January 9, 2015

Assess Your Health Before Pregnancy

Be Healthy

If plans of parenthood are in the near future, doctors advise women to take stock in their health now, before becoming pregnant. 

Called preconception care, this assessment is meant to make sure you are at your healthiest self in the months leading up to pregnancy. 

“Having a preconception appointment can help a patient maximize her chances of having a healthy pregnancy,” says Dr. Carol Fujiyoshi, an OB-GYN with Kauai Medical Clinic. 

“We can identify any risks that can affect the mother and fetus during pregnancy and address these risks to optimize the chances for a healthy and successful pregnancy,” Fujiyoshi explains. “This also gives us an opportunity to counsel patients on a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle.”

You can schedule a preconception appointment with your primary care physician, during which you can review your personal health history, as well as your family history. Tell your doctor about any medical conditions that run in your family, such as diabetes, hypertension or a history of blood clots. 

In addition, your doctor may recommend the following: 

  • Increase your intake of folic acid to 400 micrograms (mcgs) a day. Folic acid can reduce the chance your baby will have a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. You can get folic acid from a supplement or multivitamin. Foods rich in folate include dark leafy vegetables, legumes and fortified breakfast cereals. 
  • Manage any medical conditions you may have, such as asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes. Also make it a point to tell your doctor about any prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take. 
  • Make sure your immunizations are up to date and that you’ve had all the vaccinations you need. For example, if you are not protected against rubella or chickenpox, you might have to delay baby-making for at least one month so that you can get the appropriate vaccines. 
  • If you smoke, stop. Women who smoke risk premature births or birth defects. 
  • Avoid alcohol. If you are actively trying to conceive, you may become pregnant and not know for several weeks or more. It is better to just abstain, as alcohol has been linked to premature delivery, mental retardation, birth defects and low birth-weight babies. 
  • Limit your daily caffeine consumption to no more than 300 milligrams (mgs), or about two 8-ounce cups of coffee. Remember, caffeine isn’t just in your morning brew – it’s also in tea, chocolate, certain soft drinks and some medications. 
  • Find your ideal body weight. This doesn’t just mean losing weight if you are overweight, which can reduce your risk of complications during pregnancy; if you are underweight, you’ll need to gain weight to reduce the risk of complications, too. 
  • Assess your home and workplace environments. Exposure to possible hazards – cat feces, x-rays and lead or solvents – can affect your ability to become pregnant or maintain a healthy pregnancy. 

You also can use this time to ask your doctor any and all questions you may have about what to expect once you’re expecting.