Healthy Planning for Pregnancy for Mom & Baby

January 08, 2024  By: Women's Health Team

A doctor examining a pregnant woman

Content medically reviewed by Courtney Meister, APRN, CNM

If you're planning for pregnancy, you need to think about more than your ovulation cycle. Taking steps to prepare your health in the months before you start trying to get pregnant can make things easier for you after you conceive. Here's how you can get started.

Get Your Body Ready for Pregnancy

You wouldn't run a marathon without training. Think of planning for pregnancy like preparing for a race: You need your body capable of carrying a growing baby for nine whole months.

"Pregnancy is really tough on your body," said Courtney Meister, APRN, certified nurse-midwife (CNM) at Essentia Health. "Typically, the healthier your body is prior to pregnancy, the easier it is for your body to adapt to such drastic changes."

While you don’t have to train for a marathon to get your body ready for pregnancy, there are a few simple things you can do to make a difference in your overall health:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Speak with your provider about an optimal weight for your height and body type.
  • Make sure you’re up to date on all your vaccines.

Being your healthiest self makes it easier to conceive, and ensuring your body is strong will make carrying a baby around less difficult.

Take Folic Acid

Taking a daily prenatal vitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid or a multivitamin and a separate 400 mcg folic acid tablet is crucial to supporting a healthy baby. In fact, women of child-bearing age should take these daily even when they’re not planning for pregnancy, as half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Folic acid will help prevent birth defects that can develop before you even know you’re pregnant. A prenatal vitamin will help make sure your body gets all the nutrients you and your growing baby need.

Talk to Your Doctor About Preexisting Conditions

Many health conditions can affect a pregnancy or your ability to get pregnant, so it's important to make sure they're under control. Also, if you take medications to manage your health issues, you may need to stop or adjust them pre-pregnancy. Talk to your OB/GYN provider before you start trying to conceive if you have conditions such as:

  • Anemia.
  • Diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Thyroid disease.

Even if you don’t have any health problems that you’re aware of, it’s important to get a preconception physical exam.

"This is a great opportunity to discuss concerns and ask questions related to pregnancy," Meister said.

Stop Smoking and Drinking

You probably already know you shouldn’t drink alcohol during pregnancy. Stopping prior to conception is important, too. Alcohol or illicit drug use in early pregnancy can cause birth defects or miscarriages.

If you smoke or vape tobacco or marijuana, you should also quit prior to pregnancy. Tobacco use can affect your ability to become pregnant. It also can cause complications, such as preeclampsia, preterm labor, and an increased rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) after birth. Marijuana can also cause health problems in newborns, including low birth weight, premature birth, and abnormal brain development, resulting in poor cognitive function and behavioral issues.

Be Aware of Your Family Health History

Family medical history can play a significant role in pregnancy outcomes. If you know your family has a history of certain conditions, you may want to consider genetic screening tests to better know your risks.

Check Your Mental Health

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Whether you take medications for your mental health or not, discuss your history with your provider. Changing hormones can affect your mental state, and if you have a history of conditions such as depression, you need to be prepared. Many common medications such as antidepressants are low risk to take during pregnancy. Your provider can help you weigh the risks and benefits.

Fact-Check Fertility Advice

Didn’t get pregnant on your first try? You're not alone. Most women find it takes months of trying before successfully conceiving. If you're getting fertility advice from friends or the internet, though, run it by your provider before trying anything.

"The internet has a lot of valuable information but also plenty of misinformation," Meister said. "It's important to discuss what you have read or heard with someone who can shed light on what the evidence shows to be true."

You should also beware of herbal or other supplements that promise to help conception. Unlike medications, supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure safety. Some herbal supplements are not safe at all during pregnancy, so make sure you tell your provider everything you’re taking.

Trust Your Essentia Provider to Guide You

Trying to conceive and going through pregnancy are exciting seasons. However, they can also feel stressful — are you sure you're doing everything right to create a healthy baby?

"It's common to want to do everything perfectly, but no one is perfect," Meister said. "Relax, focus on the big picture, and try to find joy in the experience despite the challenges it may bring."

Partnering with a trusted OB/GYN or certified nurse-midwife (CNM) can help make your pregnancy journey easier. Essentia is here to help you and your baby be safe and healthy.

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