Baby Steps: How to protect and prepare your body for pregnancy
Thinking of adding a new little bundle of joy to your family? Then it’s time to get your body baby-ready.
“It’s best to think about checking up on your general health before you even get pregnant, so your body is prepared for such a life-changing, and indeed, life-giving event,” says Dr. Erin Labesky-Scoggin, an OB/GYN at Banner Health Center in Maricopa, AZ.
Dr. Labesky-Scoggin suggests having a general exam and pap smear, along with blood work to screen for common diseases that can affect pregnancy as excellent ideas prior to conception.
Depending on your overall health and any specific medical conditions you have, your physician may recommend making some changes in your lifestyle or medical care.
“Certain medications cannot be taken while trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy,” says Dr. Labesky-Scoggin.
“Diabetes and high blood pressure are two conditions that also need to be very well managed when pregnant, as they can negatively affect the baby in utero,” says Dr. Labesky-Scoggin.
Your pre-pregnancy weight is another important factor in ensuring the long term health of both you and your baby-to-be.
“The closer a woman is to her normal weight range before conception, the fewer chances of complications during pregnancy,” says Dr. Labesky-Scoggin.
Obesity during pregnancy increases the chance of miscarriage, C-section rates, diabetes and infections.
Baby on board
Once you even suspect you’re pregnant, seeing a physician is a must.
Generally, doctors prefer to see women who think they might be pregnant eight to 10 weeks after your last period.
“This is especially necessary for genetic testing, which won’t be possible at 12 weeks,” says Dr. Labesky-Scoggin.
Those early tests include blood work and detailed ultrasounds that can indicate the risk of Down syndrome or Trisomy 18, both conditions caused by chromosomal defects.
In addition to regular doctor visits throughout your pregnancy, physicians stress the importance of keeping your body in top condition by eating a well-balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruit and lean meat; limiting caffeine; and continuing a regimen of prenatal vitamins.
Dr. Labesky-Scoggin advises pregnant women to avoid eating fish with high levels of mercury, including tuna, shark, swordfish and mahi mahi, and the others that can be eaten must be properly cooked.
Staying active can also help ensure your good health during pregnancy. Most pregnant women can safely continue their regular fitness regimens—preferably 30 to 40 minutes per session—as long as they warm up and cool down and don’t become overheated or dehydrated, says Dr. Labesky-Scoggin.
“If a woman has been active pre-pregnancy and exercising routinely, then there’s no reason for her to stop if she becomes pregnant,” says Dr. Labesky-Scoggin.
Activity will slow down as a woman advances in her pregnancy. But for the most part, women who are active and exercise throughout the pregnancy are more likely to have a smoother experience through labor and delivery.
Following diet and exercise guidelines has the added benefit of making it more likely that you’ll maintain a healthy weight throughout and after pregnancy.
“A woman within the normal weight range should generally gain between 20 to 30 pounds while pregnant,” says Dr. Labesky-Scoggin. Anyone already overweight doesn’t need to gain as much.
Taking care of yourself is essential to taking care of your baby too. But even if you’ve missed a few steps along the way, it’s important to begin to optimize your health and lifestyle habits as soon as possible.
“If not before, make the changes toward a healthy lifestyle while pregnant. It still gives your baby the best chance at getting a great start to life,” says Dr. Labesky-Scoggin.
SIX ways to prepare your body for pregnancy