Things to think about before pregnancy.
Dr. Nicole Lee Plenty, MD, MPH, MS, FACOG
One of the reasons I became a high risk pregnancy specialist was to improve pregnancy outcomes… meaning I want to make sure mom and baby both get through the pregnancy safely. Let’s be completely real for a second. Some of us should not get pregnant… at least not yet! A lot can happen during a pregnancy, but most maternal complications (meaning badness with the mother) can be prevented by making sure we are healthy before the pregnancy starts.
Here are a few things you should do before you get pregnant to improve your chances of getting pregnant and safely delivering a healthy baby.
Maximize your health
One of the biggest concerns in pregnancy and the reason that some women die in pregnancy or shortly after is due to heart disease and what’s called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a fancy name for high blood pressure and vascular damage in pregnancy. Things like being obese, having high blood pressure or uncontrolled diabetes greatly increase your risk of these complications. Incorporate daily brisk walking to shred a few pounds. This will help get your blood pressure and get your diabetes under control.
Diabetics in general should talk with their primary care doctors to make sure their hemoglobin A1C is under 7%. If you’re a diabetic, you know that this number is your average fingerstick value over a three month period. This number being under 7% decreases your risk of complications for yourself and the chances of your baby having a birth defect.
Get your teeth checked
Yep! I said it. Make sure to see your dentist to make sure you don’t have gum disease. We should all be getting regular cleanings anyway. If you haven’t, go ahead and find a local dentist. Women with gum disease have a higher risk of having babies preterm. So, healthy gums theoretically can reduce this risk.
Make sure you’re in a healthy relationship
Now, this suggestion is not for everyone. I recognize that people are getting pregnant independently now. However, if you have a partner and want to have a baby together, make sure you’re on the same page before moving forward. Pregnancy is the number one time for domestic abuse. It’s sad to think about, but it’s true. So, if you’re trying to get pregnant to keep your man, don’t do it. Pregnancy and a new baby can put a strain on a relationship, especially one that is shaky. If your spouse is not sure he/she wants a baby or if your relationship is on the brink of ending, make sure your relationship bounces back first.
Visit your OB/GYN for a preconception visit
You might think you’re healthy because you feel fine, but you want to make sure your pregnancy provider checks all the details. When I say details, I mean the numbers that tell us you’re body is ready for stress caused by a pregnancy. If you have diabetes, you can’t feel that you have kidney disease. The details tell us that. A physical exam plus details can tell your provider if your high blood pressure has caused heart disease or if your asthma is controlled enough to withstand heavier breathing in pregnancy. I’m not trying to scare anyone. Most of you are completely healthy… it just makes more sense to be sure first. No one likes unpleasant surprises.