If you're thinking about conceiving, how can you best prepare for a healthy pregnancy and baby?
According to Maria Gondra, MD, infertility specialist and independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff, the first thing to schedule is a visit with your doctor to look at your current health. During this appointment, your physician will ask you – and possibly your partner – about your diet and lifestyle, your medical and family history, any medications or supplements you take, and whether you've had any past pregnancies or issues with infertility.
"The goal of this checkup is to identify anything that could adversely affect a pregnancy, so we can address those issues before conception," says Dr. Gondra. "The first eight weeks of pregnancy are key, and your health and nutrition can really make a difference."
Here are six other tips, including one for the guys, to consider if you're preparing for pregnancy:
1. Watch your diet
Eat healthy fruits (especially berries) and vegetables. Limit red meat. Cut out trans-fats (doughnuts, pastries, fried foods). Boost your intake of monounsaturated fat by using olive oil for cooking and salad dressings, and eating avocados and nuts.
2. Check your immunity
Find out if you're immune to common contagious viral infections such us rubella and chicken pox. If you aren't immune, you should get immunized prior to conceiving. You can't get immunized for them once you're pregnant.
During pregnancy, these diseases can be devastating for your baby.
3. Exercise, but not too much
Moderate exercise has been shown to increase fertility rates. But intense exercise can interfere with conception and can also jeopardize your pregnancy in its early stages.
4. Avoid toxins
Your baby is most vulnerable during the first trimester of pregnancy, which in some cases is before you may even know you're pregnant. For that reason, if you're thinking of conceiving, it's best to abstain from tobacco and alcohol. In addition, consider the chemicals in your home, garden or work environment. Avoid toxic substances such as lead or mercury, chemicals such as pesticides or solvents, or radiation.
5. Take your vitamins
Start taking a prenatal vitamin before pregnancy. These contain all the recommended daily vitamins and minerals you will need before and during your pregnancy. This includes folic acid to prevent neural tube defects and iron to make the extra blood supply that will supply oxygen to your baby. For women over the age of 35, it may also be helpful to take 400 mg/day of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and Omega 3 which have shown to help with the health of the eggs in patients over 35.
6. If you're overweight, try to lose a few pounds
Obesity during pregnancy puts you at risk of developing several serious health problems including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (a blood pressure disorder) and sleep apnea. Ask your doctor what is a healthy weight for you at the time you try to conceive.
7. And finally, what about men?
"Some of the recommendations for preparing for a healthy pregnancy apply to women and men," says Dr. Gondra. "We recommend the same healthy diet, moderate exercise and folic acid supplements. In addition, antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Omega 3 and green tea are also helpful for men over the age of 40."
If you're trying to get pregnant and it's been six months (if you're 35 or older) or a year (if you're younger than 35), it may be time to consult with a fertility specialist. Fertility declines rapidly in women after age 35 and for men, the decline starts in the 40s.