Healthy Pregnancy

You’ve thought about it. You’ve talked about it. Now you’re ready to join the ranks of parenthood. Before you get pregnant, take steps to give your baby a healthy start.

Parenthood is an extraordinary and wonderful responsibility. Its a responsibility that should, ideally, begin before a woman gets pregnant. You probably know you need to take good care of yourself during pregnancy, but did you know that what you do prior to pregnancy also can help you have a healthy baby? If the patter of little feet is something you hope to hear soon, do all you can now to give your child a healthy start.

Get a pre-pregnancy checkup — Talk with your doctor about your plans. He or she will ask you about your medical history, lifestyle and current health, and may recommend that you make some changes. Now — before you get pregnant — is the time to get chronic health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, and weight problems under control. Your doctor also will make sure your immunizations are up-to-date and will check your immunity to childhood diseases, such as rubella (German measles) and chicken pox, which can cause miscarriages or birth defects.

Make lifestyle changes now — Bad habits can be very hard to change, so change them now, before they can affect your babys health. If you smoke, stop. If you drink alcoholic beverages, stop. If your normal breakfast is a diet soda and animal crackers, try something healthier. If your idea of exercise is beating your husband to the remote control, get off the couch and get in shape. Talk to your doctor if you need help breaking these (or other) unhealthy lifestyle patterns.

Take your vitamins — especially folic acid, a B vitamin that helps protect developing babies against brain and spinal cord defects, such as spina bifida. The March of Dimes reports that studies have shown folic acid reduces the odds of these kinds of birth defects by 50% to 70%. Because it is so important, the United States Public Health Service and the March of Dimes recommend that all women of childbearing age who could become pregnant consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

Folic acid can be found in orange juice, green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, liver and fortified breakfast cereal. The best way to get all of the folic acid you need is to combine a healthy diet with a multivitamin supplement. Ask you doctor for recommendations.

Remember, you will be pregnant for several weeks before you even know for sure, and the early weeks — when organs are forming — are the most critical for your baby. So the sooner you start taking care of yourself, the better.

Heres to a healthy future for your new family!

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