Mayo Clinic: Iím 26 years old, and my partner and I would
like to have a baby within the next year. Are there things I
can do now, before I get pregnant, that will make it more
likely our baby will be healthy?
wise to be thinking about this now. There are lifestyle steps
you can take before you conceive that can increase the chances
of having a healthy baby. Itís also a good idea to meet with
your health care provider to review your health history,
discuss any medical conditions you have and review factors
that could potentially raise your babyís risk for a birth
defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the U.S. each
year. Birth defects range from mild to severe and can affect
almost any part of the body. Some defects, such as Down
syndrome, are triggered by problems in a babyís chromosomes.
But, in most cases, the exact cause of birth defects, such as
heart problems, vision and hearing issues, and disorders of
the spine and brain, cannot be pinpointed. That said, there
are things you can do to help reduce the risk of birth
take a daily multivitamin that contains at least 400
milligrams of folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent defects,
such as spina bifida, which affects the neural tube ó the
structure in an embryo that eventually develops into a babyís
brain and spinal cord. Taking folic acid before and during
pregnancy reduces the risk for neural tube defects.
schedule a preconception appointment with your health care
provider. He or she can review your individual health history,
as well as your family history, to identify possible areas of
example, diabetes and high blood pressure can impact
pregnancy, as can the medication you take to control those
disorders. Your health care provider can make adjustments
before you get pregnant to ensure that the medications you
take are safe for a developing fetus. At the appointment, you
also can review your immunization record and make plans to get
missing vaccinations before you get pregnant.
sexual health can impact the health of your child, as well. It
is important to have regular screening for sexually
transmitted infections. This also can occur at the
preconception appointment with your health care provider.
Infections such as genital herpes, syphilis and
cytomegalovirus can cause birth defects that may include brain
and spine abnormalities, cerebral palsy, hearing and vision
impairments, and prematurity.
health care provider can talk with you about any birth defects
that have affected your family, or your partnerís family, as
well as genetic disorders that could be hereditary. If you
have a family history of birth defects or genetic disorders,
he or she may recommend you talk with a genetic counselor to
gather more information and consider genetic testing.
addition to taking folic acid and getting ready for your
pregnancy by consulting with your health care provider, you
can make some lifestyle choices that can help foster a healthy
alcohol, illicit drugs and smoking. If you smoke, stop now.
Smoking during pregnancy has been linked with many health
problems, including problems with the placenta, low birth
weight, premature birth, miscarriage, stillbirth and cleft lip
or palate. Also, fetal alcohol spectrum is a preventable birth
defect if you donít drink alcohol during pregnancy. If youíd
like help with these issues, talk with your health care
are overweight or obese, take steps to get to a healthier
weight before you become pregnant, as obesity also increases
the risks of certain birth defects. Talk with your health care
provider about an exercise and nutrition program to meet and
maintain your goals before and during pregnancy.
get ready to become pregnant, try to be as healthy as possible
overall. Take your multivitamin every day. Eat a healthy diet.
Exercise regularly. Avoid smoking, alcohol and drug use. Get
any medical conditions you have under control. If you have
questions or concerns along the way, talk with your health
care provider. He or she can offer assistance and guidance
during this exciting time.