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Choosing to get pregnant and becoming a mother is a big decision
that requires lots of thought and planning. Talking to your
health care provider before trying to get pregnant is a great
idea! You can get expert advice on what you can do to improve
your overall health so you can give your new baby the best
start at life that is possible. A pre-pregnancy visit with
your provider is one of the most important things you can
do, especially if you are over age 30. At this visit, you
can discuss any nutritional needs or health concerns, including
mental health concerns that you may have before becoming pregnant.
Be sure to talk with your provider about your diet, physical
activity, smoking, alcohol or drug use, and sexual history.
Don't forget to let him/her know if you are being treated
by other health care providers, including mental health providers.
Review all your medications with your provider, including
over-the-counter and prescription medications and ask if it
is safe to keep taking them while you are trying to conceive
and during pregnancy. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure,
an eating disorder, depression, or other chronic or long-term
health conditions, talk with your health care provider about
how your condition(s) might affect your health and your pregnancy.
Don't think that because you have a health condition you will
have serious problems with pregnancy. There are things both
you and your health care provider can do to help you have
a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Another important thing to discuss with your health care
provider is your family health history. You can get genetic
counseling before becoming pregnant and possibly be tested
for certain genetic conditions, such as Tay-Sachs disease
or blood disorders like sickle-cell anemia or thalassemia.
Your provider also will talk with you about whether you've
had all of your immunizations, especially for Rubella (German
measles). If you haven't had chickenpox or Rubella, make sure
you are vaccinated at least 3 months before becoming pregnant.
You also may want to be screened for Hepatitis B, sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs) and toxoplasmosis since these
can harm your baby, as well as yourself.
Your health care provider will recommend that you get 400
micrograms or .4 mg of folic acid daily in your diet. Folic
acid is the synthetic (man made) form of folate, one of the
B vitamins. Research shows that getting enough folate before
becoming pregnant and during pregnancy, especially during
the first trimester, can greatly reduce the risk of certain
birth defects. Because it is hard to get the amount of folate
you need daily through diet alone, your provider can prescribe
a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 400 micrograms of folic
acid. You can also increase foods rich in folate in your diet,
like leafy green vegetables, kidney beans, orange juice and
other citrus fruits, peanuts, broccoli, asparagus, peas, lentils,
and whole grain products. When synthetic folic acid is added
to certain grain products, including flour, rice, pasta, cornmeal,
bread, and other cereals, these foods are considered "fortified"
with folic acid.
It is very important to have a healthy lifestyle when you
are thinking about becoming pregnant and when you are pregnant.
Here are some things you can do to improve your overall health:
- Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains,
and calcium-rich foods. Choose foods low in saturated fat.
- Unless your health care provider tells you not to, try
to be physically active for 30 minutes, most days of the
week. If you are pressed for time, you can get your activity
in through 10-minute segments, three times a day.
- If you have a cat, do not handle the cat litter. It can
carry toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can cause
birth defects. Wear gloves while gardening in areas where
cats may visit.
- Don't eat uncooked or undercooked meats or fish.
- If you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs, STOP. These
can cause long-term damage to your baby. Talk with your
health care provider about steps to take to stop smoking.
Talk with a member of your faith community, a counselor,
a trusted friend, or your health care provider if you are
concerned about your alcohol or drug use.
- Stay away from toxic chemicals like insecticides, solvents
(like some cleaners or paint thinners), lead, and mercury.
Most dangerous household products will have pregnancy warnings
on their labels.
- Avoid hot tubs, saunas, and x-rays.
- Limit or eliminate your caffeine intake from coffee, tea,
sodas, medications, and chocolate.
- Get informed. Read books, watch videos, go to a childbirth
class, and talk with experienced moms.
While planning to conceive, you may choose natural planning
methods such as the ovulation method (intercourse takes place
just before or after ovulation) or the symptothermal method
(evaluating fertility based on your daily temperature). Remember:
women are more likely to become pregnant if intercourse takes
place just before or just after ovulation. This is because
the unfertilized egg can live for only 12-24 hours in your
body. If you have been trying for a few months with no results,
don't get discouraged. Only 20% of women who are trying to
get pregnant are successful on the first attempt, so don't
lose hope or assume something is wrong.
It is important to note that women today are often delaying
having children until later in life, when they are in their
30s and 40s. While many women in their 30s and 40s have no
difficulty getting pregnant, fertility does decline with age.
For women over 40 who cannot achieve pregnancy after six months
of trying, it is recommended that they see their health care
provider for a fertility evaluation.
It is not uncommon to have trouble becoming pregnant or experiencing
infertility (inability to become pregnant after trying for
one year). Overall, there are about 2.1 million married couples
in America experiencing infertility, and some 9 million women
have used fertility treatments. If you think that you or your
partner may be infertile, you can discuss this with a health
care provider who can recommend treatments such as drugs,
surgery, or assisted reproductive technology.
Adoption and Foster Care
If infertility is a problem for you, other options you might
want to consider are adoption and foster care. Adopting or becoming
a foster parent could be one of the most rewarding experiences
of your life.