Our post today is by guest blogger Dr. Ginny Weather, MD, who works with Women’s Specialty Healthcare. Dr. Weather’s interests include comprehensive obstetrics and gynecology, advanced gynecologic surgery and she is pursuing certification and proficiency for robotic surgery. In addition, she is focused on the special nutritional needs of adolescents, pre-natal and menopausal women as well as those with gluten sensitivities.
Preconceived Notions: Preparing Your Body for Pregnancy
So, you and your partner have finally decided: you are ready to have a baby! While the emotional and financial timing may be perfect, you also need to ask – is my body physically prepared for pregnancy?
Your OB/GYN has the answer. It is important to schedule an appointment as soon as you begin considering pregnancy especially if you are in your 30s or 40s. Your nutritional status, weight, chronic medical conditions and other lifestyle factors all influence your ability to conceive and carry a healthy child. Improving your health prior to conception helps ready your body for the challenges of pregnancy and optimizes fertility, fetal development and birth outcomes.
The first step is a healthy diet including nutrient dense fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. In addition, it is vital to take a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid, iron and DHA at least 1 month prior to conception. The baby’s neural tube develops during the first month of pregnancy, often before you are aware you are pregnant. Taking folic acid before conception helps prevent spinal and brain defects. Iron helps deliver oxygen to your organs and the baby while DHA can improve fetal brain and eye development.
We also encourage Micronutrient Testing to detect low levels of specific micronutrients. New research shows a link between certain vitamin deficiencies and the development of serious health issues including learning disabilities. Women’s Specialty Healthcare is engaged in a study comparing nutritional deficiencies in mothers and the cord blood of infants and how it relates to birth outcomes.
A woman’s pre-baby weight is also an important consideration when talking about diet and potential complications of pregnancy. Excess weight and obesity are associated with gestational diabetes, high blood pressure during pregnancy, preeclampsia, fetal abnormalities and a risk of having a large baby resulting in fetal injuries during delivery. Gestational diabetes is associated with many of the above-mentioned complications, and gaining too much weight early in pregnancy can increase your chances of having this condition. Your doctor can help you with a diet and exercise plan to address weight issues before they become a risk for you and your baby during pregnancy.
A crucial part of your initial visit with the doctor should focus on your medical history. Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, eating disorders and depression should be under control before conceiving and may require special care during pregnancy. Age also carries certain complications and risks that should be discussed with your doctor.
Your lifestyle before conception plays a significant role in the success of your pregnancy. Lifestyle factors that affect conception and pregnancy may include stress, sleep habits, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption.
If you find yourself pregnant before achieving these health goals, don’t panic. As physicians, our purpose is not to scold or frighten you, but to educate you. We enjoy being part of your journey to motherhood, guiding you through your pregnancy and delivering your sweet child into the world.