Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting Healthy for Your Unborn Baby

Tips to ensure a healthy lifestyle before pregnancy...

By Tracy Fritz, MS, RN, FNP-BC, APNP
Nurse Practitioner

Sometimes, pregnancy doesn’t give much warning before it’s already here. SURPRISE! Therefore, it’s important to recognize that a healthy lifestyle is not only important when you are thinking of becoming pregnant, but also for daily living.

Being healthy before a pregnancy, or “preconception health,” is very important in helping to give baby the best shot at a healthy start. It can also affect the health of the mother during and following pregnancy.

However, preconception health also applies to the partner, too. Issues like smoking, food choices, immunizations, drugs, and stress are just as important for the partner as the mother. These are all things that can affect a healthy pregnancy and can affect the child’s health after he or she is born. All of these things can and should be discussed with your provider before you are considering a pregnancy.

What are some things that can be done to plan for a healthy pregnancy?

1.  Make sure your weight is stable and healthy for your height. Now is the time if you are going to start a weight loss program, consider becoming a vegetarian or do anything that will improve your health but may stress out your body—because after you are actually pregnant, it is not recommended to dramatically change your eating or exercise habits.

2.  Get 0.8mg (or 800mcg) of Folic Acid for at least 3 months before a pregnancy. This can easily be obtained through a good prenatal vitamin (either over-the-counter or by prescription). Please check the label prior to purchase or consult your Women’s Care Provider. This can prevent neural tube defects in the first trimester of pregnancy.

3.  STOP unhealthy practices. This includes, but is not limited to, smoking, alcohol, and illicit drug use. If there is ever a time in your life that you have more motivation to quit, the time is now. It has never been shown in any literature that any amount of tobacco, drug or alcohol use is safe in pregnancy. In fact, the risk to the baby and your health during pregnancy are greatly affected, and this can lead to maternal and fetal complications and possibly death. There are also prescription medications that can be damaging to a developing fetus and should be discussed with your Women’s Care Provider prior to pregnancy.

4.  Avoid environmental teratogens. A teratogen is any agent that can disturb the development of an embryo or fetus. These harmful agents can be found in the home or at work, and include, but are not limited to, solvents, fumes, heavy metals (mercury or lead), and pesticides. Again, no recommended amount of exposure is okay during pregnancy and should be avoided. It is also noted that environmental exposures can also affect your body’s ability to get pregnant.

5.  Check for medical conditions and STDs. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, etc, it is recommended to speak with your Women’s Care Provider prior to a pregnancy as well as your primary medical provider. It is also recommended to have sexually transmitted disease screening for you and your partner, and to get treatment if needed prior to a pregnancy. Some STDs can affect your body’s ability to become pregnant even if the symptoms were not noticeable during the infection.

6.  Get a genetic screening. Any genetic screening for Cystic Fibrosis, Tay Sachs, Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalessemia, etc, that can affect a pregnancy is also encouraged prior to getting pregnant, to ensure the best possible outcomes for you and your baby.

7.  Get up to date on vaccines. Please get your vaccines updated before considering a pregnancy, as there are some that can NOT be given during your pregnancy. It is always recommended to obtain an influenza vaccine before or during your pregnancy to avoid life-threatening complications of influenza and prevent your baby from infection. Babies are not able to get a flu shot until they reach at least 6 months of age. So to protect you and your family, get vaccinated. This goes for everyone in the household and those who will be taking care of your baby after he or she is born.

8.  Discuss concerns with your provider. If you had problems with past pregnancies, it is recommended to discuss these concerns with your Women’s Care Provider prior to attempting another pregnancy. Also, if you have had any lower abdominal surgeries or procedures that may have affected the uterus or cervix, those would also be important to discuss as well.
*(ACOG, 2011) (NIH, 2011) (NICHD, 2011)

Considering a pregnancy can be the most exciting and scary time of your life and you are NEVER going to be 100% prepared for that little bundle of joy—but as they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and a healthy lifestyle paves the way for a healthy baby. The providers at Women’s Care are here for you to help you with all your questions about your health, your partner’s health and your unborn baby’s health. Happy planning!

Tracy Fritz is a Nurse Practitioner at the Oshkosh location of Women’s Care of Wisconsin. Contact her at 920-729-7105 or meet her here.

About Women’s Care of Wisconsin: The providers at Women’s Care of Wisconsin are devoted to you and your health. That means having the most advanced techniques, up-to-date educational information and a compassionate, caring staff. Our providers offer a well-rounded approach to your OB/GYN care, one that meets both your physical and emotional needs throughout every phase of your life. We call it our Circle of Care. From adolescence through menopause and beyond, you can depend on us. Meet our providers and learn more about gynecology, pregnancy care, infertility, procedures and surgery, incontinence, osteoporosis, menopause and more at http://www.womenscareofwi.com/.

* ACOG, 2011.  FAQ Good Health Before Pregnancy: Preconception Care. Internet search on December 7, 2011 at http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq056.ashx

National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2011.  Preconception Care: MedlinePlus. Internet search on December 7, 2011 at http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq056.ashx

National Institute of Child Health And Development (NICHD), 2011.  Preconception Care. Internet search on December 7, 2011 at http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq056.ashx