So you’re ready to take the plunge into parenthood – congratulations! You’re probably finding the prospect super-exciting and super-scary, in almost equal measures. Getting pregnant is a big step. And while you may be thinking a lot about how a baby will change your life, you might not realize there may be changes you should make even before you even get pregnant to give that baby the best possible healthy start. It’s important to look after your own health too.
Check your weight and the quality of your diet.
Women who are under or overweight may have difficulty conceiving and are at higher risk for certain pregnancy complications. This is not a time for crash diets or stuffing yourself with junk – you and your baby need healthy food! If you have a history of eating disorders, major weight issues or significant food restrictions because of allergies, intolerances or your beliefs, you may want to consult a dietitian for advice.
Start taking a daily prenatal vitamin with folic acid
Incorporate prenatal vitamin with folic acid in your diet as soon as you start trying to become pregnant. Most drug-stores carry at least a couple of different formulations, and all are safe – but talk to a pharmacist or health-care practitioner if you’d like advice. If you currently use other vitamin or herbal supplements, stop taking them until you can discuss their safety with your doctor.
Clean up your act
You’re probably already planning to quit smoking and avoid alcohol once you’re pregnant, but do your baby a favor and start now. You want to plant that fertilized egg in a body that’s already as healthy as it can be.
Smoking has been shown to decrease fertility and increase the chances of having a small-birth weight or premature baby, not to mention increase your baby’s chances of a number of health risks after he is born. It takes a while to “clear” the residue built up from smoking in your system, so the sooner you quit, the better. If your partner will quit with you, all the better: smoking can affect the quality of his sperm. Avoid second-hand smoke whenever possible, too. If you drink, it’s a good idea to stop or at least cut back to light drinking.
If you or your partner uses recreational drugs, you should definitely stop before becoming pregnant. Regular use of marijuana carries similar risks to tobacco smoking, including reduced fertility. And THC, the chemical in pot that gets you high, can cross the placenta and affect your unborn baby. Harder drugs have more serious risks.