Oh, Baby: For the Quarterlette Moms-To-Be

FEBRUARY 26, 2014


Congratulations! You have decided that you are ready to have a baby. Your plan is to get pregnant, wait nine months and deliver your beautiful bundle of joy. Easy, right?

Let’s take a step back and consider that (in most circumstances) you are now turning your body into a human incubator. Everything that you eat, drink and do even PRIOR to conceiving has the potential to affect your future child. Sound scary? Well,  the good news is that much of what you need to keep in mind is part of your basic health care (see Roadmap to Health), with some added points specific to pregnancy.

So what should you know?

  1. Prenatal vitamins: This is very important to prevent spinal cord and neurological defects in a growing baby. Folic acid is the big component that helps with this in prenatal vitamins. It is recommended to take a prenatal vitamin with 400-800 micrograms daily. Many prenatal vitamins also have a component in them called DHA. This is an omega fatty acid that helps with brain and eye development.  The dosage recommended for DHA is 50 mg daily. My recommendation is to take a prenatal vitamin with DHA and start three months prior to trying to conceive to allow adequate levels in your system. (A full year is even better!)

  2. See your doctor: You should have a complete physical as well as a gynecologic exam before attempting conception. Make sure that your blood pressure is normal and your weight is in the normal range. High blood pressure and obesity increase risks during pregnancy both to baby and mom. Your doctor may also get labs to screen for diabetes, thyroid and infectious diseases, as well as testing for inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs disease, as part of your pre-conception screening.

  3. Diet:  A balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is recommended. Pregnancy is not the time to lose weight! Fish high in mercury should be avoided – shark (yes, shark), swordfish, mackerel, tilefish. Unpasteurized dairy products, raw meats and deli meats should also be avoided due to increased risks of bacterial infections. Limit caffeine to 120 mg per day, which is the equivalent of a small coffee or soda.

  4. Exercise: Moderate daily exercise prior to conception and during pregnancy is recommended. It can also help you get through a long labor by increasing your stamina!

  5. Alcohol: You should stop all alcohol consumption while trying to conceive. Alcohol is a known teratogen, which means that it has been proven to have abnormal effects on fetal development and cause birth defects.

  6. Smoking: QUIT! Enough said.

  7. Medication do’s and don’ts:

    • NSAIDS: Don’t! This includes ibuprofen, aspirin, Advil, Aleve, Exedrin, Naprosyn, etc… This category of drugs is also known to be teratogenic. You should not take any of these medications while trying to conceive.

    • Tylenol: Do! Tylenol is safe in pregnancy. Use it for fever, body pain, headaches.

    • Cold medications: Don’t! Almost every over the counter medication for symptom relief and most prescription medications are also teratogenic. They should be avoided. See your health care provider if you are having symptoms.

  8. Remember breastfeeding is best: If you plan on breastfeeding, get a support system early on to help you out (friends, family, lactation consultant, community groups).

  9. Special circumstances:  Please see your health care provider if you are over the age of 35, if you take prescription medications, if you are not pregnant after 6 months of trying to conceive, if you are obese, or if you have a personal or family history of miscarriage, genetic issues, or birth defects. These scenarios require additional screening and management.

Dr. Sarah J. Wistreich is a staff physician at the Center for Women’s Health at Capital Health located in Hamilton, NJ. You can follow her on Twitter: @DrWistreich

    All information contained herein is the opinion and view of the writer. It is intended to provide helpful and informative material on the subjects addressed and is not meant to malign any company, organization, religion, ethnic group, or individual. Readers should consult their personal physicians or specialists before adopting any of the recommendations or drawing inference from information contained herein. The writer specifically disclaims all responsibility for any liability, loss, risk — personal or otherwise — incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from the use and application of any material provided.Please note: This information was current as of its post date. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. Please see your physician for the most up to date information.

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