Commentary by James Smith, MD, IU Health Physicians Women’s Health
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Making the decision to have a baby is one of life’s biggest milestones. As anticipation grows, there are steps prospective parents can take to improve the chance of a healthy pregnancy. Couples should schedule a pre-conception appointment with a trusted doctor at least three months before attempting to become pregnant. Issues covered during this appointment may include:
· The couple’s medical history including any health conditions, chronic conditions, medications and supplements, and family history of disease
· Past pregnancies and any complications, such as Cesarean section, pre-term birth, gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
· Any known history of inherited genetic disease or birth defects – If this is the case for either partner, the doctor may refer the couple to a genetic counselor.
· Diet, including weight, recommended nutrition, any food allergies and prenatal vitamins. If a woman is overweight or underweight, it’s generally best to reach an ideal body mass index of between 20 and 25 before becoming pregnant. At least one month before conception, the prospective mother should begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin fortified with at least 0.4 milligrams of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in the newborn. (It’s generally recommended that all women of child-bearing age take folic acid to guard against these conditions should an unintended pregnancy occur.)
· If a woman is not already exercising, it’s best to begin regular exercise before becoming pregnant. For most women, exercise can and should continue during pregnancy. Moderate exercise for 20 to 30 minutes on most days of the week is recommended.
· If either partner smokes, the doctor can provide guidance on quitting. If alcohol or drug use is an issue, this should also be discussed with the doctor before becoming pregnant.
· Birthing preferences, such as whether the couple wants to deliver in a hospital, certified birthing center or at home.
Although there is much to consider when deciding to have a child, it’s important to remember that most women are well suited from both a health and lifestyle standpoint to have a healthy pregnancy.
James Smith, MD, specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. He is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Women’s Health – IU Health North Hospital, 11725 N. Illinois St., Suite. 350, in Carmel. Smith also practices at IU Health Physicians – IU Health Saxony Hospital, 13100 E. 136th St., Suite. 3600, in Fishers. He can be reached by calling 688-5200 or 678-3888.