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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Pregnancy -- Preconception Planning

Preconception planning — Make sure your body is ready for the demands of pregnancy.

If you've decided you're ready to get pregnant, you may already be emotionally committed to parenthood. But is your body prepared for the task ahead?

To help ensure a healthy pregnancy, schedule a preconception appointment with your doctor. Be ready to discuss the following subjects.

Birth control

If you've been taking birth control pills, your doctor may recommend a pill-free break before trying to conceive. This will allow your reproductive system to go through several normal cycles — which will make it easier to more accurately determine when ovulation occurred and establish an expected due date.

During the pill-free break, you may want to use condoms or another barrier method of contraception.

Immunities

Infections such as chickenpox (varicella) and German measles (rubella) can cause serious disease for your unborn baby. If you aren't immune to these infections, your doctor may recommend being vaccinated at least one month before you try to conceive.

Chronic conditions

If you have a chronic medical condition — such as diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure — you'll want to make sure it's under control before you conceive. Your doctor will explain any special care you may need during pregnancy as well.

Family history

Sometimes family history — either your history or your partner's — increases the risk of having a child with certain conditions or birth defects. If genetic disorders are a concern, your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor for a preconception assessment.

Medications and supplements

Tell your doctor about any medications, herbs or supplements you're taking. He or she may recommend changing doses or stopping them completely before you conceive.

This is also the time to begin taking a prenatal vitamin. Make sure it includes folic acid — a B vitamin that helps prevent serious birth defects in early pregnancy. Before conception and during pregnancy, you'll need 1 milligram (1,000 micrograms) of folic acid a day.

Age

After age 35, the risk of fertility problems, miscarriage and certain chromosomal disorders increases. Some pregnancy-related problems, such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, are more common in older mothers as well. Discuss these risks with your doctor and develop a plan for avoiding complications.

Previous pregnancies

Your doctor will ask about previous pregnancies. Be sure to mention any complications you may have had, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, preterm labor, premature birth or birth defects. Share any concerns or fears you may have about another pregnancy. Your doctor will help you identify the best ways to boost the chances of a healthy pregnancy.

Lifestyle

Healthy lifestyle choices can help give your baby the best start. Your doctor will discuss eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and keeping stress under control. It's also important to avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. If you smoke, ask your doctor about resources to help you quit.

Your partner

If possible, have your partner attend the preconception visit with you. He can answer questions about his family medical history and risk factors for infections or birth defects. Your partner's health and lifestyle are important because they can affect you and your baby.

Source: http://health.msn.com/

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