You’ve decided to have a baby and suddenly your body is no longer just your own. How you treat yourself even before you conceive can affect your baby’s health. And while you probably know the importance of eating responsibly and easing up on your drinking, the following set of dos – as in do this before becoming pregnant! – may surprise you.
1. Get the Family Prep Screen.
This is among the most important steps a parent-to-be can take to prep for baby. A simple, inexpensive saliva test offered by Counsyl, the industry leader in carrier screening, lets you identify changes in your DNA that can affect the health of your baby. A couple’s screening, which your doctor performs on you and your partner together, is a thoughtful approach to screening, since both of your results matter equally. Bonus: Counsyl includes a follow-up session with a genetic counselor who can help make sense of the results and provide guidance. Learn more.
2. Visit your dentist.
Yup – a dental check up should be on your to-do list. Not only do half of all pregnant women develop gingivitis, marked by swelling, bleeding, redness, and soreness, but periodontal disease is linked to preterm and underweight babies. So get your gums checked out before they become a problem.
3. Discover the cleaning powers of vinegar and baking soda.
Many doctors believe there’s value in limiting your exposure to pesticides and harsh chemicals during pregnancy. And because you can be pregnant without knowing it, consider cutting down on cleaning products with harsh chemicals, distancing yourself from fumes while pumping gas, and making that apple a day organic.
4. Become picky about the fish you eat.
Fish that eat other fish are more likely to contain large stores of mercury, a heavy metal that can accumulate in fatty tissue and remain in your body long enough to cause potential harm to your baby, so it’s best to swear off big fish like shark, Ahi Tuna, and swordfish. Fish you can keep on your menu include shrimp, oysters, trout, and crab (but make sure they’re fully-cooked!).
5. Ease up on the booze.
There’s not necessarily a need to totally swear off alcohol while you’re trying to get pregnant, as only heavy drinking is linked to reduced fertility, but you may want to “moderate” it, which the Centers for Disease Control defines as one drink a day for women.
6. Take this B vitamin.
By taking 400 micrograms of folic acid a day for at least one month before you conceive and during your first trimester, you can cut your chances of having a baby with neural-tube defects, such as spina bifida, by 50 to 70 percent. Taking folic acid helps prevent a few other birth defects as well.
7. Visit your OB for a preconception checkup.
She can review the medications you’re taking, make sure you’re up to date on immunizations, and recommend a multivitamin. If you smoke she can give you tools to help you quit, as well as answer any other question about trying to conceive or pregnancy that you might have.