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Before You Start Trying

Some foods, habits, and medicines can harm your baby- even before he is conceived. Find out what to do and what to avoid when you're trying to get pregnant.

Before Pregnancy
If you're thinking about getting pregnant, or are already pregnant, taking care of your health is more important than ever. Follow these tips for a healthy pregnancy:

Get 400 micrograms (or 0.4 mg) of folic acid daily.
Eat foods fortified with folic acid, take a multivitamin, or take a folic acid pill to get your daily dose. Taking folic acid in a pill is the best way to be sure you're getting enough. Including 0.4 mg of folic acid (or folate) in your diet before you get pregnant and in the first three months of pregnancy can help prevent some birth defects. If you don't get enough folic acid, your baby's spine may not form right. This is called spina bifida (spy-nuh bif-uh-duh).

Also, your baby needs folic acid to develop a healthy brain. Many doctors will prescribe a vitamin with folic acid. But you also can buy vitamins or folic acid pills at drug and grocery stores. Some foods rich in folate include: leafy green vegetables, kidney beans, orange juice and other citrus fruits, peanuts, broccoli, asparagus, peas, lentils, and whole-grain products. Folic acid is also added to some foods like enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals. Get more details on folic acid.

One half of all pregnancies are not planned!
And many women don't realize they are pregnant for at least a few weeks. So you should always take care of your health. Your baby is counting on you for the best start at life!

  • Start watching what you eat. Load up on fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains (such as whole-wheat breads or crackers). Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods such as non-fat or low-fat yogurt, milk, and broccoli. Your baby needs calcium for strong bones and teeth. When fruits and vegetables aren't in season, frozen vegetables are a good option. Avoid eating a lot of fatty foods (such as butter and fatty meats). Choose leaner foods when you can (such as skim milk, chicken and turkey without the skin, and fish). Find out more about what to eat and what to avoid for a healthy pregnancy.
  • Tell your doctor if you smoke or use alcohol or drugs. Quitting is hard, but you can do it. Ask your doctor for help.
  • Get enough sleep. Try to get seven to nine hours every night.
  • Take steps to control the stress in your life. When it comes to work and family, figure out what you can and can not do. Set limits with yourself and others. Don't be afraid to say NO to requests for your time and energy.
  • Move your body. Once you get pregnant, you can't increase your exercise routine by much. So it's best to start before the baby is on the way.
  • Get any health problems under control. Talk to your doctor about how your health problems might affect you and your baby. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels. If you have high blood pressure, monitor these levels as well. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about how to reach a healthy weight.
  • Ask your mother, aunts, grandmother or sisters about their pregnancies. Did they have morning sickness? Problems with labor? How did they cope?
  • Find out what health problems run in your family. Tell these to your doctor. You can get tested for health problems that run in families before getting pregnant (genetic testing).
  • Make sure you have had all of your immunizations (shots), especially for Rubella (German measles). If you haven't had chickenpox or rubella, get the shots at least three months before getting pregnant.
  • Get checked for hepatitis (hep-uh-tie-tus) B and C, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and HIV. These infections can harm you and your baby. Tell your doctor if you or your sex partners have ever had an STD or HIV.
  • Go over all of the medicines you take (prescription, over-the-counter, and herbals) with your doctor. Make sure they are safe to take while you're trying to get pregnant or are pregnant.

Ask your partner to stay healthy too!
Ask your partner to limit how much alcohol he drinks. If he uses illegal drugs or smokes, encourage him to quit. Studies show that men who drink a lot, smoke, or use drugs can have problems with their sperm. These might cause you to have problems getting pregnant.

Planning Conception
While trying to conceive, you can use natural planning methods such as the ovulation method (have intercourse just before or after ovulation) or the symptothermal method (evaluating fertility based on your daily temperature). Remember: women are more likely to become pregnant if intercourse takes place just before or just after ovulation. This is because the unfertilized egg can live for only 12-24 hours in your body. If youv'e been trying for a few months with no results, don't get discouraged. Only 20% of women trying to get pregnant are successful on the first attempt. So don't lose hope or assume something is wrong.

Adoption and Foster Care
If you are having fertility problems, you and your partner might want to explore other ways to raise a child. Find out more about adoption and foster care. Adopting or becoming a foster parent could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Get more information on adoption and foster care.

Source: The National Women's Health Information Center
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office on Women's Health

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Last Updated: Jun 24th, 2013


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