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Planning a baby?

PLEASE NOTE: Several of the links on this page will redirect you to a site outside of the Comprehensive Women’s Health Services secure website.

Pre-Conception Healthcare for Women

Pregnancy should not be considered only a 9 month journey but as a year long journey. Knowing that the first few weeks of pregnancy are the most vital to the development of the baby, a mother should be healthy and avoid any harmful activities and substances near the time of conception. Some habits are harder to break, and some health issues take longer to address. Getting a jump start will be beneficial to you and your baby. Following these simple guidelines can help you prepare for pregnancy.

If you are trying to get pregnant , you should get a copy of the Essential Guide for Getting Pregnant . This e-book is one of the easiest and up to date resources for getting the information and tips you need to get pregnant quicker and easier. Before you become pregnant you want to make sure that you cut out any habits that are harmful for your baby. These habits include:

Smoking Smoking during pregnancy is estimated to account for 20 to 30 percent of low-birth weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries, and about 10 percent of all infant deaths according to the American Lung Association.

Drinking Alcohol – There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume while you are pregnant.

Recreational drug use – For example, smoking marijuana during pregnancy can increase the chance of miscarriage, low birth-weight, premature births, developmental delays, and behavioral and learning problems.

Prescription drugs – There are many prescription drugs that are teratogenic (cause birth defects). Talk with your healthcare provider about any and all prescription drugs you are taking. Hazardous chemicals – There are some chemicals that can also be teratogenic. For example, most studies point out that the greatest risk of exposure to pesticides is during the first three to eight weeks of the first trimester when the neural tube development is occurring. This is often before a woman knows she is pregnant. Stress – Stress has been linked to delayed or missed periods which can cause difficulty tracking ovulation and getting pregnant. Limit your amount of stress as much as possible.

Herbs – The problem with herbs is that they are not mandated by the FDA, and therefore, there is little or no research on the effect they have on pregnancy. Discuss any herbs with your healthcare provider.

Caffeine - Some studies have shown a link between high levels of caffeine consumption and delayed conception. A few studies have shown that there may be an increase in miscarriages among women who consume more than 300 mg (three 5 oz cups of coffee) a day. You should replace these old habits with new healthy habits. These healthy habits include:

  • Exercise – Start exercising now. Set goals for what you want to achieve. Ask yourself if you want to lose weight, gain weight, build muscle, or improve lung capacity. Some good exercise options include walking, swimming, bicycling, and aerobics. Yoga is an excellent choice for exercise because it incorporates posture, breathing, and concentration which will be beneficial for you during labor. Talk with your healthcare provider about what is best for you.
  • Read – Read books on pregnancy and child birth. It is important that you are educated and prepared.
  • Track your menstrual cycle – This is very important. Your doctor will ask you about your menstrual cycle, so you need to be prepared. Keeping track of your cycle will also help you track your ovulation and increase your chance of pregnancy. Products to Help Track Ovulation
  • Practice relaxation techniques – Relaxation can help minimize stress, and as you have already read, stress is not a woman’s best friend. Try Yoga or listening to soft relaxing music in a warm bath.
  • Get lots of sleep – If you are not receiving 8 hours of sleep a night, you should start. Adequate amounts of sleep can also help relieve stress and tension.
  • Eat healthy – Nutrition is vital to your health. The healthier you are the easier pregnancy will be for you. Some people like to take supplements. Order Fertility Supplements


You are what you eat, and so is your baby. Make sure that you are getting lots of vitamins in your diet, and start taking folic acids now. Studies have shown that folic acid (300-400mcg a day) can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects when taken before conception. Order Prenatal Vitamins with folic acid . For more information on the suggested amount of vitamins to consume during pregnancy (which is the same for preconception) look at our chart on Essential Nutrients & Vitamins.

Maintain an ideal weight

Your weight plays a significant role in conception and during pregnancy. When planning to conceive you want to avoid being over or under weight .

Underweight (10% below normal range)

  • Exercise to build muscle
  • Increase energy intake
  • Eat at least three meals a day
  • Eat more food at each meal
  • Eat more snacks
  • Drink juices and milk

Overweight (20% above normal range)

  • Choose a realistic eating plan
  • Make sure your eating plan includes nutritional adequacy
  • Drink adequate amounts of water
  • Combine your eating plan with exercise

Discuss any plans for weight loss or gain with your healthcare provider.

Make a doctor’s appointment

It is important that you see your doctor before you become pregnant. There are medical conditions that you may not be aware of that can affect your pregnancy. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Diabetes – If you are diabetic you should get your diabetes under control. Pregnancy increases the chances of diabetes, and it can make it hard for a mother who is already suffering from diabetes.
  • High blood pressure – If you have high blood pressure before pregnancy, you must closely monitor your blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Anemia – A complete blood count (CBC) can measure your hemoglobin, red & white blood cell count, and the appearance of your platelets. Anemia can cause weakness and fatigue during pregnancy.
  • Thyroid problems – The test consists of a blood test which measures your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Hyperthyroidism (overactive) can lead to premature birth and low birth weight if left untreated. Hypothyroidism (underactive) can lead to infertility or miscarriage when left untreated.
  • STDs – For example, chlamydia can result in an ectopic pregnancy if you conceive. If you are not pregnant, and it is left untreated, it can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) ; this can cause infertility.

Other testing and screening that is common during a preconception health check up are:

  • Pap Smear – A pap smear can check for cervical dysplasia.
  • Breast exam – If over the age of 35, you may receive a mammogram.
  • Blood type – If you are RH negative you will have to be desensitized prior to labor.
  • Immunity to Rubella (measles) – The March of Dimes recommends that all women be tested for immunity to rubella before they become pregnant and that they consider being vaccinated at that time if they are not immune. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that a woman wait at least 4 weeks after receiving the vaccination before trying to conceive.
  • Immunity to Varicella (chicken pox) – As with rubella it is recommended that all women be tested for immunity to varicella before they become pregnant and that they consider being vaccinated at that time if they are not immune. The CDC recommends that a woman wait at least 4 weeks before trying to conceive after receiving the vaccination.

At your appointment you will also be asked for your medical and family history.

Medical history may include:

  • Medications you take
  • Past pregnancies
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Medical conditions

Family history may include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizure disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Twins

Some couples may also need to seek Genetic Counseling . For the majority of couples, genetic counseling is not necessary .

Preparing Emotionally

Ask anyone with a newborn , and they will tell you that it changes everything. And while it is literally impossible to be completely prepared for all the emotional changes that come with baby, a little forethought goes a long way, says Frank A. Chervenak, MD, the professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York.

A woman considering pregnancy needs to think about whether there are other children in the home and what age they will be when the newborn comes home, he says. Can she handle two young children very close in age? She must also consider her job. “If she is going through a stressful or demanding time at work, how will pregnancy and having a baby impact on her work?” he says.

“In broad strokes, a woman must weigh how a pregnancy would impact her family, her work, and her own psyche,” he says. “Is she ready or would she rather wait?” All of these are factors that a woman should consider, and she is the final arbiter.”

Research reinforces the importance of forethought. Studies have shown that couples who have thought carefully about all the details of physically having a baby — from choosing a doctor to weighing the risks involved — are much more prepared than their counterparts who have not given it as much thought. For example, one study in the April 2000 issue of the Journal of Personality found that women who had given a great deal of thought to what parenting may entail were better adjusted as moms, compared with new moms who did not think as deeply about the demands their new role as a parent would place upon their lives.

“Personal readiness, how a new baby will impact the family, the couple, and work are the overwhelming factors to consider in advance,” he says.