Feeling ready for a baby?
Before trying to conceive, it’s important to make sure that your body is ready for a baby too.
There are some basics that can make your pregnancy go more smoothly for you and your child. These include going to your annual doctor visit, undergoing some basic lab work, taking the right supplements, evaluating any current medications and managing chronic medical conditions.
I typically recommend that before trying to get pregnant, women should schedule a consultation with their OB/GYN for a physical and routine screening for cervical cancer (pap smear). It’s important that before your body takes on the challenge of pregnancy, you are cleared medically for any problems.
I also recommend getting some basic lab work done prior to attempting pregnancy. Depending on your specific medical history, your doctor will determine what lab tests are necessary.
These lab tests include:
1. Blood Type: Obtaining this information can be important for pregnancy management. If you have a negative blood type, you will need a special medication during pregnancy or if you have a miscarriage to prevent antibodies forming against the baby.
2. Vitamin D Levels: We get most of our Vitamin D from the sun, and depending on where you live, most people are deficient and need supplementation (unless you drink a large amount of Vitamin D fortified milk). Normal Vitamin D levels help with embryo implantation and decrease pregnancy complications.
3. Vaccinations: There are many viruses that can cause devastating birth defects if you become infected during pregnancy. Some of these viruses are unpreventable, but it’s a great idea to be checked for available vaccinations. These include Varicella (Chicken Pox) and Rubella (German Measles, part of the MMR vaccine). About 5% of people will need a booster for these. If its flu season, get a flu shot as pregnant women are susceptible to complications that arise from influenza.
4. Blood Count: We need to make sure you aren’t anemic prior to getting pregnant because growing babies need a lot of blood to bring them oxygen. You should choose a prenatal vitamin that contains iron, which is a building block for any new blood that you need to make during pregnancy. Having a normal blood count prior to becoming pregnant can reduce pregnancy complications.
5. Genetic Carrier Screening: The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that everyone should consider getting screened for Cystic Fibrosis. This is a recessive genetic condition that is very common and easily screened for with lab work. Depending on your family history and background, your doctor may want to screen for other conditions as well.
Also, what you’ve heard is true - it’s important to be on folic acid supplementation. Being on folic acid supplements at time of conception decreases the risk of neural tube defects (spinal cord). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a minimum of 400 mcg of folic acid daily for all women who might become pregnant. Almost all prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, and most have much more than 400 mcg. Taking more won’t hurt you, the extra folic acid will simply come out in your urine.
If you are on any prescribed medications, it’s a good idea to see if they are dangerous for a developing baby. Sometimes your doctor can switch you to a medication that is safer.
Lastly, if you have any chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of cancer, it is best to see your doctor to address and manage these conditions prior to pregnancy.
Once all of these items are out of the way, you can move on to the fun part of having a baby – trying to conceive. Best of luck!