Making Changes Before You Make A Baby
See your doctor
Meet with your doctor before you start trying to conceive. That way, you can deal with any health problems that could affect your pregnancy before you become pregnant.
Find out if you're a good candidate for genetic testing
Certain types of birth defects and serious -- even fatal -- diseases are genetic, and it's possible that you and your partner may be carriers for certain types of inherited diseases.
Make sure that any medications you're taking are safe for use during pregnancy
Your doctor may want to fiddle with your dosage or switch you to another drug that's safer for the developing baby.
Have a Pap test
The ideal time to schedule a Pap test is before you start trying to conceive. That way, should anything abnormal show up, you and your doctor will be able to deal with the problem prior to, rather than during, your pregnancy.
Deal with any workplace hazards head on
If your job requires a lot of heavy lifting or exposure to dangerous chemicals, talk to your employer about modifying your work arrangements before you start trying to conceive.
Make sure that your immunizations are up to date
While most adult women in North America are immune to rubella (German measles) and chickenpox, it's a good idea to double-check that you are before you start trying to conceive. Both can be dangerous to the developing baby if contracted during pregnancy.
Get to a healthy weight
Studies have shown that women who are significantly over- or underweight face an increased risk of infertility and that overweight women face an increased risk of requiring a cesarean delivery or experiencing other pregnancy-related complications.
Start taking folic acid
Your baby needs a whole cocktail of nutrients to grow and develop, including folic acid -- a "miracle nutrient" that has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of such neural tube defects as anencephaly and spina bifida if taken in the months leading up to and during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Kick bad habits
Avoid alcohol and cigarettes from the moment you start trying to conceive. Ditto for street drugs: They're just plain bad news for babies and mothers-to-be.
Go slow when it comes to caffeine
Research has indicated that excessive caffeine consumption can impair a woman's fertility and may increase her risk of miscarriage. If you can't swear off your morning coffee entirely, you might want to follow the advice of Peter Nathanielsz, M.D., Ph.D., author of The Prenatal Prescription, and limit your consumption to one to two cups per day.
While there are no guarantees in the reproductive world, it only makes sense to do what you can to spin the roulette wheel in your favor. With any luck, you'll walk away with the ultimate prize: a healthy baby.