Your Maternity Journey Vol. 1

Start These Healthy Pre-natal Habits Now

No matter what your current health status is, there are several habits you should start now – or keep doing – if you are planning to get pregnant. Talk to your doctor about other healthy lifestyle changes you can make to increase your likelihood for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

  • Get regular exercise. Aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, such as walking, cycling or swimming. Or try a yoga class to improve strength and help manage stress. Anything that gets you moving and is enjoyable will be a good choice – and you can likely continue after you get pregnant. When working out, remember to drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
  • Focus on your diet. Of course eating a balanced diet is always important, but for mothers-to-be, eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is vital. Cut out junk food and empty calories now, and up your intake of leafy greens, nuts, and low-fat dairy to ensure you are getting the most nutrients possible.
  • Take a good multi-vitamin that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent serious neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida that can happen even before you know you are pregnant. Even if you are eating a healthy diet, it can be hard to get enough folic acid without taking a multi-vitamin supplement. Any prenatal vitamin is a good choice as most of them will have the recommended amount of folic acid, though in some cases your doctor may recommend additional folic acid.
  • Aim to maintain a healthy weight. Being underweight or overweight can both cause problems with getting pregnant or having a healthy pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to determine a healthy weight, then develop a plan to help you achieve and maintain that weight through diet and exercise.
  • Floss daily. Yes, dental health is important before and during pregnancy! The risk of gum disease increases when you’re pregnant, so make daily flossing a habit now. And be sure to see your dentist for a cleaning and check-up before you become pregnant.
  • Moderate your caffeine intake. You can still enjoy a morning cup of coffee or tea, but try to keep your total daily caffeine intake under 200 milligrams. While high levels of caffeine may affect fertility, most experts agree than up to 200 milligrams (about one 12 oz cup of coffee) should be safe.
  • Eliminate alcohol now. An occasional glass of wine probably won’t affect your ability to get pregnant – but there is no amount of alcohol that is safe to consume once you are pregnant. All non-prescribed drug use should be stopped as well. Though marijuana is legal, no amount is known to be safe in pregnancy, and it can damage your baby’s brain development. Marijuana is not a good remedy for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and can even exacerbate those symptoms. Since many women don’t know they are pregnant for a few weeks or more, your best bet is to eliminate alcohol and non-prescribed drugs now.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking is unhealthy for everyone, so you should stop even if you aren’t planning to get pregnant. But for women planning to conceive, smoking can lower your chances of getting pregnant, and increase your chances for miscarriage. For your health, the health of those around you, and the health of your future children, just stop smoking now. Need help? Learn more about MarinHealth’s Smoking Cessation program and other resources.

Thinking About Starting a Family? Here are Some Important Things to Think About

Starting a family is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, and one that you’ll want to be prepared for. Whether you’re ready to start now, or thinking about the next year or two, there are several things you can do now to help you get ready, pick the right time, and ensure that you’re prepared physically, emotionally, and financially.

Preconception health, which focuses on the things you can do before getting pregnant to help increase your chances for having a healthy pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby is one of the most important considerations. But before we get into that, let’s talk about another area that is especially important when planning for your first baby: emotional preparedness.

Emotional Preparation

There’s no doubt about it – having a baby changes your life forever. While this change brings an abundance of happiness and joy into your life, it will also affect you in ways you may not have considered. Being prepared emotionally and mentally can help you cope with the transition to parenthood, and even reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

The first step is to let go of any unrealistic expectations you might have of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood based on the idealized stories you see on TV or social media. Managing your expectations, and recognizing that there will be many challenges, mistakes, and imperfect moments along the way is one of the best ways to stay emotionally grounded and healthy. If you are anxious, sad, or frequently stressed, find a good therapist who can help you develop the tools to better manage your emotional health, or recommend additional treatment if necessary. And if you take medications for anxiety and/or depression, be sure to discuss with your OB and your prescribing psychiatrist or PCP to determine whether those medications are safe for pregnancy.

Other questions to ask yourself (and your partner) before becoming pregnant include:

  • Why is this the right time? Is anybody else influencing your decision to have a baby now, such as friends, parents, or your partner/spouse?
  • How will this affect your career or studies? Do you plan to continue to work/go to school throughout your pregnancy? What about after the baby is born? What compromises are you willing to make if necessary?
  • If you are planning to leave your job, even temporarily, do you have a plan for staying connected to your co-workers and network, keeping your skills current, or replacing the socialization and sense of purpose might have now?
  • How will you (and your partner) balance the demands on your time with a new baby? Do you have the same priorities and expectations?
  • What values are most important to you as a parent? Does your partner share or support those values?
  • Are you prepared financially? If one or both of you are planning to scale back on work, how will that impact your finances? If you need full-time daycare, what options work with your budget?

Whether you’re planning to have a baby on your own, or with a spouse/partner, considering these questions (and many more that will no doubt arise) honestly and realistically can help you prepare emotionally and mentally for pregnancy and parenthood. Even for experienced mamas who already have a child, there are still many components to consider before deciding to have another child and expanding your family.

Preconception Health

Getting your body ready for pregnancy is one of the first things to consider, and the best place to start is with a visit to your doctor. Schedule a pre-conception appointment as soon as possible – even if you think you are several months away from getting pregnant. This is the ideal time to develop a plan with your doctor that includes:

  • Transitioning from birth control
  • Reviewing/updating your medical history and any current conditions you may have
  • Reviewing any current medications and vaccination history; modifying current treatments or updating immunizations if necessary
  • Discussing family history or genetic concerns that may impact your pregnancy
  • Evaluating your lifestyle, and making modifications as needed to ensure you are as healthy as possible before becoming pregnant and throughout your pregnancy and delivery

Are you ready to take the next step in planning for pregnancy? Make an appointment with an OB/GYN or midwife today. MarinHealth OB/GYN | A UCSF Health Clinic has offices in Greenbrae and Novato with a team of obstetricians, gynecologists and midwives to help you prepare for and oversee your pregnancy and birth. Find a provider or call 1-415-461-7800 to schedule an appointment.