Six things to consider about your health before getting pregnant

Here are six tips for women to prepare their bodies for a healthy pregnancy. (Photo: PeopleImages, Getty Images)

If you’re thinking about conceiving, how can you best prepare for a healthy pregnancy and baby?

The first thing to do is schedule a visit with your doctor to look at your current health. During this appointment, your physician will ask you (and possibly your partner) about:

  • your diet and lifestyle
  • your medical and family history
  • any medications or supplements you take
  • whether you’ve had any past pregnancies or issues with fertility.

The goal of this checkup is to identify anything that could adversely affect a pregnancy so that we can address those issues before conception. The first eight weeks of pregnancy are key and your health and nutrition can really make a difference.

Here are six tips — and one for the guys — to consider if you’re preparing for pregnancy:

1. Watch your diet

Eat healthy fruits, especially berries, and vegetables. Limit red meat. Cut out trans-fats such as doughnuts, pastries and fried foods. Boost your intake of monounsaturated fat by using olive oil for cooking and salad dressings and by eating avocados and nuts.

2. Check your immunity

Find out if you’re immune to common contagious viral infections such us rubella and chickenpox.

Women trying to get pregnant should make sure they're immune to viruses such us rubella and chickenpox. If not, they should get immunized prior to conceiving. (Photo: fstop123, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If you aren’t immune, you should get immunized prior to conceiving. You can’t get immunized for them once you’re pregnant. During pregnancy, these diseases can be devastating for your baby.

3. Exercise, but not too much

Moderate exercise has been shown to increase fertility rates. But intense exercise can interfere with conception and also can jeopardize your pregnancy in its early stages.

RELATED: Study says working on your ‘dad bod’ before fatherhood can help your future kids’ health

4. Avoid toxins

Your baby is most vulnerable during the first trimester of pregnancy, which in some cases is before you even know you’re pregnant. For that reason, if you’re thinking of conceiving, it’s best to abstain from tobacco and alcohol. In addition, consider the chemicals in your home, garden or work environment. Avoid toxic substances such as lead and mercury along with chemicals such as pesticides and solvents.

5. Take your vitamins

Start taking a prenatal vitamin before pregnancy. These contain all the recommended daily vitamins and minerals you’ll need before and during your pregnancy. These include folic acid to prevent neural tube defects and iron to make the extra blood supply that will provide oxygen to your baby. For women over the age of 35, it may also be helpful to take 400 milligrams a day of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and omega 3, which have been shown to help with the health of the eggs in women over 35.

6. If you’re overweight, try to lose a few pounds

Obesity during pregnancy puts you at risk of developing several serious health problems including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (a blood pressure disorder) and sleep apnea. Ask your doctor what would be a healthy weight for you at the time of trying to conceive.

And what about men?

Some of the recommendations for women preparing for a healthy pregnancy apply to men also.

Doctors recommend men, like women, have a healthy diet, moderate exercise and folic acid supplements when trying to get pregnant. (Photo: Wavebreakmedia, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

We recommend the same healthy diet, moderate exercise and folic acid supplements. In addition, antioxidants such as vitamin C, omega 3, and green tea are also helpful for men over the age of 40.

If you’re trying to get pregnant and it’s been six months (if you’re 35 or older), or a year (if you’re younger than 35), it may be time to consult with a fertility specialist. Fertility declines rapidly in women after age 35. For men, the decline starts in the 40s.

Maria Gondra, MD, is an infertility specialist and independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff in Arizona. 

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