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A hand holding an at-home pregnancy test.
A hand holding an at-home pregnancy test.

A Preconception Checklist

The Key Points of Preconception Health

Planning to start a family soon? Healthy habits are key for your well-being, and they play an important role in your pregnancy and baby’s health. Know what you need to do for your health to get ready for conception and pregnancy. "The preconception checklist gives people an organized way to assess their health and wellness, and their risk so they can follow through, change, alter or add things that may ultimately improve their well-being," says Sushma Anand, DO, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Northwestern Medicine.

If you are planning to get pregnant, consider these points of preconception health.

Talk With Your Physician

Before you start trying to get pregnant, visit your physician. Together, you can review any health concerns that may affect your pregnancy. Be sure to talk about:

  • Health conditions: Your physician will discuss how your medical conditions (even those that are managed or treated) could impact your preconception health or pregnancy. Diabetes, thyroid disease, seizures disorders, eating disorders and chronic diseases can all affect pregnancy.
  • Medications: Some medications, including over-the-counter options and supplements, can cause birth defects. Review all of your medications, vitamins and supplements with your physician so they can adjust them, if needed.
  • Supplements: Ask your physician about folic acid. This B vitamin can prevent major birth defects of the brain and spine if you take it for one month before and during pregnancy.
  • Vaccinations: Being up to date on your vaccinations will help protect you and your fetus.
  • Family history: Share your family history with your physician. Discuss areas of concern, and ask questions. Your physician may recommend genetic counseling.

Prep Work

You can also take additional steps to help improve your health before your visit. "Be honest with yourself about the amount of time you need to prepare for pregnancy,” says Dr. Anand. “Six months is a good middle ground because it gives you enough time to make the assessment and make those changes."

  • Stop smoking: Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for complications. If you need support or resources to stop, talk to your physician.
  • Reduce — and then eliminate — your alcohol consumption: Alcohol can pass to the fetus through your blood via the umbilical cord. This can cause miscarriage and lifelong disabilities called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. You can reduce these risks by stopping your alcohol use when you are trying to conceive and during your pregnancy. No amount of alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy.
  • Address stress: Anxiety and stress can cause delayed or missed periods. This can make it difficult to get pregnant. Act to reduce stress before trying to get pregnant by trying relaxation techniques.
  • Aim for a healthy weightPregnant people having excess weight is associated with babies being born too large, which can lead to complications during delivery. Pregnant people not having a lower-than-healthy weight is associated with babies being born too small, which may negatively impact their health and development. Everyone has a different body weight that’s healthy for them. Talk to your physician about weight management before and during pregnancy.
  • Keep up your healthy habits: This means eating well and getting enough sleep.

Dr. Anand says that preparing your body for pregnancy does not have to be difficult. Make small changes to be your healthiest self.