Baby on the brain? Even if your plans are not in the immediate future, you can get started now on preparing for the healthiest possible future pregnancy.
Diana Sunday, MD, specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center. Below, she shares some of her top pregnancy planning tips. Male readers: tips 1 and 2 apply to you, too!
One. Considering a baby—someday? Let your doctor know now.
The earlier you start tackling health issues that may affect a future pregnancy, the healthier you’ll be by the time you’re ready to seriously consider a baby—and that’s true for both men and women.
“Women sometimes feel silly mentioning their family plans to their doctor until they are seriously considering trying to get pregnant, and many men never speak to their doctor about their reproductive plans at all,” says Dr. Sunday. “Don’t hesitate to bring this up with your doctor sooner rather than later.”
In the early stages of your conception planning, you and your doctor can discuss lifestyle and dietary changes to maximize your fertility. Your physician can also answer any questions you have on your mind. As your planning progresses, your doctor can help you consider treatment for any health conditions that may impact fertility or pregnancy, the role of your personal and family medical history, and the tests and screenings you may require.
Two. Stay clear of Zika-affected areas.
Zika is a virus carried by mosquitos in certain areas of the world. It is linked to problems in pregnancy and birth defects in fetuses. Both men and women of reproductive age should take Zika into account when planning travel.
You should take precautions to avoid pregnancy for a period of time after returning from Zika-affected regions. Talk with your doctor about what areas of the world to avoid, if possible; precautions you can take to prevent pregnancy if travel to these regions is unavoidable; and symptoms of Zika to watch out for post-travel.
Three. Vitamins are vital—even if you’re not yet expecting.
“You may already know that it is important for pregnant women to supplement a healthy diet with a prenatal vitamin,” says Dr. Sunday. “But it’s actually a good idea for all women of reproductive age, even those who aren’t expecting, to talk with their doctor about taking a prenatal vitamin.”
Prenatal vitamins typically offer a higher dose of folic acid and iron than a typical adult multivitamin. Iron supports the baby’s healthy growth, and folic acid reduces the risk of neural-tube defects. The best plan is to start a prenatal vitamin at least three months before you conceive.
“By taking prenatal vitamins and maintaining a healthy lifestyle before your positive pregnancy test, you can support your baby's development during those critical first months and beyond,” says Dr. Sunday.
Meet Dr. Diana Sunday
Dr. Sunday specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center. Learn more about her approach to care.