New Year, New Baby?
Did you wait until the clock struck midnight before you started thinking about your New Year's resolutions? No? So, why wait until a little plus sign shows up on that plastic stick to start preparing yourself for one of the most life-changing decisions you will make - becoming pregnant.
Of course, adopting a healthy lifestyle at any stage of pregnancy is beneficial. Research now suggests that a mom's habits before conception also influence her baby's well-being at birth and for their entire lifetime. Getting your body ready for pregnancy now optimizes both a mom's health and that of her child to be.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends preconception care should include health education, screenings for health risks such as diabetes and obesity, and implementing interventions which address the identified risks to mom and baby.
Get your weight in check
Thirty-three percent of women who could become pregnant are considered obese (a body-mass index greater than 30). Obesity, as well as being underweight (body-mass index less than 18), can significantly interfere with fertility and prolong the amount of time it may take to conceive. Starting pregnancy at a healthy weight means there is a lower risk of complications for mom and baby during pregnancy and delivery.
Women who are overweight before pregnancy have a tendency to stay overweight for the duration of their pregnancy and after. Dietitians often interview and counsel women whose pre-pregnancy overweight status and the subsequent weight gained during pregnancy was the beginning of a life-long struggle with obesity.
Check your blood sugars
The American Diabetes Association estimates 57 million Americans are at risk for developing diabetes because they have pre-diabetes. This is defined as a fasting blood sugar of 100-125 mcg/dl. High glucose concentrations prior to conception may be a sign of what's to come and can often predict gestational diabetes (a major cause of high birth weight babies) and post-pregnancy type 2 diabetes. Preconception screening and management of this condition has the potential to reduce many pregnancy risks.
Women low in iron, folic acid and choline prior to conception, have a tendency to go even lower in these nutrients during pregnancy. This may increase the risks for neural-tube defects or pre-term delivery. Eating a diet that is abundant in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can help prevent a pre-pregnancy deficiency. Additionally, taking your pre-natal vitamins before conception and during pregnancy is very important.
Decrease your caffeine
Decrease your intake of caffeine from coffee, tea, soda or other sources to less than 200 mg/day. This can decrease the risk of a miscarriage and infertility.
Avoiding alcohol while trying to conceive and during pregnancy is paramount to the health of your baby. Even the smallest amount of alcohol at anytime during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder. FASD is the direct result of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, which can cause physical, mental, behavioral and/or learning disabilities. Additionally, FASD can cause neurological and behavioral birth defects including mental retardation which are not curable.
Stacey Hitemsan, R.D., is a registered dietitian at Flagstaff Medical Center. Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Relations, 1200 North Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC's Web site at FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.