I think I'm ready to become a parent! As I prepare for pregnancy, what kind of health precautions should I take? - Jane
You can do many things to keep yourself healthy and increase the chances of having a safe and healthy pregnancy. It's important to not smoke, drink alcohol, use recreational drugs, or be around secondhand smoke. Being exposed to any of these could jeopardize your health and your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
Certain medical conditions, like asthma or diabetes, also can have an effect on your pregnancy. Make sure any medical conditions are treated and under control.
Ask your doctor about other precautions. He or she may recommend that you start taking folic acid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida. Your doctor may also want to screen you for certain health conditions that may affect your pregnancy, such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), obesity, and genetic disorders. The doctor may run blood tests to check for immunity to infections such as rubella and chickenpox, and to check for things like anemia.
And ask if you need to stop or change any prescription or over-the-counter medicines, as well as herbal supplements, since some can affect a developing fetus.
Start cutting down on your caffeine intake, eat a balanced healthy diet, and exercise regularly. Prior to getting pregnant, make sure your immunizations are up to date and you've gotten your annual flu shot. Also see the dentist to make sure that your teeth and gums are in good condition since recent studies have shown that gum disease during pregnancy can affect your baby.