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Planning for Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 4, 2023.

Why is it important to plan for pregnancy?

You can help get your body ready for a healthy pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy can improve your ability to have a healthy baby. The steps you need to take and the amount of time needed depends on your current health and habits. Work with your healthcare provider to help you plan a healthy pregnancy.

What do I need to know about nutrition and exercise before pregnancy?

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy foods, beans, lean meats, and fish. Limit foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium. Limit your intake of fish to 2 servings each week. Choose fish low in mercury such as canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, cod, or tilapia. Do not eat fish high in mercury such as swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark.
    Healthy Foods
  • Take folic acid as directed. Get 400 to 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day to help prevent certain conditions, such as spina bifida. You can get folic acid from supplements or from prenatal vitamins. If possible, start taking folic acid at least 1 month before you become pregnant. Continue for the first 2 to 3 months (8 to 12 weeks) of pregnancy.
    Sources of Folic Acid
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Some examples of exercise include walking, biking, dancing, and swimming. Include muscle strengthening activities 2 days each week. Regular exercise provides many health benefits. It helps you manage your weight, and decreases your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Exercise can also help improve your mood. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
    Black Family Walking for Exercise

How does weight affect pregnancy?

  • Obesity can make it harder for you to get pregnant. It also increases your risk of health problems during pregnancy. Some of these health problems include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and infections. It can also increase your baby's risk of health problems such as birth defects. Your baby may also be large and harder to deliver or be born prematurely (early). Your risk of miscarriage is also higher if you are obese. Work with your healthcare provider to reach a healthy weight before you try to get pregnant.
  • Being underweight can also make it hard for you to get pregnant. It can also increase your risk of having a premature baby and miscarriage. Your baby may be born at a low birth weight.

What do I need to know about smoking, alcohol, and drugs?

  • Smoking increases your risk of a miscarriage and other health problems during pregnancy. Smoking can cause your baby to be born too early or weigh less at birth. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
  • Alcohol passes from your body to your baby through the placenta. It can affect your baby's brain development and cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is a group of conditions that causes mental, behavior, and growth problems. Talk to your healthcare provider if you abuse alcohol and need help quitting before pregnancy.
  • Drugs , such as marijuana and cocaine, should not be used while you are trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy. They increase your risk of problems during pregnancy and increase the risk of having a baby with health problems. These include birth defects, premature birth, and infant death.

What do I need to know about medicines and supplements?

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines and supplements you take. Certain medicines and supplements should not be used during pregnancy. These include over-the-counter medicines, prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Your provider may recommend that you take different medicines that are safer during pregnancy.

What do I need to know about immunizations?

Tell your healthcare provider about all the immunizations you have had. If you have missed any immunizations, your healthcare provider may recommend that you update your immunizations. These include hepatitis B, influenza, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), Tdap, and varicella immunizations. You should get 1 dose of the Tdap vaccine with each pregnancy. It is best to get the vaccine at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Which tests might I need before pregnancy?

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you have tests to screen for sexually transmitted infections. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV infection, syphilis, and tuberculosis. These infectious diseases should be treated before pregnancy, if needed.

What do I need to know about toxic substances?

Toxic substances can harm a developing baby. Examples include cleaning products, paints, solvents, pesticides, and other chemical products. They can increase the risk of having a miscarriage, premature birth, and low-birth weight baby. They also increase the risk of developmental delay and childhood cancer. Avoid exposure to toxic substances and materials at work and home.

What do I need to know about genetic testing?

Tell your healthcare provider about genetic disorders, developmental delays, or other disabilities. Include your family and your partner's family. Also tell your provider about any problems in past pregnancies. Your provider may recommend that you see a healthcare professional called a genetic counselor. The counselor will talk to you about how genes, birth defects, and other medical conditions are passed down. The counselor can also tell you about your risk for passing a genetic disease in a future pregnancy. A screening test may include blood tests to check your DNA or your partner's DNA. Genetic tests are not always accurate or complete. Your baby may be born with a genetic disorder that did not show up in the tests. Talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns you have with genetic testing.

How can I prepare for pregnancy if I have a medical condition?

Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, seizure disorders, and thyroid disorders should be managed before pregnancy. Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, should also be treated. This will decrease your risk of having health problems during pregnancy. It will also decrease your baby's risk of medical problems. Medicines used to treat certain conditions are not safe to use during pregnancy and may need to be changed before you get pregnant. Ask your healthcare provider if it is safe for you to get pregnant if you have a medical condition.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.