Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Preparing for Pregnancy Before You Get Pregnant

Written by Meaghan Maess, Buffalo State College student and communications intern at Catholic Health

Having a baby is one of the most rewarding experiences in a parent’s life – but it can also be among the most challenging. To ease your transition into parenthood, prepare for your new arrival before you try to conceive.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Having a healthy weight increases the chances of conception and will reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy. The best way to determine if you are at a healthy weight is to consult your doctor. To get a general idea, use a Body Mass Index calculator or Waist-to-Hip ratio calculator.  

Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and protein. Saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and salt should be kept to a minimum.

"It is important to let your health care provider know what your dietary habits are," says Dr. Scott Zuccala, who practices at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo and the Hamburg OB/GYN Group.

"Even if one is a vegetarian, there are ways to maintain an adequate dietary intake."

To learn more about healthy eating, read our smart eating series, or see our Pinterest boards for nutritious recipes approved by our Registered Dietitians.

Consume Nutrients

While pregnant women need to increase their intake of the nutrients below, it’s never too early to get your levels on track.

Talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of nutrients for you and your baby.

Calcium: During pregnancy, your developing baby will use calcium for bone growth. Most women do not get enough calcium, so it’s important to increase your intake to avoid losing bone density. Pregnant women need between 1000 and 1300 mg of calcium a day, about the equivalent of 3 to 4 servings of milk.

Calcium can be found in dairy products, tofu, salmon and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.

"If you are getting enough calcium from your diet, supplements are not necessarily good," says Dr. Zuccala.

Speak to your physician before taking supplements.

Iron: In pregnant women and their developing babies, iron helps the blood carry oxygen. Iron can be found in eggs, enriched grains, fish, poultry, red meat, liver and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.

Folic Acid: "Folic acid helps to prevent neural tube or brain development defects such as spina bifida," says Dr. Zuccala. "This is one of the birth defects that an expectant mother can potentially modify. The American College of OBGYN guidelines state that women of reproductive age should take a 400 ug folic acid supplement. For women at high risk, a 4 to 5 mg dose is recommended."

Folic acid can also be found in lean meat, grains, nuts, beans, citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.

Visit Your Healthcare Provider

If you have chronic health problems, your doctor can help you get them under control before pregnancy. There may also be immunizations or tests you should have before pregnancy, such as rubella, chicken pox and tests for herpes and other viruses.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, call HealthConnection or search our online physician directory.

Visit Your Dentist

The bacteria that causes gingivitis is suspected of causing premature labor. The increase in hormones during pregnancy also affects oral health, increasing your risk for developing gingivitis.

"Gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums, is a very under-diagnosed and thus under-treated portion of healthcare that can have very serious consequences. The healthcare team that takes care of the mother and fetus needs to look at the whole picture,” says Dr. Zuccala.

Decrease Stress

Stress can lead to problems with infertility. Practicing mindfulness, thinking positively and focusing on your senses are all good tactics for reducing stress and anxiety in your life.  

Don't Smoke or Drink

Alcohol and cigarettes are detrimental to your health and the health of your baby. Smoking and heavy drinking is also linked to fertility issues in men.

"The new policy by the American College of OBGYN states that no amount of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy is safe," says Dr. Zuccala. "The unborn fetus is passive and has no choice but to ingest what the mother does."

Consider Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning is a natural method for achieving pregnancy. It teaches women to observe and chart changes in their body to learn about their fertility patterns. To learn more, read Strengthen Your Marriage with Natural Family Planning.

Preparing your body for pregnancy can reduce risks of complications and make sure mother and baby are healthy and happy.

You can learn more about pregnancy at Catholic Health's Pregnancy Resource Center.


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  2. This was really helpful. Thank you for posting this! I am wondering why they made the program so hard to use if it requires that much work.


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