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Preconception Checklist

The Key Points of Preconception Health

Planning to start a family soon? It is never too early to adopt healthy habits for pregnancy. Your health will affect your baby. "The preconception checklist allows women an organized way to assess their health wellness and their risk so they can follow through, change, alter or add things that may ultimately improve their well-being," says Northwestern Medicine Obstetrics Physician Tacoma McKnight, MD.

The first few weeks of pregnancy are important for your child's development. So, 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 touch on:

  • Health conditions: Your physician will discuss how your medical conditions (even those under control or treated) could impact your preconception health or pregnancy. Diabetes, thyroid disease, seizures disorders, eating disorders and chronic disease can all affect pregnancy.
  • Medications: Some medications, including over-the-counter options and supplements, can cause birth defects. Review your medications with your physician. They will adjust your medications, 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 protect you and your newborn.
  • Family history: Share your family history with your physician. Discuss areas of concern, and ask questions. Your physician may recommend genetic counseling.

On Your Own

While your physician is a great resource, you can take steps to help your health before your visit. Dr. Tacoma says, "Be honest with yourself on the amount of time you need to prepare for pregnancy. Six months is a good middle ground because it gives you enough time to make the assessment and make those changes."

 You may want to:

  • Quit smoking: Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for complications. If you need support or resources to quit, talk to your physician.
  • Reduce — and then eliminate — alcohol: The first few weeks of pregnancy are vital. You should be in the best shape when you conceive. This means reducing how much alcohol you consume. Note that 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. Try relaxation techniques.
  • Aim for a healthy weight: Being overweight or underweight can cause pregnancy issues. Try to reach your goal weight before pregnancy. Starting out at a healthy weight will also give you a good sense of weight management during pregnancy.
  • Keep up your healthy habits: This means eating well and getting enough sleep. The healthier you are, the easier pregnancy may be.

Dr. Tacoma says that preparing your body for pregnancy does not have to be difficult. Try to be your healthiest self.

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Tacoma McKnight, MD
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