If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, or if you’re already trying, you may have read about lifestyle adjustments you can make in order to boost your fertility and odds of getting pregnant. But here’s the thing: pre-pregnancy health isn’t just about helping you get pregnant faster. Pre-pregnancy health is also about having a healthier baby and making sure you stay healthy throughout your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.
Increasing research shows that key complications in pregnancy are tied to pre-existing health issues. Many of the health issues that can affect baby are set in motion before the pregnancy begins, or in the early weeks of pregnancy, possibly before mom knows she’s pregnant or is well-established in her prenatal care. This is why we care about pre-pregnancy (also called preconception) health. Here at Baby+Co., we want mom and baby to be as healthy as possible.
So let’s talk about what pre-pregnancy health actually does for you and your baby.
The Biology of Preconception (or: why the health of your egg matters)
We know, we know. The word “biology” might send you screaming but, trust us, the experts on our team think this is important, and we’re going to break it down for you – no high school science quiz required!
The few months before pregnancy are particularly important because your egg is maturing. Preconception care – or, eating healthy, working out, quitting smoking – gives you the chance to optimize the egg.
Nutritional deficiencies or toxic exposures during those few months before pregnancy significantly affect the way that the DNA in the egg will express itself. (Which is to say, Mom’s diet or habits before pregnancy – like smoking – can affect the baby, even if she starts eating better or quits smoking once she is actually pregnant.)
So there is this sensitive period during the time when the egg is getting ready to be released where the egg can still be optimized in terms of how the genes will work. (You can read more about about this in detail at the National Preconception Health and Healthcare Initiative.)
Managing Chronic Illnesses and Infections
The best way to have a healthy pregnancy is to start pregnancy healthy. If you have a chronic illness – common issues include thyroid problems, high blood pressure, and/or diabetes – it’s important to see a physician or a board-certified nurse midwife to ensure that they are properly managed, since these are issues that can set a person up for a high risk pregnancy.
Infections, such as STIs, also fall under this category of health issues that can significantly impact the course of pregnancy if not properly treated with the assistance of a healthcare professional.
Managing chronic issues through lifestyle adjustments and any necessary medication is vital not only for the health of mom but also for the health of baby. Many chronic conditions are common, and people with chronic conditions get pregnant all the time. Taking care of your health ahead of time lowers the chance of a high risk pregnancy and enables you to have choice and a full range of options for labor and birth further down the road.
Getting your health in order before pregnancy can also reduce your risk of long-term health problems. Preventing pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia also reduces the risk of chronic health problems like diabetes and heart disease later on.
What can I do right now for my pre-pregnancy health?
Preconception health isn’t about making a huge lifestyle overhaul overnight. Making relatively modest adjustments can have a big impact on your health as well as your future baby’s health – and really, their entire DNA structure.
The Baby+Co. team has a few easy, high impact recommendations that you can implement right now:
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin
- Quit smoking
- Cut down on processed sugars (replace with naturally sweet foods, like fruits)
Not every case of gestational diabetes or preeclampsia is prevented by preconception health. However, the odds are significantly reduced by engaging in preconception health, and the best window of opportunity to prevent them is before pregnancy begins.
The importance of being well + prepared
Ultimately, pre-pregnancy health is just basic self-care.
Most pregnancies are unplanned. The benefit of a planned pregnancy not only gives your baby their best chance at health – it gives you the chance to plan ahead when it comes to your finances, career, and relationships.
Here at Baby+Co., we have an entire pre-pregnancy program for moms and families who are planning a family: Well + Prepared. It’s not just about preconception clinical visits – Well + Prepared takes a Complete Care style approach to your whole life before baby. We meet with you to talk about your lifestyle, fitness, and nutrition, as well as pragmatic things like understanding your insurance options and basic family budgeting.
Well + Prepared sets you up with achievable goals and pragmatic steps you can take to make relatively modest changes that will have a profound effect on your fertility and your family’s ability to plan for a new baby.
To learn more about Well + Prepared, or to come into your local Baby+Co. for a center tour, click “Contact” at the top of this page! We look forward to meeting you.