Getting healthy before pregnancy
A healthy pregnancy starts before you get pregnant. It’s important to know what you can do before pregnancy to help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
- Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant. Once you’re pregnant, get early and regular prenatal care.
- Check to see if your vaccinations are up to date. Rubella (German measles) and chickenpox can cause birth defects and other problems if you get them during pregnancy.
- Get a dental checkup. Keep up your regular dental checkups before and during pregnancy. If you have gum disease, getting treatment before pregnancy may prevent health problems in you and your baby.
- Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. If you take it before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs).
- Eat healthy foods and get to a healthy weight. Being at a healthy weight before pregnancy may help you avoid health problems in you or your baby. Overweight, obese and underweight women are more likely than woman of a healthy weight to have pregnancy problems. Eat healthy during pregnancy and learn more about what foods to avoid during pregnancy.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, use street drugs or take prescription drugs that aren’t prescribed for you. And stay away from secondhand smoke. All of these things can harm your baby during pregnancy. Tell your health care provider if you need help to quit.
- Keep safe from toxoplasmosis by not eating undercooked meat or changing your cat’s litter box. Undercooked meat and cat poop may have parasite in them that causes an infection called toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects.
- Keep safe from pets that are rodents, like hamsters, mice and guinea pigs. Rodents can carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) that can harm your baby.
- Stay away from harmful chemicals, like paint thinner. Some chemicals may increase your chances of having a baby with birth defects.
- Get help if you’ve been abused by your partner. Abuse often gets worse during pregnancy.
- Reduce the stress in your life. Too much stress can cause problems during pregnancy.
For more information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC Show Your Love Campaign
Last reviewed September 2012
See also: Are you ready emotionally?, Are you ready financially?, Getting pregnant, Your checkup before pregnancy
Most common questions
Can dad's exposure to chemicals harm his future kids?
Dad's exposure to harmful chemicals and substances before conception or during his partner's pregnancy can affect his children. Harmful exposures can include drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs), alcohol, cigarettes, cigarette smoke, chemotherapy and radiation. They also include exposure to lead, mercury and pesticides.
Unlike mom's exposures, dad's exposures do not appear to cause birth defects. They can, however, damage a man's sperm quality, causing fertility problems and miscarriage. Some exposures may cause genetic changes in sperm that may increase the risk of childhood cancer. Cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can seriously alter sperm, at least for a few months post treatment. Some men choose to bank their sperm to preserve its integrity before they receive treatment. If you have a question about a specific exposure, contact the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at www.otispregnancy.org.
I've been diagnosed with PCOS. Can I get pregnant?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, hormones, heart, blood vessels, appearance (especially excessive hair growth) and the ability to have children. Although women do make small levels of androgens, also called male hormones, women with PCOS typically have high levels of androgens. This creates a hormonal disorder that affects ovulation and fertility. PCOS can cause many infertility cases. However, with the right treatment, many women have been able to get pregnant.
Women with PCOS often have trouble keeping a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight and increasing physical activity will help maintain ovulation and fertility. It'll also help prevent other complications like diabetes and heart disease. Your health care provider might consider the following treatments to help you get pregnant.
- Medications to help improve insulin resistance and ovulation
- Medication to induce ovulation
My menstrual period is irregular. Can I get pregnant?
Every woman's menstrual cycle is different. Some women have their cycle like clockwork. Others have trouble knowing when it's going to happen. If you have only slight variations from month to month, but you have your menstrual period at least once every 25 to 35 days, this could be normal. However, if your cycle is absent for more than 2 months, you bleed too little or too much and you can't predict when it's going to happen, talk to your health provider. Having an irregular menstrual cycle may mean that ovulation isn't happening or it's happening only a few times a year. This will affect your ability to get pregnant. Your health provider will probably check your thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands. After a checkup your health provider will discuss your treatment options.