Protect Your Pregnancy Before You Conceive
Experts say there are many things women can do to increase the health of their pregnancy -- and their baby -- long before they conceive.
Folic Acid Important continued...
In the past, doctors routinely suggested that any woman trying
to conceive take prenatal vitamins since they were the only ones containing
high enough levels of folic acid to make a difference. Today, however, nearly
all multivitamins contain at least 400 mcg per dose, the minimal amount needed
for a healthy pregnancy. So many experts are less stringent about the type of
supplements you take during the preconception time.
"I always suggest a prenatal vitamin, but if a woman feels more
comfortable taking a multivitamin instead, that's OK too, as long as she is
getting at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily when she is trying to get
pregnant," says Bates.
The Two-Week Rule
When it comes the dietary or lifestyle factors that might be
questionable during pregnancy -- such as caffeine and artificial sweeteners --
doctors say there is less to worry about when trying to conceive. Still, some
precautions still apply.
"During the preconception time you really only have to be
concerned about what's in your body at the time you actually get pregnant --
and that is usually possible just a few days a month," says Silverstein.
As such, he says, if you confine your intake of caffeine, for
example, to the two weeks after your period starts -- a time when you generally
can't get pregnant -- and abstain during the last two weeks of your cycle --
when you ovulate and are more likely to get pregnant -- then your conception is
"If you find you just can't live without something," says
Silverstein, "just use common sense and moderation."
For John Williams, MD, the "two-week" rule does make sense, but
he adds that since the timing of conception isn't an exact science, you
shouldn't panic if you find you were doing something questionable at the time
you got pregnant.
"While we don't recommend throwing caution to the wind, if you
do find out you conceived at the same time you were drinking or doing something
that you would be fearful of doing during pregnancy, don't panic or terminate
the pregnancy, because chances are everything is going to be OK," says
Williams, director of reproductive genetics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in
Easy on the Seafood
The one area where he and others do suggest exercising a little
more caution is in the consumption of seafood.
"The problem with seafood is related to the mercury content,
and because this is a heavy metal it can accumulate in fatty tissue, so it can
remain in the body long enough to cause at least some potential harm after
conception," says Williams.
As such, he recommends that women trying to conceive follow the
same fish safety guidelines suggested for pregnant women, which is to limit
seafood to 12 ounces weekly. Seafood to completely avoid includes tilefish,
swordfish, king mackerel, and shark, as well as any raw fish.