Health Essentials Checklist

Prepare yourself now for a healthy pregnancy.

From the WebMD Archives

If you've decided that you're ready to have a baby, you want to make sure your little one arrives safe and sound. Start by making an appointment for a prepregnancy checkup. You should have this visit up to a year before you want to get pregnant, even if this isn't your first pregnancy.

Your Prepregnancy Checkup

By seeing your doctor, you can be certain your health is good. This will raise your chances for a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby, says Grace Lau, MD, an ob-gyn at NYU Langone Medical Center.

It's helpful to know what to expect, because the checkup involves more than a physical exam.

It's a conversation. Your doctor will want to talk with you about:

  • Your personal and family medical history
  • Your vaccination history. You may need to look this up before your visit.
  • Your lifestyle habits:
  • What medications you use. Certain medicines can cause birth defects, so your doctor may recommend stopping or changing some of the meds you take.
  • What you can do to improve your chances of conceiving

It's a health check. Your doctor will give you a thorough workup, including:

Your doctor will also check for any health issues that could affect your pregnancy. Some conditions may make it harder to get pregnant or put your baby at risk.

If you have any of these conditions, your doctor will work with you to make sure they are under control before you conceive.

Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may also offer to test you for any sexually transmitted diseases. "I offer STD testing for everyone who requests it," says Lau.

Preparing Your Body for Pregnancy

  • Folic acid . Begin taking prenatal vitamins one month before you try to conceive. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid per day makes some birth defects much less likely.
  • Omega-3s. Schaecher recommends looking for a prenatal vitamin that includes DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. This type of fat plays a role in your baby's brain and nervous system development.
  • Vaccines. Your doctor will check to see if you need any vaccines. This includes a flu shot. It's best to get them before you become pregnant. Getting vaccinated against rubella and chickenpox is especially important, since those illnesses can hurt your baby.

Continued

Genetic Tests

For some women, doctors may recommend genetic tests as part of your preconception visit.

These tests, which are optional, can determine whether you or your partner has genes that may make your baby more likely to have certain medical conditions.

"If there's anything that indicates a possible genetic disease, I usually have the couple sit down with a clinical geneticist and or genetic counselor," Lau says. They will talk with you about the benefits and limitations of the various tests you could have.

You may also consider genetic testing if you're having trouble getting pregnant or have had several miscarriages or a stillbirth.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Melinda Miller-Thrasher, MD on March 29, 2013

Sources

SOURCES:

Grace Lau, MD, assistant professor, department of obstetrics and gynecology, NYU Langone Medical Center.

Caren Schaecher, MD, St. Luke's Hospital, Chesterfield, Mo.

March of Dimes: "Get Ready for Pregnancy," "Folic Acid," "Genetic Counseling."

CDC: "Genetic Counseling."

© 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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