preterm birth, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and NTDs.
If you are trying to quit smoking, drinking, or doing drugs and you need help, talk to your healthcare provider about support groups and possible medications.
Strive to reach a healthy weight before trying to get pregnant: Obesity can make it more difficult to become pregnant. Studies show that being overweight or obese also puts you at risk for complications during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and stillbirth. Obesity can also increase the chances of having a cesarean delivery.
A study also shows that obesity can increase your child's risk of a congenital heart defect (a problem with the heart that is present at birth) by 15%. Research has also uncovered a link between obesity and NTDs.
Learn your family۪s health history: If certain conditions run in your family or if a family member was born with a physical abnormality or an intellectual and developmental disability then you may be referred for genetic counseling by your healthcare provider.
Get mentally healthy! Pregnancy is tough, but totally worth it! Good mental health means you feel good about yourself and your family. While it۪s natural to feel sad, anxious, or stressed at times, it۪s not healthy to feel like that all of the time. If you do feel bad a lot, make sure to seek professional help before getting pregnant. Hormonal changes and other situations during pregnancy can worsen depression.