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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.

Easy on the Seafood continued...

Williams also says he believes in limiting exposure to other potentially harmful lifestyle factors, like pesticides, cleaning chemicals, or strong paint fumes.

"If you should avoid something during pregnancy, it makes sense to try and avoid it when you are trying to conceive, just in case you are pregnant and don't know it," says Williams.

The one area where there is little cause for preconception concern is in the fitness arena, since experts tell WebMD that most workouts are safe while trying to conceive. Where you should exert some caution, however, is when engaging in any activity that increases the risk of impact or injury, such as downhill skiing, horseback riding, or kick boxing, as well as things like scuba diving. Again, this is important if you may be pregnant and not know it.

In addition, if you have a history of miscarriage, Bates says talk to your doctor before engaging in any strenuous exercise program.

The Preconception Exam

A number of years ago, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began recommending that all women see their doctor for a pre-conception exam -- a physical that takes place prior to trying to conceive and focuses on the key factors necessary for a healthy pregnancy.

Among the most important features of that exam, say experts, is testing for several infections that may not only interfere with conception but also affect your pregnancy.

"You should be checked for common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) linked to pregnancy complications, such as chlamydia, and you also need to make sure you are protected against the rubella (measles) virus, either through prior exposure or by vaccination, which you should get prior to conceiving," says Bates.

Also important: Obtaining your doctor's help in controlling any pre-existing medical conditions before getting pregnant.

"If you are overweight, try to lose the extra pounds; if you have a blood sugar problem, make sure it is under good control; if you have high blood pressure, be certain that it is treated. Whatever the problem is, your pre-conception exam should address it because the better control you have over your health, the healthier your pregnancy and your baby will be," says Silverstein.

In addition, if you are using any medications for chronic health concerns -- including migraine headaches, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, seizure disorders, high blood pressure, depression, stress, or chronic pain -- experts say check with your doctor before attempting conception.

"Certain medications are very safe to use during pregnancy, others are very unsafe, but even those which are not recommended can often be switched with less toxic treatments, so you don't have to sacrifice relief in order to have a safe pregnancy," says Silverstein.

Finally, in certain instances, you may also benefit from an extended preconception exam -- one that includes genetic testing.

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