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Five Must-Dos Before Getting Pregnant

By Rhonda Mann
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center staff


When Jamie Hanson and her husband decided it was time to grow their family, Jamie, who worked as an accountant at a large firm, did the math.

"I wanted to make sure we could afford to have a baby," she recalls. "I know it should be more of an emotional decision than a practical one, but for me, I didn't want to get into it and realize we didn't have money to buy diapers."

They figured that with some belt tightening and by borrowing some baby hand-me-downs from her older sister, they could make it work.

"We were very excited and from that point out, just went for it!" Jamie says.

Are You Ready?

While there are many practical factors to consider before expanding both your belly and your family, it's perhaps most critical to make sure both parents-to-be are completely ready to bring a little one into their lives, according to Christine Sweeney, a licensed social worker in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and manager of The Parent Connection, a free support service to first-time parents.

"Both parents should be in agreement that they would like to become pregnant. Becoming parents is a major life transition," she notes. "In an ideal situation, other major transitions such as a move across country, starting a new career, or trying to complete a PhD thesis, should not be happening at the same time."

Sweeney also advises that having a baby will never fix what's wrong in a relationship. In fact, she says, the stress that comes with adjusting to parenthood will make a strained relationship even more strained.

Kick the Habit

It's also critically important that both parents stop smoking prior to becoming pregnant. If you can't stop completely, even cutting back is helpful.

"It's the most important modifiable risk factor associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes," says Dr. Karen O'Brien, a high risk obstetrician at BIDMC.

The dangers of cigarette smoke on both moms-to-be and babies have long been documented; they include infertility, pre-term labor and delivery, low birth weight, placental eruption and dysplasia, ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage.

"Even if you've tried to stop before, there is no better motivation than the well-being of your new baby," says Dr. O'Brien. "Talk to your doctor about the best tools to help you quit."

Review Medicines

Next, you'll need to review the medications you take. If you have a chronic medical condition, such as thyroid disease, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, or a psychiatric condition, see your doctor to make sure your prescription medications are safe for pregnancy.

"Some medications should not be taken in early pregnancy and switching to a safer medication can usually be done a month or two before conceiving," says Dr. Celeste Royce, an obstetrician at BIDMC.

This does not mean you should stop taking your medications on your own. For example, while ACE inhibitors and ARBS used to treat high blood pressure may be harmful during pregnancy, stopping them suddenly could also be dangerous. Your doctor can help find safer alternatives and advise you how to make the switch safely.

Even some prescription skin creams, such as Accutane and Retin-A, are not recommended during pregnancy.

"We can't say it enough - check with your prenatal provider as to the safety of any drug you are taking, and inform the provider about any new medication prescribed by another provider," stresses Dr. Royce.

Get Your Teeth Checked

Also, make an appointment with your dentist.

"Oral infections can be linked to bad pregnancy outcomes," says Elizabeth Kester, RN, Perinatal Outreach Manager in the Maternal and Child Health Department at Lawrence General Hospital, an affiliate of BIDMC.

In fact, recent studies have shown pregnant women with periodontal disease may be seven times more likely deliver a premature, low-birth-weight baby.

"While it is safe to have most dental procedures done during pregnancy, a check-up before getting pregnant can identify problems and give you time to get work done without worrying," notes BIDMC's Dr. Royce.

Get Moving

Finally, start an exercise routine prior to conceiving, and continue it during your pregnancy.

"Doing activities such as walking, jogging, yoga and swimming during most uncomplicated pregnancies can help you in a number of ways, including keeping your weight gain to an appropriate level," says Dr. Hope Ricciotti, Interim Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at BIDMC.

Exercise also helps prevent the aches and pains of pregnancy, can prepare your body for childbirth and, of course, helps your stamina for keeping up with your little one as he/she grows into an active toddler.

"Start your 30-minute-a-day exercise program prior to pregnancy when you are feeling your best and make it a habit," advises Dr. Ricciotti. "Your active lifestyle will set an example for your child and you'll look great too."

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted September 2012

Contact Information

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
East Campus
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-0475

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