Diet and good health in pregnancy play a major role in producing a healthy baby and most of you will take good care of your health when you know you are pregnant

However you are already 2 weeks pregnant by the time you miss your period and it may be a few weeks later that you find the time to see your gynaecologist. During this time all the major organs in the baby’s body, such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, brain and nervous system are forming. Knowing that the first few weeks of pregnancy are the most vital to the development of the baby, a mother should be healthy and avoid any harmful activities and substances near the time of conception.

Here are some things to look out for:

Smoking – There is a strong association between smoking and infertility. Smokers are four times more likely to take longer than a year to conceive and even when they do, they have a higher chance of a miscarriage. Smoking during pregnancy is estimated to account for 20 to 30 percent of low-birth weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries, and about 10 percent of all infant deaths according to the American Lung Association.

Drinking Alcohol – Even one glass of wine or beer daily can reduce a woman’s fertility by up to 50%. Recent studies have shown that there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume while you are pregnant

Recreational drugs – Smoking marijuana (ganja) for example during pregnancy, can increase the chance of miscarriage, cause low birth-weight, premature births, developmental delays, and behavioral and learning problems.

Prescription drugs – There are many prescription drugs that are teratogenic (cause birth defects). Talk with your healthcare provider about any and all prescription drugs you are taking.

Hazardous chemicals – There are some chemicals that can also be teratogenic. For example, most studies point out that the greatest risk of exposure to pesticides is during the first three to eight weeks of the first trimester when the neural tube development is occurring. This is often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Stress – Stress has been linked to delayed or missed periods which can cause difficulty tracking ovulation and getting pregnant. Limit your amount of stress as much as possible.

Herbs – While the benefits of herbs as an alternative therapy are documented, there is little or no research on the effect they have on pregnancy or during breast feeding.

Caffeine – Some studies have shown a link between high levels of caffeine consumption and delayed conception. A few studies have shown that there may be an increase in miscarriages among women who consume more than 300 mg (three 5 oz cups of coffee) a day.

You should replace these old habits with new healthy habits. These healthy habits include:

  • Exercise – Start exercising now. Set goals for what you want to achieve. Ask yourself if you want to lose weight, gain weight, build muscle, or improve lung capacity. Some good exercise options include walking, swimming, bicycling, and aerobics. Yoga is an excellent choice for exercise because it incorporates posture, breathing, and concentration which will be beneficial for you during labor.
  • Read – Read books on pregnancy and child birth. It is important that you are educated and prepared.
  • Track your menstrual cycle – This is very important. Your doctor will ask you about your menstrual cycle, so you need to be prepared. Keeping track of your cycle will also help you track your ovulation and increase your chance of pregnancy.
  • Practice relaxation techniques – Relaxation can help minimize stress, and as you have already read, stress is not a woman’s best friend. Try Yoga or listening to soft relaxing music in a warm bath.
  • Get lots of sleep – If you are not receiving 8 hours of sleep a night, you should start. Adequate amounts of sleep can also help relieve stress and tension.
  • Eat healthy – Nutrition is vital to your health. The healthier you are the easier pregnancy will be for you. Some people like to take supplements.

Nutrition

You are what you eat, and so is your baby. Make sure that you are getting lots of vitamins in your diet, and start taking folic acids now. Studies have shown that folic acid (300-400mg a day) can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects when taken before conception.

Maintain an ideal weight

Your weight plays a significant role in conception and during pregnancy. Obesity reduces fertility by up to 75% and increases miscarriage rates by 50%. When planning to conceive you want to avoid being over or under weight.

If you are overweight :

  • Choose a nutritionally adequate diet
  • Drink adequate amounts of water
  • Combine a sensible eating plan with exercise

Make a doctor’s appointment

It is important that you see your doctor before you become pregnant. There are medical conditions that you may not be aware of that can affect your pregnancy. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Diabetes – If you are diabetic you should get your diabetes under control. Pregnancy increases the chances of diabetes, and it can make it hard for a mother who is already suffering from diabetes.
  • High blood pressure – If you have high blood pressure before pregnancy, you must closely monitor your blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Anemia – A complete blood count (CBC) can measure your hemoglobin, red & white blood cell count, and the appearance of your platelets. Anemia can cause weakness and fatigue during pregnancy.
  • Thyroid problems – The test consists of a blood test which measures your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Hyperthyroidism (overactive) can lead to premature birth and low birth weight if left untreated. Hypothyroidism (underactive) can lead to infertility or miscarriage when left untreated.

Other tests common during a preconception health check up are:

  • Pap Smear – A pap smear can check for cervical dysplasia.
  • Breast exam – If over the age of 40, you may receive a mammogram.
  • Immunity to Rubella (German Measles) – it is recommended that all women be tested for immunity to rubella before they become pregnant and that they consider being vaccinated at that time if they are not immune. You should wait at least 2 months after receiving the vaccination before trying to conceive. Luckily, the Ministry of Health in Malaysia has a program of routinely immunising all schoolgirls for Rubella, so almost every woman of childbearing age in this country is protected. Still, it is always worth checking to make sure that you are immune. The consequences of getting this infection in pregnancy are terrible.

At your appointment you will also be asked for your medical and family history. Any history that increases the risk to your pregnancy will be further investigated.

(Compiled partially from information supplied by the American Pregnancy Association)