Are you thinking about becoming pregnant? Already ready trying to get pregnant? Or do you just want to know what you should be prepared for when the time comes? Wherever you are in your fertility journey, Pickles & Ice Cream is here to help!
No matter what phase of the fertility journey you are in, folic acid intake is vital. Folic acid is a water soluble B-vitamin that must be consumed daily, because your body cannot store it. Folic acid is essential in red blood cell formation; without it, a person can become anemic. It is especially important in a pregnant person because a lack of Folic acid can cause birth defects. The most common birth defect caused by Folic acid deficiency is an exposed neural tube which can lead to lifelong complications. We suggest that people planning on becoming pregnant take a daily prenatal multivitamin containing 400 mcg of Folic Acid. Additionally, you should be eating foods rich in folate such as spinach, artichokes, asparagus, and beans.
Doctor and Dental Checkups
As you prepare yourself for pregnancy, the first steps are to inform your primary care physician that you are trying to get pregnant and to find an OBGYN or midwife that you are comfortable with. If you are currently taking any medications, your doctor will need to be sure they are safe for people trying to become pregnant. You might need to have changes made to your prescriptions at this time.
What do my teeth have to do with pregnancy?! It is critical that you continue with your regular dental check ups before and during your pregnancy. Peridontitis (a gum disease caused by untreated gingivitis) has been linked to premature births and low birth rates. Be sure to visit your dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning!
Mental Health Checkup
Mental Health is important when planning your pregnancy journey, for both you and your partner. Pregnancy can be a stressful time and having a mental health provider can help prepare you for issues that may arise. If you are currently experiencing any mental health issues or illnesses, they can intensify due to the hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and birth. Additionally, there is a growing body of research showing that poor mental health and increased stress and anxiety during pregnancy can cause issues such as premature birth, low birth weight, and other adverse birth outcomes. It is important to seek out a mental health professional at the beginning so that you have a support network going into your pregnancy and parenting journey.
When visiting your OBGYN, midwife, or primary care physician they will ask you about your and your partner’s family medical history. This will include information about chronic illnesses, genetic diseases, mental illness, fertility issues, and prior pregnancy complications. This helps your doctor assess you and your future baby’s risk of any complications and/or diseases, as well as if any genetic testing of you and/or your partner is needed before becoming pregnant. If this isn’t a topic you and your partner have discussed openly with your families, you will need to set a date to discuss the medical history of your parents and close relatives in preparation for your doctor’s appointment. Be sure to write everything down and bring it with you to your doctors’ appointments.
Talking about testing for sexually transmitted diseases and infections can make many people uncomfortable, but it is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Most STIs are asymptomatic, meaning they show no signs or symptoms, but can still cause issues as early as the pre-pregnancy stage. Diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea, when left untreated, can cause an inflammatory condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). When left untreated, PID can lead to scar tissue in the fallopian tubes and uterus, resulting in difficulty becoming pregnant and even infertility. Be open and honest with your doctor and let them know you are planning to become pregnant and would like to perform STI testing in preparation.
Avoid Alcohol & Drugs
Many people know to avoid drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, but we want to reiterate this and emphasize that you need to avoid drugs and alcohol as soon as you begin trying to become pregnant. Alcohol can do irreversible damage to your child, especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Most people don’t even know they are pregnant at this time! Drug and alcohol use, which includes tobacco, is directly tied to poor birth outcomes including increased rates of preterm birth, miscarriage, low birth rates, mental retardation, fetal alcohol syndrome, and behavioral & learning issues later in the child’s life.
Your nutritional status can directly affect your ability to become pregnant and to carry a healthy pregnancy to term. If you have a history of eating disorders or disordered eating patterns, you will want to immediately consult a nutritionist before becoming pregnant. A diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables and has adequate carbohydrates, fats, and protein is essential to your baby’s healthy development. Remember that once you become pregnant you should NEVER be trying to lose weight during your pregnancy. Restricting calories with the intent to lose weight during pregnancy can lead to ketosis, which can lead to miscarriage or leave your baby with permanent brain damage.
Be sure you are up to date on all vaccines. Once you become pregnant, you are more vulnerable to diseases, and becoming seriously ill can be detrimental to your developing fetus. While you may be up to date with your vaccines on paper, the CDC recommends asking your doctor for a pre-pregnancy blood test to be sure you are immune to serious diseases such as measles and rubella. If you are not immune, your doctor can give you a booster shot. Additionally, you will want to ask your doctor about the Pertussis (Whooping cough) vaccine. While Pertussis cannot kill an adult, it can be deadly to a newborn. Thus, it is important for you, as well as any family members that will be around your newborn, to be fully vaccinated.