Tips for good health before pregnancy (preconception)

You know how professional athletes train their bodies for game day? They practice, lift weights, eat well, stretch and watch film. Well, similarly, it’s important to train your body for a healthy pregnancy. And just like any game-day prep, it’s important to get your body strong, eat well and educate yourself on what to expect. Your future self (and future baby) will thank you for the good work you put in to gear up for the big day.

Planning for pregnancy will look a little different for everyone, but there are common tips and recommendations to help increase your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. 

Getting your body baby-ready

You might have an idea of what it takes to be healthy — things like maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, staying away from tobacco. All those things are even more important when you’re prepping your body to grow life. In fact, there’s even more to be aware of. The stronger your body is before baby, the greater chance for a smooth, healthy pregnancy. Here are some things to keep in mind before you try to get pregnant:1

These are just a few ways to help get your body physically ready for pregnancy. There’s a lot more information out there. And because every woman is different, your doctor may have special recommendations based on your health, age, family history and more. If you’re planning to get pregnant soon, visit your primary care provider (the doctor or provider you might see for your yearly physical) or your gynecologist (OB/gyn). At your preconception appointment, you’ll discuss all sorts of things with your doctor to make sure you’ve got the knowledge and resources for getting that beautiful baby-making bod in shape to create life. 

Reducing your risk of complications

Preparing your body for pregnancy goes beyond exercise and diet. Here’s a list of things you can do to help increase your chances of getting pregnant and reduce risk of complications.

  • Be aware of chemicals and contaminants: It’s important to be on the lookout for and avoid harmful chemicals and contaminants. Consider the products you buy, stuff you use on your skin and hair, food you eat and exposure to things like pesticides, bug spray, radiation and lead. Certain metals in seafood can be harmful to a growing baby and you definitely don’t want it stored in your system when you’re trying to get pregnant. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends safely limiting your amount of certain seafood, it may be best to simply stay away from it for a few months.8
  • Kick harmful habits: Tobacco, marijuana, alcohol and other drugs can cause serious birth defects. Tobacco can lower your ability to get pregnant and actually increase your risk for miscarriage. Even secondhand smoke can put your new baby at risk for serious stuff (like sudden infant death syndrome, weak lungs and other health issues). It’s smart to stop using tobacco and stay away from harmful substances (including secondhand smoke)9 and avoid any excessive alcohol use10 while you’re trying to get pregnant and throughout your pregnancy.
  • Reduce stress: If you’re stressed, your body might know it’s not a good time to have a baby. Sounds far-fetched, right? But it’s just one way your body may protect itself. Stress hormones can muddle the signals between your brain and ovaries, making it harder to get pregnant. Pay attention to how your body is feeling. If you’re a little wound up, maybe try meditating, yoga, journaling or joining a support group with other women just like you.11

When to see your doctor

Did you know a baby’s main organs develop within the first 8 weeks? It’s important to have your mental and physical health up to par way before then so you can make sure your baby’s home for the next 9 months is a luxurious 5-star resort. Plenty of oxygen, lots of nutritious food, great air quality and a calming vibe. It may be a good idea to schedule a preconception (pregnancy care) appointment with your preferred provider when you decide it’s time to start trying to get pregnant. Just like you plan for a big vacation, you need to plan ahead for your future baby. You’ll talk through diet, lifestyle, family history, medicines you’re taking and anything else that might impact your future pregnancy.12

Footnotes

  1. Get Your Body Baby-Ready webmd.com, 2020.
  2. Good Health Before Pregnancy: Prepregnancy Care acog.org, 2020. 
  3. Weight, fertility, and pregnancy womenshealth.gov, 2018.
  4. Exercise When You're Trying to Get Pregnant whattoexpect.com, 2020. 
  5. Prepregnancy Diet: Best Foods to Eat When You're Trying to Get Pregnant whattoexpect.com, 2020.
  6. Folic acid cdc.gov, 2021. 
  7. 19 Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy whattoexpect.com, 2020.
  8. Prepregnancy Diet: Best Foods to Eat When You're Trying to Get Pregnant whattoexpect.com, 2020.
  9. Smoking During Pregnancy cdc.gov, 2020
  10. Infertility cdc.gov, 2021.
  11. How Stress Can Hurt Your Chances of Having a Baby webmd.com, 2021. 
  12. Good Health Before Pregnancy acog.org, 2020.