Should I see a doctor before I try to get pregnant?
Yes. It’s very important that you see your doctor for a “pre-pregnancy check-up.” Your doctor will ask you about things that could affect your pregnancy. For instance, he or she might ask about your diet, lifestyle, use of birth control, past pregnancies, medicines, and any diseases that you have or that run in your family.
There are several things that you and your doctor can do to make sure that your pregnancy is as healthy as possible. These things should be done before you try to get pregnant:
- Discuss any medicines or herbal drugs you take and find out if you need to make changes
- Discuss whether you are up-to-date on your vaccines
- Start taking a multivitamin that has FOLIC ACID (also called folate)
- Know which foods you should avoid and which foods are best
- Stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs not prescribed for you by a doctor
- Try to reach a healthy weight
- Understand the risks to you and your baby if:
- You have any medical conditions
- There are diseases that run in your family or your partner’s family
Each of these issues is explained in more detail below.
Ask if the medicines you take are safe
If you take any medicines, supplements, or herbal drugs, ask your doctor if it is safe to keep taking them while you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Some medicines take a long time to leave your body completely, so it’s important to plan ahead. In some cases, your doctor will want you to switch to different medicines that are safer for the baby. This is especially important for women who take medicines to treat seizures, high blood pressure, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Check if you need any vaccines
Women who want to get pregnant should be up-to-date on their vaccines. This includes vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, chickenpox (also called varicella), and possibly hepatitis. All women should also get a flu shot every year.
Some vaccines cannot be given during pregnancy or in the month before pregnancy. It’s important to get these vaccines more than a month before you start trying to get pregnant.
Start taking a multivitamin
If you want to get pregnant, take a “prenatal” multivitamin every day that has at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. This helps prevent some birth defects. It is important to start taking the multivitamin at least a month before you start trying to get pregnant. as your baby has already started to form many body parts that rely on folic acid and other vitamins to develop normally even by the time you have found you are pregnant.
It is important not to take too much of any vitamin during pregnancy, especially vitamin A.
Check your diet
Some foods are not safe for a woman who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant. If you are trying to get pregnant, do not eat raw or undercooked meat. Avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because they can have high levels of mercury. Limit the amount of caffeine you have by not drinking more than 1 or 2 cups of coffee each day. Tea and some soft drinks also contain caffeine, but usually not asmuch as coffee. Try to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
Stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking illegal drugs
If you smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs not prescribed for you by a doctor, now more than ever it is important that you stop. Using even small amounts of these substances from time to time during pregnancy could hurt your baby. If you need help quitting, speak with your doctor. There are effective treatments that can help.
Your partner should also stop smoking and using illegal drugs.
Ask about risks
Ask your doctor what the risks to you and your baby might be if:
- You have any medical conditions – If you have a medical problem, it could cause problems for you or your baby during pregnancy. Women who have certain medical conditions should work with their doctor to get their conditions under control before they get pregnant. This includes women with diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, thyroid conditions, seizure disorders, HIV infection, and other problems. If these conditions are not well controlled, they can cause problems for a mother and her baby during pregnancy.
- You or your partner has a family history of a medical condition – If you or your partner has a history of a condition that could be passed on to your baby, you might need genetic counselling. Genetic counselling can help you find out what the chances are that your baby will have the condition. It will also help you sort out what your options might be if your baby does have problems. Examples of conditions that might call for genetic counselling include cystic fibrosis, mental retardation, and muscular dystrophy.
Work on your weight
Women who weigh too little or too much can have problems getting pregnant and problems during pregnancy. You should try to reach a healthy weight before you try to get pregnant.
Dr Shelley Rowlands is happy to provide prepregnancy counselling consultations for any women and couples who are considering a pregnancy. She has experience and expertise in both high risk pregnancy and uncomplicated pregnancy.