A Healthy Beginning for Pregnancy
Why managing your health, your weight, and your habits is so important before conception.
Obesity, Diabetes, and Your Baby
Obesity is an especially critical issue for women of childbearing age, says
Michael Greene, MD, director of obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in
"Obesity is associated with many complications, because it greatly
increases a woman's risk of developing high blood sugar and diabetes -- either
before they get pregnant or during their pregnancy," he tells WebMD.
When a fetus is exposed to the mother's high blood sugar early on -- before
13 weeks old -- there is a serious risk of birth defects.
"A mother's obesity and uncontrolled blood sugar puts her baby at high
risk for a variety of congenital malformations, including defects of the brain
and spinal cord," Greene explains.
And babies of mothers who have diabetes are likely to grow large in size,
fed by excess sugar that makes its way into the placenta. "These large
babies can be difficult to deliver vaginally, and may require cesarean
section," Greene says.
Obesity, high blood
pressure, and asthma also put a mother
at high risk for developing preeclampsia, Greene tells
WebMD. This condition prevents the placenta from receiving enough blood, which
can cause the baby to be small. These babies are often born prematurely, which
carries its own complications, like learning disabilities. The babies are also
at risk for birth defects and death, he adds.
A Healthy Pregnancy: The Right Steps
At least three months before trying to get pregnant, women should see either
a doctor or midwife, Graves advises. It's called preconception counseling, and
it helps women know the steps they must take to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
"A doctor can help make sure everything is in order," she tells
To help get everything in order, you'll want to start with:
Your health: If you have chronic medical problems like
obesity, diabetes, high
blood pressure, or asthma, you must get them
under control before you become pregnant. If you need to lose weight, this is
the best time to do it -- not after you become pregnant.
problem that can affect your pregnancy. If you are depressed when you become
pregnant, you are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs which
can harm your baby. You may also have difficulty bonding with your baby and
experience postpartum depression, which is higher in women with a history of