Once you’ve begun your fertility journey, there are a few things you can do to better prepare your body. Here are three of the most important things…
1. Treat Your Body Right—Kick Old Habits
Once you decide that you are ready to have a baby, it is tempting to jump right in and start trying to get pregnant. But if you have some old habits that might cause harm to a developing baby, it’s better to get rid of those first. Cigarette smoking can cause infertility by its toxic effect on a woman’s eggs. It can also cause miscarriage, premature delivery, and low birth weight by reducing the flow of mom’s blood, which carries vital nutrients to the baby.
As little as two or more drinks of alcohol a day doubles the risk of miscarriage and can be harmful to the baby’s brain development. Three drinks a day during pregnancy can cause major facial deformities as seen in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Drugs like cocaine can lead to premature birth and to sudden separation of the placenta from the uterus, which can lead to massive hemorrhage and potentially to fetal death.
Although marijuana use does not seem to increase the risk of birth defects or infant death in the first two years of life, studies show that it might affect the child’s ability to concentrate and process information later in life, and possibly increases the child’s risk for cancers like leukemia.
Large amounts of caffeine should also be avoided since miscarriages are more common in women who consume more than three cups of coffee a day. Small amounts of caffeine (one cup a day) is most likely not harmful.
2. Take Those Vitamins
Folic acid–when taken at least one month prior to conceiving–is one of the best-known ways to prevent a class of birth defects called neural tube defects. They are the second most common type of birth defect and can range in severity from a small hole in the bony part of the spine to the absence of large portions of the brain. Nearly all multivitamins contain 400 mcg of folic acid, which is a good dose for most women. Prescription-level prenatal vitamins usually contain 1000 mcg (1 mg).
3. Let Your Doctor Know
If you’re thinking of getting pregnant, it’s best to let your doctor know. If you have medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, these should be treated before you get pregnant. Pregnancy can add extra stress to the body and can make these conditions worse, which is bad for mom and for baby. Depending on your family history and your race or ethnicity, certain genetic tests might be recommended pre-conceptually. Many women and men unknowingly carry genes for diseases like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. If both the mother and father carry the gene, even though they might have no symptoms at all from it, they have about a 25% chance of having a baby affected by the disease.