Once a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she often works very hard to be as healthy as possible. What many women don’t know is that staying healthy between pregnancies is just as important. And that is even more crucial when you realize that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned.
What we are talking about here is called Preconception Health. Focusing on these steps has been shown to increase the chances of having a healthy baby (CDC, 2018)
- Visit your provider for a checkup at least 3 months before becoming pregnant – they can help identify any health issues that should be addressed.
- If you have a chronic illness like diabetes, asthma, depression, thyroid disease, an eating disorder or high blood pressure, they can work with you to help get those under control before you become pregnant.
- If you are overweight, work with your provider to come up with a plan to help you reach a healthy weight before you become pregnant.
- Talk with your provider about any over-the-counter medicines you are taking.
- If you become pregnant, take folic acid (400-800 mcg or 0.4-0.8 mg) that can help to prevent birth defects of the spine and brain, including spina bifida. If you’re planning to become pregnant, your provider may also prescribe prenatal vitamins.
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
- If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, talk with your provider about getting help so you can have the healthiest pregnancy possible. (Office on Women’s Health, June 2018)
It’s also important to do some planning and preparation between pregnancies. Becoming pregnant earlier than 18 months after delivery increases your risk of premature birth. The shorter the time between pregnancies, the higher your risk. Premature babies are at higher risk for having health problems than those born on time.
Another reason to wait to become pregnant again is that your body needs time to recover from your previous pregnancy. Make sure you talk with your provider about the type of birth control that’s right for you, so you don’t become pregnant again before the time is right.