Before you even try to get pregnant you can take action to have a healthy baby. How? Start taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, the amount in most multivitamins. This B vitamin comes in many foods, like leafy greens, citrus, and beans -- but most women need a pill to get enough. Folic acid helps prevent serious birth defects that can happen before you know you're pregnant.
Tune Up With a Checkup
See your doctor a few months before you start trying to get pregnant. Ask about:
Vaccines or tests you need
Starting a prenatal vitamin
How to control any health conditions you may have
What medicines you can and can’t take during pregnancy -- prescription and over the counter.
Make a Date With Your Dentist
Did you know your dentist can help you have a healthy pregnancy? Make sure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible before you get pregnant. That’s a good thing for your baby as well as your smile. Pregnancy raises your risk of gum disease, and gum disease may increase the risk of early labor. Solution? Brush and floss regularly.
Work Toward a Healthy Weight
Being too thin can make it harder to get pregnant. Being too heavy may also cause problems with pregnancy, and puts you at risk for health problems including diabetes and high blood pressure. It can also make labor last longer. Moderate exercise can help you feel your best as you try to get pregnant.
Make Exercise a Habit
Getting in shape can make your pregnancy and delivery easier. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days. Walking, bicycling, and swimming are all great ways to get a workout. Or join a prenatal exercise class.
Eat a Better Balance for Baby
One of the best things you can do is to eat healthy now, before you’re pregnant. Ask your partner to join you. You'll need plenty of protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid. So stock up on fruits, nuts, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Cut back on chips, baked goods, soda, and other junk foods that have empty calories.
Create a Baby Budget
You'll want the best for your little one, so start planning now. Consider formula, baby food, diapers, equipment, pediatrician visits, child care, and baby clothes that are fun and practical. Think about ways to stretch a dollar: gently used baby clothes, family day care, anything that will ease the financial impact.
Watch the Caffeine
Can't get going without that cup of coffee? It's OK, but you may want to stop at just one. Some experts recommend that you get no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day while trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy itself. That's about one 12-ounce cup of coffee or four 8-ounce cups of brewed tea. Decaf or even warm, spiced milk can be a soothing substitute for a regular cup of Joe.
If you smoke, now's the time to quit. Smoking can make it harder for you to get pregnant. And smoking during pregnancy can raise the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage. It also puts your baby at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Ask your partner to quit, too. Breathing in secondhand smoke is dangerous, and smoking can also decrease male fertility. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor.
It's best to stop drinking before you start trying for a baby. In some cases alcohol can make it harder to get pregnant. And drinking during pregnancy itself raises the risk for birth defects and learning problems. What if you had a drink before you knew you were pregnant? One drink is probably not a concern -- but since doctors don't know how much or how little alcohol causes problems, it’s safest to avoid it entirely.
Learn About Maternity Leave and Pay
Check at work about maternity benefits. Some companies offer paid leave after you give birth, or you may be able to use sick time or vacation time. If your job doesn’t offer paid time off, plan now for a budget adjustment. You'll want enough time to give your newborn baby a great start. Check your health plan, too, to see what medical costs it covers. Is your local hospital on the plan?
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American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Frequently Asked Questions," "Tools for Patients: Before You Get Pregnant."
American Dental Association, Mouth Healthy: "Healthy Habits."
CDC: "Tobacco Use and Pregnancy."
Center for Science in the Public Interest: "Caffeine Content of Food & Drugs."
FamilyDoctor.org: "Things to Think About Before You're Pregnant."
Jensen, T. BMJ; August 1998.
March of Dimes: "Caffeine in Pregnancy," "Preterm Birth: Are You at Risk?"
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month, Women's Health Care Physicians, 2010.
United States Department of Agriculture: "Cost of Raising a Child Calculator."
Weng, X. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2008.
Womenshealth.gov: "Preconception Health."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.