My Pregnancy Guide
My Pregnancy Guide My Preconception My Pregnancy My Motherhood Pregnancy Tools & Stuff Pregnancy Shopping
Preparing your body for pregnancy
Financial, Practical and Emotional Considerations
Trying to Conceive
Difficulty Conceiving
Pregnancy Planning
Pregnancy Planning

Pregnancy Planning

If you are planning to become pregnant, taking certain steps can help reduce risks to both you and your baby. Proper health before deciding to become pregnant is almost as important as maintaining a healthy body during pregnancy.

The first few weeks in utero are crucial in fetus development. However, many women do not realize they are pregnant until several weeks after conception. Planning ahead, and taking care of yourself before becoming pregnant, is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.

One of the most important steps in helping you prepare for a healthy pregnancy is a pre-pregnancy examination (often called preconception care) performed by your physician before you become pregnant.

A preconception visit includes assessments of a woman’s overall health and identification of potential risk factors that may complicate pregnancy. Women can receive advice and treatment for medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease that may be changed by pregnancy. By preparing in advance, you can be your healthiest before becoming pregnant.

What does a preconception examination include? A preconception examination may include any/all of the following:

  • family medical history - an assessment of the maternal and paternal medical history, to determine if any family member has had any medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and/or mental retardation.
  • genetic testing - an assessment of any possible genetic disorders, as several genetic disorders may be inherited, such as sickle cell anemia (a serious blood disorder that primarily occurs in African-Americans) or Tay-Sachs disease (a nerve breakdown disorder marked by progressive mental and physical retardation that primarily occurs in individuals of Eastern European Jewish origin). Some genetic disorders can be detected by blood tests before pregnancy.
  • personal medical history - an assessment of the woman's personal medical history to determine if there are any medical conditions that may require special care during pregnancy, such as epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, and/or allergies; previous surgeries; past pregnancies, including the number, length of pregnancy (gestation), previous pregnancy complications, and pregnancy losses.
  • vaccination status - an assessment of current vaccinations/inoculations to assess a woman's immunity to rubella (German measles), in particular, since contracting this disease during pregnancy can cause miscarriage or birth defects. If a woman is not immune, a vaccine may be given at least three months before conception to provide immunity.
  • infection screening - to determine if a woman has a sexually transmitted infection, urinary tract infection, or other infection that could be harmful to the fetus and to the mother.

Reducing the risk of pregnancy and delivery complications:

Other steps that can help reduce the risk of complications and help prepare for a healthy pregnancy and delivery include the following:

  • smoking
    If you are a smoker, stop smoking now. Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who smoke tend to be lower in birth weight.
  • proper diet
    Eating a balanced diet before and during pregnancy is not only good for the mother’s overall health, but essential for nourishing the fetus.
  • proper weight and exercise
    It is important to exercise regularly and maintain a proper weight before and during pregnancy. Women who are overweight may experience medical problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Women who are underweight may have babies with low birthweight. 
  • medical management (of pre-existing conditions)
    Take control of any current or pre-existing medical problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some commonly used medications to control blood pressure, diabetes or epilepsy are harmful to a fetus and should be changed prior to pregnancy. 
  • exposure to harmful substances
    Pregnant women should avoid exposure to toxic and chemical substances (i.e., lead and pesticides) and radiation (i.e., x-rays). Exposure to high levels of some types of radiation and some chemical and toxic substances may adversely affect the developing fetus.
  • daily vitamins
    Begin taking a prenatal vitamin daily, prescribed by your physician, to make certain that your body gets all the necessary nutrients and vitamins needed to nourish a healthy baby. 

Find Your Baby's Name
Free Pregnancy and Baby Website