Preconception Care: The Earliest, Best Start in Life
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, preconception health—a mother’s healthy mind, body and environment before she gets pregnant—impacts a newborn’s health. In honor of Pregnancy Awareness Month this May, here are some ways for would-be mothers and fathers to prepare for having the healthiest baby, before, during and after pregnancy.
See a doctor. If you are thinking of getting pregnant, see a doctor for preconception care. Discuss medical conditions and medications you are taking, which may increase risks in pregnancy. Discuss whether it is appropriate for you to start taking vitamins that include folic acid, which reduce the risk of some birth defects.
Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. Smoking and second-hand smoke harm your own health and that of others, including a developing fetus. Moms and Dads who stop smoking before pregnancy give their babies a better start.
Avoid toxic substances. Avoid using pesticides or working with paint or solvents, which have chemicals that may affect your ability to conceive and bear a healthy child. If you are thinking of getting pregnant, read labels of household cleaners, air fresheners, canned goods and other items to avoid Bisphenol A (BPA), which can disrupt hormones and affect reproductive health. Wash fruits and vegetables.
Eat healthy. With your partner and your family, get in the habit of healthy eating before you conceive. Eat protein such as meat, chicken, fish, tofu, whole grains, including brown rice, quinoa, and bulgar wheat, vegetables, and fruit. Include iron in your diet (spinach is a great source). Avoid fish that may contain mercury, such as shark, swordfish and tilefish.
Get early, regular prenatal care as soon you know you are pregnant. Early prenatal care leads to improved birth outcomes. That means more healthy, full-term babies than those whose mothers did not get early care. Give your baby the care he deserves from the beginning.
Cut down on your own stress. Stress during pregnancy can affect your baby’s health. For ideas on lessening stress, see “Give Yourself a Time Out” article in this issue.