A Healthy Pregnancy Checklist - Before You Get Pregnant
A healthy pregnancy requires some preventive medical maintenance before becoming pregnant to ensure that both the pregnant mother and her developing baby have a safe and healthy pregnancy. Listed below is a healthy pregnancy checklist that will alert you to five primary points that you should check-off before checking-in a baby border for the next nine months in your uterus.
- Take 400 micrograms of folic acid no later than one month before attempting to get pregnant—Folic acid is a B vitamin supplement necessary for new cell growth. Studies have shown that folic acid plays an important role in preventing birth defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida in the brains and spines of developing babies by as much as 50%-70%. The recommended daily allowance of folic acid is 400μg (micrograms).
- An easy and healthy source of folic acid is in some common brands of cereal such as Multi-Grain Cheerios®, Raisin Bran, Special K®, Quaker® Oats and even a variety of Cap’n Crunch cereals. Just be sure to check that the cereal supplement label for serving size and % Daily Value states 400μg or “100%” next to the folic acid label.
Take care of pre-existing medical problems/conditions—Diabetes during pregnancy increases the chances of birth defects and other problems for the baby as well as cause serious complications for the mother. High blood pressure is another condition that if left untreated before and during a pregnancy can lead to heart damage and disease, as well as an increased risk of a stroke and other complications. See your doctor about how to treat your diabetes before and during a pregnancy. In addition, have your blood pressure monitored regularly before and during a pregnancy to alert your doctor should a complication develop unnoticed.
- Stop smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol—Smoking and alcohol rate among the most common factors in incidences associated with poor pregnancies and birth defects. Smoking in associated with infertility, miscarriages, placenta rupture and excessive hemorrhaging, premature birth, decreased birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), cleft lip and cleft palate. In addition, try to limit your exposure to people who smoke. Women who are exposed to second hand smoke are more likely to have babies who are underweight than women who are not exposed to second hand smoke during their pregnancy.
Contrary to public perception, drinking any type of alcohol at any time during a pregnancy is not safe for an unborn baby. Alcohol passes not only through your kidneys, but also through the placenta and directly to a baby’s bloodstream and developing nervous system. The danger of drinking alcohol while not on birth control is that a baby may be adversely affected by the alcohol before the mother learns she is pregnant and stops drinking. Drinking during a pregnancy can result in abnormal facial features, an unusually small head, low birth weight, poor coordination, hyperactivity disorders, learning disabilities, vision and hearing problems, malformations of the lungs and heart, as well as numerous other disorders.
- Alert your doctor to your pregnancy plans and ask him if your current medications or supplements need to be discontinued—Many prescription and over the counter medications are harmful to a developing baby while in the uterus. This is an especially difficult matter when a pregnant woman must be on medications for asthma, seizures, high blood pressure or depression throughout a pregnancy to safeguard her health. Talking to your doctor about your concerns that your medications may have on your baby before you become pregnant is important so that alternative medications with a lower or no risk of causing a birth defect can be administered before conception.
Another important point is to not be misled into believing that all “natural” or “organic” supplements are safe during a pregnancy. Many tea products contain lethal or harmful doses of “natural” materials that while safe for the mother can be harmful to the baby. Consult with your doctor before taking any commercial, non-regulated health products.
- Avoid chemicals, animal feces and all toxic substances at home and at work—Some workplaces maintain OSHA standards, that while relatively safe for a worker, may not be safe for a pregnant worker or for a woman who is considering becoming pregnant. Businesses like dry cleaners often use harsh organic solvents with fumes that may pass through your blood to your baby. At home, many cleanser products emit toxic vapors or chemicals easily absorbed through the skin that could find its way to a developing baby. Temporary reassignment during a pregnancy to a less toxic working environment can reduce the risk of birth defects as well as using alternative “green” cleaning products in the home.
Pets that are exposed to other animals outside the home during walks can introduce harmful microorganisms to your living space. Ensure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and keep your pet out of the kitchen where paws contaminated with fecal matter can increase your risk of exposure to harmful microorganisms. On another note, if you have a pet undergoing any radio-isotope therapy, leave your pet at a vet’s office until it is free of radioactivity. Many treatments use low-doses of isotopes that are eventually emitted through their waste that can be tracked through your home by dirty paws.
By following this healthy pregnancy checklist before you become pregnant, you and your future baby can enjoy a safe and happy pregnancy.
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