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Preparing for Pregnancy

If you are planning to become pregnant, taking certain steps can help reduce risks to both you and your baby. Proper health before deciding to become pregnant is almost as important as maintaining a healthy body during pregnancy.

Steps for a Healthy Pregnancy

Schedule a pre-pregnancy (or preconception) exam: During a preconception exam, your overall health and medical history will be checked. Your healthcare provider will let you know of any possible risk factors that may make pregnancy difficult. Your immunizations will be updated. You can also get advice and treatment for medical problems that may be changed by pregnancy. These include health problems such as diabetes or heart disease.

Quit smoking: Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who smoke tend to be born too soon or have a lower birth weight. They have a higher chance of birth defects such a cleft lip or palate. They are also more likely to be stillborn or die of SIDS. In addition, being exposed to secondhand smoke makes you more likely to have a low birth weight baby.

Eat well: Eating a balanced diet before and during pregnancy is good for your overall health. It is also needed for nourishing your unborn baby.

Maintain a healthy weight and exercise: It is important to exercise regularly and maintain a proper weight before and during pregnancy. If you are overweight, you may have medical problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Being underweight may put your baby at risk for having a low birth weight.

Manage your health problems: Take control of your current medical problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Prevent birth defects: Take 400 mcg to 800 mcg of folic acid each day (before conception and throughout pregnancy) or as directed by your healthcare provider. Folic acid is a nutrient found in some green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals and vitamin supplements. Folic acid can help reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord called neural tube defects.

Avoid alcohol and drugs: Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may cause miscarriage, stillbirth or developmental delays. Tell your healthcare provider about any medicines you are currently taking. This includes any prescription, over-the-counter and herbal supplements, since some may have harmful effects on the developing baby.

Avoid harmful chemicals: Avoid being exposed to harmful chemicals and substances, such as lead and pesticides. If it is medically necessary, some X-rays are okay to have during pregnancy. Being exposed to high levels of radiation and some chemicals may be harmful to your developing baby.

Avoid infection: It is best to avoid eating undercooked meat and raw eggs. You should also avoid contact and exposure to cat feces and litter. This is because it may put you at risk for toxoplasmosis. This problem can cause serious illness or death of the unborn baby.

Take daily vitamins: Prenatal vitamins help make sure that your body gets all the necessary nutrients and vitamins needed to nourish a healthy baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to take a daily vitamin.

Get help for domestic violence: Abuse during pregnancy leads to higher rates of miscarriage and other problems. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, talk to your healthcare provider. You may also call a Gundersen domestic abuse counselor at (608) 775-5950. If you are in danger, call 9-1-1.

Trouble Getting Pregnant

One in six couples experience challenges with fertility sometime during their childbearing years.

Gundersen's Fertility Center can help make your dreams of starting or growing your family come true. You'll find many options available, from basic to advanced. While we treat complex fertility problems, we also help couples whose issues have easier solutions such as basic fertility evaluations and ovulation induction to artificial insemination.

Generally, couples should be evaluated after 12 months of attempting pregnancy without success - six months for women older than 35 or if there is a known problem. Couples can be seen at any point in their evaluation or treatment. In many cases, we will not need to repeat tests and procedures you may have already had elsewhere. This will be determined on an individual basis with your provider.

Genetic counseling

Genetic tests can show your chances of having a child with a disease or some other problem carried in your genes. Results of ultrasound, maternal serum screening, amniocentesis and other tests can inform you and the doctor who will care for your baby.

Seeing one of our genetic counselors would be wise if:

  • You have a known genetic condition or birth defect.
  • You have a family history of a genetic condition or birth defect.
  • You are concerned about disease that runs in families such as cancer, mental illness, kidney disease and certain heart conditions.
  • A member of your family is mentally retarded or developmentally delayed.
  • You have had 2 or more miscarriages, a stillbirth or an infant death.
  • You are pregnant and will be 35 years or older when you give birth.
  • A recent ultrasound showed some aspects of your baby were not normal.
  • You are worried about being exposed to alcohol, street drugs, medicine or illness since you became pregnant.
Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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