A Healthy Pregnancy Starts Before Conception

Taking care of yourself prior to pregnancy can reduce your risk of major complications—and help you stay well before, during and after those 40 weeks.

A Healthy Pregnancy Starts Before Conception

The Midas myth is a powerful allegory: A man can turn everything he touches into gold—but will starve to death since he cannot eat gold. The U.S. is one of the richest countries in the world but, like Afghanistan and Mali, we’ve had an increase in maternal mortality since 2003; the U.S. maternal mortality rate is more than double Canada and Saudi Arabia’s.

What accounts for the increase? Lack of or poor prenatal care affects around 30 percent of American women, allowing hypertension, obesity and diabetes to run rampant, increasing the risk for life-threatening complications.

If you’re thinking of getting pregnant or you’re already pregnant, here are some ways you can stay healthy.

Practice smart self-care. A few strategies include:

  • ​Not smoking
  • Achieving a healthy pre-pregnancy weight
  • Starting a prenatal vitamin with DHA three months before conception
  • Not gaining too much while pregnant
  • Eating a nutritious diet
  • Getting daily physical activity
  • Refraining from drinking alcohol
  • Sleeping 7 to 8 hours nightly

Seek good medical care. Find out if you have health issues that put you at risk for complications during pregnancy—and address them before you get pregnant. It’s also important to ask about vaccines to have before, during and after your pregnancy.

After conception, see your doctor once a month for weeks 4 to 28, twice a month for weeks 28 to 36, and weekly from week 36 until you give birth. If you’re over 35, your doctor may recommend more frequent visits.

With the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid, it is much easier to qualify for Medicaid when you’re pregnant. Hopefully, this will help the U.S. maternal mortality rates decline.

Medically reviewed in May 2019.

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