Good Health Before Pregnancy: Preconception Care

Planning your pregnancy can help you make wise choices that will benefit both you and your baby. Many women don’t know they are pregnant until several weeks after they have conceived. These early weeks are key for the baby growing inside you.

A Preconception Visit
If you are planning to become pregnant, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will try to identify things that may pose risks to you or your baby.

Your doctor may ask about your family life, work and lifestyle to learn if you could be exposed to a risk.

Diet and Nutrition
Your doctor will review your diet. He or she may suggest changes.

If you are planning to have a baby, you should try to reach a healthy weight before you become pregnant.

Excess weight can cause high blood pressure or diabetes. It also puts a strain on the heart.

Being underweight can lead to trouble getting pregnant. It also may increase your chances of giving birth to a low birth weight baby.

Folic acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus. The neural tube is formed very early in pregnancy, usually before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Therefore, all women of childbearing age should take 0.4 milligrams of folic acid daily.

Keeping Fit
Good health depends on both a proper diet and exercise. If you follow a fitness routine before you conceive, you can improve your chances of having a comfortable and active pregnancy.

Domestic Violence
Women who are victims of domestic violence are even more likely to be abused during pregnancy. If you are being abused, tell your doctor, nurse or social worker.

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Illegal Drugs
Smoking, drinking, and drug use during pregnancy can harm the baby. Even using these substances only once in a while, or in small amounts, can do harm to the fetus or make it harder to get pregnant.

Some substances found at home or work can make it harder for you to become pregnant or can harm your fetus. Think about what you come into contact with at work and home and take steps to avoid being exposed to harmful things

Special Concerns
Some health concerns may require special attention before or during pregnancy. In many of these cases, close monitoring or treatment before and during pregnancy can help prevent problems or make them less severe.

Medical Conditions
Women who have diabetes, high blood pressure, seizures, heart disease, or those who are obese may need special care during pregnancy. Your treatment may need to be changed to prepare for pregnancy.

Infections can harm both the mother and the fetus. Some infections during pregnancy can cause birth defects or illnesses in the fetus.

Vaccination can prevent some infections. It is important to be vaccinated before becoming pregnant because some vaccines are not safe to use during pregnancy.

Infections passed through sexual contact — sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — also are harmful during pregnancy. Many types of STDs may affect your ability to become pregnant. They also may infect and harm your baby.

Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can cause harm to mother and baby. Early treatment may help prevent the infection from being passed to the fetus.

Past Pregnancies
Your doctor will ask questions about any past pregnancies. If you have had more than one miscarriage, a past complicated pregnancy, or a previous baby with a birth defect, your doctor may suggest certain tests.

Family Health History
Some conditions occur more often in certain families. If a close member of your family has a history of a disorder, you may be at greater risk of having it.

Becoming a parent is a major commitment filled with many challenges, rewards, and choices. Making healthy choices before you become pregnant is an important step to a healthy and happy pregnancy.

This excerpt from ACOG’s Patient Education Pamphlet is provided for your information. It is not medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for visiting your doctor. If you need medical care, have any questions, or wish to receive the full text of this Patient Education Pamphlet, please contact your obstetrician-gynecologist.

To ensure the information is current and accurate, ACOG titles are reviewed every 18 months

Copyright © May 2008 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists