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What to Expect BEFORE You’re Expecting

What to Expect BEFORE You’re Expecting

Pregnancy comes with many changes. Your body, what you eat, and the things you do from day to day can be heavily impacted by pregnancy. It is common to learn about the many changes one can expect when expecting, but how much do you know about preventative care, the lifestyle changes that can start before you’re pregnant, and how they can help you and baby? 

Preventative care means taking steps ahead of time to avoid health problems or to catch them early before they get really serious.1 There are many types of preventative care. For example, vaccines, or immunizations, help protect against certain viral diseases, mammograms help diagnose breast cancer before symptoms occur, and refraining from smoking can significantly decrease the risk of cancer. 

A pregnant woman’s immune system is focused on her pregnancy, so it is tougher for her to fight off infections. Due to this, preventing infections is key.6 Staying on top of your health before pregnancy is important because many chronic conditions can impact your pregnancy outcome. For example, diabetes and high blood pressure can increase the risk of preterm birth. Preventative care during pregnancy can optimize your health to help safely bring your baby to term.  

What To Look Out For

As statistics show, 42% of adults in the US are considered obese, which increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancer types. Additionally, the number of adults with diabetes diagnoses has doubled in the last two decades.3 Eating too much sodium, which is common in American diets, can increase blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.  

As you can see, poor health can heavily impact the quality of life in the present and the future. One way to prepare for pregnancy is by working towards a healthy lifestyle, which includes having a balanced diet, physical activity, and avoiding drugs and alcohol. Preventive care reduces the risk of diseases, disabilities, and death — yet millions of people in the United States don’t get recommended preventive health care services.2 Taking preventative measures is important because it protects our health. 

Small Lifestyle Changes:

Small lifestyle changes can help decrease the risk of preventable diseases, and keep you healthy, active, and living longer. The good news is small lifestyle changes add up! Here are some tips to lower these risks and prevent chronic disease: 

  • Limit unhealthy foods such as sugary beverages, refined grains/sweets, etc. to maintain a healthy weight.  
  • Reduce screen time and find new ways to increase your physical activity. It can be as simple as taking a walk with your friends!4 
  • Avoid packaged, processed, and store-bought foods to lower sodium consumption.3  
  • Eat high-fiber foods such as beans, broccoli, and avocados to prevent high blood cholesterol/blood pressure.4 
  • Increase lean proteins, and limit processed carbs. 

“Healthy diet” doesn’t mean making a drastic change or limiting foods you enjoy. Small changes can be impactful. Foods with high fiber promote health i.e. fruits, non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower), legumes (beans/lentils), and whole grains.4 More fiber can slow down sugar absorption, lowering blood sugar levels, and help you feel full because they are energy-rich!4 High-sugar/low-nutrient foods such as white bread, sugary beverages, and high fructose corn syrup are carbohydrates that should be avoided.4 Good fats (nuts/seeds, olive, sunflower, canola oils, salmon, sardines, and tuna) include unsaturated fats that help with cholesterol levels and overall heart health.  Eating saturated fats, often seen in dairy and meats, should be limited.4 Maintaining a healthy weight can affect the chances of becoming pregnant because those who are underweight or obese can have ovulation issues.6 

Physical Activity:

Regularly moving your body through exercise or physical activity is an important preventative health measure. Most physicians recommend 150 minutes of cardio every week.4 That includes activities like running, jogging, swimming, or biking. It is also recommended to complete resistance training 2-3 times a week.4 That is activities like weightlifting or yoga. Consult your healthcare provider to identify appropriate activities for you. Increasing movement throughout the day can also be helpful. Take small breaks when stationary for too long.4 Here is a resource to help you find opportunities for movement during the workday.  

Georgia Preventative Care Measures

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important, but it is equally important to stay on top of medical screenings to decrease the risk of pregnancy conditions.6 Georgia offers services specifically to help women prevent or catch critical conditions in the early stages of pregnancy. Blood pressure measurements and low-dose aspirin after 12 weeks are available to women at high risk for preeclampsia, a serious hypertensive condition.7 Bacteriuria screenings are offered to check for elevated levels of bacteria in the urine. While treatable with antibiotics, if untreated this can lead to preterm labor or low birth weight.8 Gestational diabetes screenings are recommended after 24 weeks of gestation because they can help the expecting mother to control her condition before any negative effects on her or the baby’s health like high blood pressure or having a large baby.8 

Available services expand beyond physical conditions. Behavioral counseling interventions for healthy weight and weight gain provide education and prevention about excess weight gain during pregnancy and provide tips to keep yourself healthy. 

Stress Management:

Stress management is another preventative measure that can strongly reduce the risk of disease. 8 Below are some tips to reduce stress before, during, and after pregnancy: 

  • Make yourself a priority by showing yourself love and acknowledging your own hard work.5 
  • Enjoy nature by walking outside, meditating, and just relaxing.5 
  • Disconnect digitally and enjoy time with friends and family to feel socially connected and loved!5 
  • Sleep around 7-9 hours a night and take naps if you are tired.5 
  • Perinatal depression counseling is offered to those at high risk, so patients feel supported during difficult times.8  
  • Most importantly, do what fits you best and have a great time!5 

It’s important to not feel overwhelmed. This information is intended to keep you well informed, should it be needed. Taking care of your health is key. Speaking with a healthcare provider for guidance and advice is the best place to start. Pregnancy is a huge life event that changes you in many ways, so it is best to be as prepared as possible.  

 

Written by: Candance Page, MPH 

Blog content expertly reviewed by: Shannon Morris Stevenson EdD, MSN, RNC-OB, RNC-MNN, CNE 

 

References
  1. California Department of Managed Healthcare. (n.d.). Preventative Care. Preventive Care 
  2. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (n.d.). Preventative Care. Preventive Care – Healthy People 2030 | health.gov
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Learn How the Nutrition Facts Label Can Help You Improve Your Health. Learn How the Nutrition Facts Label Can Help You Improve Your Health | Nutrition | CDC 
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2023). Diabetes Prevention: 5 Tips for Taking Control. Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control – Mayo Clinic 
  5. North Atlanta Women’s Care. (2022). A Complete Guide to Self-Care During Pregnancy. A Complete Guide to Self-Care During Pregnancy (nawcare.com) 
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Planning for Pregnancy. Planning for Pregnancy | Preconception Care | CDC 
  7. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2021). Low-Dose Aspirin Use for the Prevention of Preeclampsia and Relates Morbidity and Mortality. Low-Dose Aspirin Use for the Prevention of Preeclampsia and Related Morbidity and Mortality | ACOG 
  8. Ambetter Health. (n.d.). Preventative Care (ambetterhealth.com) 
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