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Preconception Care

Preconception care is care that a woman or a couple receive when they are considering having a baby, prior to becoming pregnant. It involves finding and taking care of any problems that might affect the mother or the baby during the pregnancy. It also involves steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of birth defects and other problems. For some women, preparing their body for pregnancy takes a few months. For other women, it might take longer.

Whether this is your first, second, or sixth baby, the following are important steps to help you get ready for the healthiest pregnancy possible.

1) See your Doctor: Before getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about your health history and any medical conditions you currently have that could affect a pregnancy. He or she also will discuss any previous pregnancy problems, medicines that you currently are taking, the use of recreational drugs, vaccinations that you might need, and steps you can take before pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects.

2) Treat medical conditions: If you currently have any medical conditions, be sure they are being treated and are well controlled. Some of these conditions include: Diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, seizure disorders, Lupus, PKU, sexually transmitted diseases and any chronic condition. Some of these diseases increase the risk of birth defects if not appropriately managed in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

3) Evaluate lifestyle and behaviors: Talk with your doctor or another health professional if you smoke, drink alcohol, use street drugs of are exposed to toxic substances. Discontinuing these activities prior to pregnancy will significantly improve your chances of a successful pregnancy. Health care professionals can help you with counseling, treatment, and other support services.

4) Evaluate your medications: Taking certain medicines during the first few weeks of your pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. These include some prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements. Discuss the need for medications with your doctor and make sure you are taking the medications that are necessary and avoiding those that may be harmful.

5) Vaccinations: Some vaccinations are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or right after delivery. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep you healthy and help keep your baby from getting very sick or having lifelong health problems.

6) Take 400 micrograms of Folic acid every day: If a woman has enough folic acid in her body at least 1 month before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. Supplemental folic acid has also been linked with a decrease in the risk of having a child with autism.

7) Reach and maintain a healthy weight: People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions during pregnancy including birth defects, diabetes, toxemia, preterm delivery, heart disease. People who are underweight are also at risk for serious health problems. If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant.

8) Genetic counseling: Based on a family history of health problems, your doctor might refer you for genetic counseling. Other reasons people go for genetic counseling include having had several miscarriages, infant deaths, or trouble getting pregnant (infertility), or a genetic condition or birth defect that occurred to a family member or during a previous pregnancy.

9) Get Mentally Healthy: Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. To be at your best, you need to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, get help. Talk with your doctor or another health professional about your feelings and treatment options

Once you have taken the above steps, you will have done all you can to assure the best possible outcome for a pregnancy.

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