A quick guide to preconception health

October 23, 2018

If you are thinking of getting pregnant, whether it’s soon or sometime in the future, one thing is for sure—your preconception health matters! So what is preconception health exactly?

Preconception health is your health before pregnancy. In addition to helping improve your chances of getting pregnant, being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent complications when you do get pregnant. Good preconception health includes getting a preconception checkup and talking to your health care provider about any health conditions you, your partner and everyone in your families have had.

Once you and your partner feel you are ready to have a baby, it’s important that you start to focus on your health at least 3 months before you start trying to get pregnant. Here are some things you can do:

Take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it each day. This is very important. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine in your baby called neural tube defects (NTDs).

Stay away from harmful substances. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use street drugs. All of these can make it harder for you to get pregnant, and they’re harmful to your baby when you do get pregnant. Tell your provider if you need help to quit.

Make sure medicines you take won’t harm your baby. Some medications are not safe to use when you’re pregnant, so you may need to stop taking them or switch to something safer. Tell your provider about any medicine you take. Don’t stop taking any prescription medicine without your provider’s OK. Stopping certain medicines, can be more harmful to you or your baby than taking the medicine. If you take prescription opioids (medicine used to relieve pain) tell your provider, even if it was prescribed to you by another provider. Using opioids during pregnancy can cause problems for your baby.

Get treatment for health conditions. Conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure can cause serious problems if they are not under control. Your provider can also check for infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

Get vaccinated. Make sure all of your vaccinations are up to date before pregnancy. Infections like chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles) can harm you and your baby during pregnancy. Get a flu shot once a year before flu season (October through May).

Get to a healthy weight. If you are overweight or underweight, you are at higher risk for complications, like premature birth. Talk to your provider about what a healthy weight is for you.

Take care of your mental health: If you think you may be depressed, talk to your provider right away. There are many ways to deal with depression. Getting treatment and counseling early may help.