Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy
Even though you're not pregnant yet, you might already be thinking about which room to turn into the baby's room and how to decorate it. And you might be making lists of all the baby clothes and supplies that you'll need. But it's also a good time to take some steps to help yourself have a happy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Now more than ever, it's smart to get regular exercise, eat healthy foods, and drink plenty of water, as well as to reduce or stop drinking caffeine. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. When possible, avoid using medicines, including over-the-counter medicines. Always talk to your doctor first before you stop or start any medicines.
If you are not sure when you are most likely to get pregnant (when you are fertile), use the Interactive Tool: When Are You Most Fertile?
If you haven't yet chosen a health professional for pregnancy, childbirth, and after-birth (postpartum) care, give some thought to your many options. For more information, see Choosing Your Health Professional for Pregnancy Care.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines
Before trying to conceive, talk to your doctor about any medicines or dietary supplements you are taking. You and your doctor may decide that it's best to stop taking the medicine, to take a different medicine, or to keep taking it.
- Choose healthy foods instead of junk food. Eat a balanced diet. Pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. If you want to lose weight, do it before becoming pregnant. Don't go on a crash diet, because you may end up with a nutritional deficiency that could be harmful to you or the baby.
Take a daily vitamin-mineral supplement. Taking a supplement that contains 0.4 mg to 0.8 mg (400 mcg to 800 mcg) of folic acid before becoming pregnant reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
- If you have a family history of neural tube defects, have had a previous infant with a neural tube defect, or are on medicines to prevent seizures, take a daily supplement containing 4 mg (4000 mcg) of folic acid.
- You also need other vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, for your health and that of your baby.
For more information on how to eat well, see the topic Healthy Eating.
Make lifestyle changes
- Quit smoking. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
- Cut down on caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea, and cola drinks.
- Stop drinking alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can severely harm a developing fetus.
- Stop any use of illegal drugs, such as cocaine or marijuana. Cocaine may cause serious problems in pregnancy, including placenta abruptio, fetal distress, and preterm labor.
- Get plenty of exercise. Exercise is good for healthy pregnant women. Try to do at least 2½ hours a week of moderate exercise.footnote 1, footnote 2 One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.
Get a checkup
If any problems or needs are found, deal with them early. Make sure you are fully immunized to prevent potential fetal harm. For example, if you have never had German measles (rubella) or the rubella vaccination or are unsure, tell your doctor. If a blood test shows that you have no immunity, you can be vaccinated. You should then wait at least 3 months after being vaccinated before you try to get pregnant.
As a part of your physical checkup, you may want to ask for aprepregnancy exam. Such an exam can help you find out risks to you or your potential children from pregnancy. This knowledge may help you decide whether you wish to see a family medicine doctor or midwife for your care during pregnancy or whether you require the care of a specialist. It may also help you decide what tests you want to have done during pregnancy.
If you have a condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, be sure to talk with your doctor about what this means for your pregnancy. Find out what you need to do to manage your condition and be ready for pregnancy.
Consider genetic testing
Talk to your doctor about whether to have screening tests for diseases that are passed down through families (genetic disorders). Screenings for genetic disorders include those for:
Stopping birth control
If you use an intrauterine device (IUD), arrange to have it removed. If you have been taking the Pill (oral contraception) or using birth control shots (such as Depo-Provera), try to wait until you've had your first full menstrual period before you try to conceive. After your last birth control shot, it may take as long as 1 year for your period to come back.
Keep track of your menstrual periods
Keep track of your menstrual cycle and when you have sexual intercourse. This information will help in figuring out your due date and your fetus's gestational age after you become pregnant.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2002, reaffirmed 2007). Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 267. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 99(1): 171–173.
Current as of: February 23, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of: February 23, 2022