Planning a baby
are trying to have a baby."
Women commonly use those words
around family, friends, and co-workers.
But do they say them to their
Most women don't consider
going to a physician to discuss preconception issues. They just
stop their birth control method and "hope for the best,"
says Arthur T. Evans, M.D., director of the Division of
Maternal-Fetal Medicine and professor in the Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Kentucky College of
"A couple needs to plan
for a pregnancy as much as possible," Evans says. "A
woman needs to be prepared for a pregnancy. She needs to know if
there are risk factors involved and what those risk factors mean
for her and her baby."
Evans recommends the following
tips to prepare for conception:
*Schedule annual visits with a
physician for a pelvic and breast exam. The appointment is a
convenient time to discuss preconception issues.
*Women who are in their
reproductive years should take a multivitamin daily.
*All women in a sexual
relationship who are of childbearing age need to take a folic acid
supplement daily. Folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube
defects such as spina bifida. Although folic acid is found in
foods such as dark-green leafy vegetables, women still should take
a supplement to ensure they are getting an adequate amount.
*If a woman smokes, she should
quit before she becomes pregnant. Smoking decreases birth weight
and increases the risk of premature birth. Smoking in the home
also has a higher association with asthma, ear infections, and
lung infections in children.
*When a woman is trying to get
pregnant, she should restrict her alcohol consumption. As soon as
she knows she's pregnant, she should stop drinking all alcoholic
*Regular exercise and
maintaining normal body weight is beneficial to the pregnancy. If
a woman wants to lose weight, she needs to do so before or after
*If a woman has a chronic
condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, she needs to
make sure her body is healthy before trying to get pregnant. She
also needs to talk with her physician about the impact pregnancy
will have on her body and how her illness will affect her
"Trying to get pregnant
is a happy, fun time in a couple's lives; however, there are
things women can do to ensure having the healthiest child
possible," Evans says.