Though a baby may not be in the works right now, there are still things you can do now to get ready. You want to be sure that your mind, body and environment give you the best chance at having a healthy life and, someday, a healthy baby.
Make your physical health a priority and you will look and feel your best. When you decide to have children, these tips can help you stay healthy before, during and after your pregnancy – and will help your baby’s well-being, too.
Get the vitamins you need
Take a multivitamin with at least 400 mcg of folic acid every day. Folic acid offers a great boost to your energy level, gives you healthier hair and nails. Taking folic acid before pregnancy also helps prevent birth defects that can develop early in pregnancy.
Put yourself in motion
Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day to keep your body in shape and reduce stress from work or family life. When you exercise, you enjoy great benefits such as:
- Stronger heart, muscles and bones
- Better sleep
- Higher energy
- Healthier weight
- Fewer illnesses
- Less stress
Dance. Run. Compete. Play.
Find an activity that you enjoy and make it part of your daily life. Sign up for a group yoga class (many community centers offer free ones), hit the bike trails with a friend or join a bowling league.
If you don’t have a lot of time, try walking around your neighborhood or doing push-ups, sit-ups and lunges at home. Your heart, bones and muscles will get stronger every day.
More information and resources around exercise and activity are located at the bottom of the page.
Fuel up with the healthy stuff Lean protein, vegetables and fruits should be at the center of your family’s diet. This is particularly important as you both prepare for pregnancy. So try to get more of the right foods while eliminating fatty, sugary and highly processed options.
Fill up on leafy vegetables, lean protein and fruit. Help your heart by getting fiber from beans, peas and whole grain breads. And don’t forget water. Drink plenty of it to wash the bad stuff out of your system.
For more detailed information on healthy eating, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Put down the pack
The most important thing you can do to protect the health of yourself and the baby you may one day carry is to quit smoking.
Don’t know where to start? Creating a plan of action and involving people close to you to help with your effort is a great first step. Try the My Quit Plan for helpful tips and hints.
Nicotine is a powerfully addictive drug. The first two weeks are often the most difficult, with symptoms steadily easing after that. However, if you don’t make plans for handling withdrawal, you could easily start smoking again.
Ease your withdrawal
There are many medications available that can make quitting easier. These include nicotine patches, gum, inhalers and more.
Don’t take any nicotine medications without first talking to your health care provider. And keep in mind that the first two weeks of your smoke-free life are the most difficult – your daily cravings will start to go away after that.
Raise your odds of quitting for good
Successful quitters ask for the support of their family and friends. They also often use counseling programs to increase their chances of quitting permanently.
Don’t keep your goals to yourself. Tell your friends about your plans and ask them to lend their support. You may have friends who have been through the same struggle and are willing to share how they did it.
The American Cancer Society Quitline is a great resource for convenient help and advice. Trained counselors work with your schedule to help you form a quit plan that works for you, providing critical support when you need it. For example, The Texas Quitline offers unbeatable convenience and flexibility.
Don’t be discouraged if you quit more than once
You have an advantage if you tried to quit before. Now, you have a better idea about what works (and what doesn’t) for your personal circumstances. Since most people start smoking again within three months after stopping, get ready for the temptations that you may face in the future.
To get additional information on quitting smoking, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
The dangers of alcohol
No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. Alcohol exposure during pregnancy results in a range of disorders called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). These disorders can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, heart defects and debilitating developmental disabilities. Learn the myths and facts about drinking alcohol and pregnancy.
If you’re out with friends, choose a mocktail over a cocktail — your baby will thank you and your friends will support you.
Plan your pregnancy properly
There are a lot of things to think about when you’re deciding whether or not you want to have a baby. And timing is everything — your ability to have a healthy pregnancy decreases as you age, but having a baby before you’re ready can also cause problems. Make sure nothing messes up that timing. Choose a type of birth control that works for you, so you can make sure pregnancy happens when you’re ready. Remember, a planned pregnancy is a healthy pregnancy.
It runs in the family
Good health before pregnancy is important and can significantly reduce the risk of birth defects as well as loss of the pregnancy, low birth weight and preterm delivery. If you are planning to start a family soon, make an appointment to discuss your plans with your provider. Make sure you and your partner talk about your family histories together and ask your provider about genetic testing, so that you can identify possible issues before you become pregnant. Begin creating a Family Health Portrait here and share it with your provider and your partner.
Resources Create a personalized nutrition and physical activity plan with the USDA’s SuperTracker.
Sometimes, exercise is better with your buddies. The Center for Disease Control has some great tips for staying healthy with your friends.
Check out HealthyPlate.gov for more great reasons why you should keep up your exercise routine.
Before you get started, get resources and tips to help you create your new non-smoking environment and put positive habits to use. For starters, visit the American Cancer Society.
Creating a healthy environment provides big benefits for you and your future family. These tips will make your home and work safer and healthier:
- Stay away from pesticides, cigarette smoke, solvents, asbestos, lead, industrial chemicals and radioactive substances.
- Handle foods safely and cook all meat thoroughly and avoid raw, unpasteurized milk and cheeses to prevent infections.
- Avoid eating certain fish (marlin, orange roughy, tilefish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, big eye tuna and ahi tuna) to prevent mercury exposure.
- If you are trying to get pregnant, use gloves when handling pet waste and while gardening to prevent infections.
Plan for 9-5 and beyond Know your employee rights and find out what worksite protections for leave are in place for pregnant and parenting employees at your job. Other topics to be aware of are workplace breastfeeding laws, as well as maternity and paternity leave policies.
The more informed you are, the better you can fight for your rights. Breastfeeding mothers have fewer missed days from work, so if your job is not mother-friendly, learn how to change it through the Texas Mother Friendly Worksite Program.
Don’t forget to think about your support system beyond the birth of your child. For working mothers, child care is a very important need and choices should be considered prior to childbirth to avoid unnecessary stress.
Selecting child care is one of the most important choices you will make about your baby. Visit the Department of Family and Protective Services Search Texas Child to make an informed choice.
This site shows the official record for every licensed child care provider in the state. You can search for daycare, learn about standards in Texas and look up the record of a child care provider you’re considering.
Support is important. A proper support system is very important in life, in pregnancy and in parenting. As you continue to plan ahead towards a life with children, make sure to create a support system that will help you through the difficulties that lie ahead. Most important in this system is your partner.
Whether it’s delivery, breastfeeding, a shoulder to cry on or someone to balance the checkbook, your partner’s role in your success and that of the family should not be overlooked.
Getting help for violence and abuse. Remember trust, respect and communication are the keys to a happy and healthy relationship. Your relationship with your partner should always feel safe, secure and free of worry.
As you consider having a child, it’s extremely important that you trust your partner and believe that your partner will help you create an environment healthy for childbearing.
Nationally, homicide during the pregnancy period is blamed for more deaths than obstetric complications. The risk of death by homicide for women who are in an abusive relationship increases during the pregnancy period.
Get help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224 or (206) 518-9361 (Video Phone — Only for callers with hearing impairments).
You may be experiencing abuse if your partner or colleague:
- Continually monitors your activities, in person or on social media.
- Tries to stop you from going to work or seeing friends and family.
- Tries to control your finances, your medications (including birth control), what you wear or your eating habits.
- Hurts you physically or threatens to do so.
- Destroys your property or harms your pet.
If you are experiencing violence or abuse in your home or work environment, we urge you to visit Womenshealth.gov to find resources and information to protect yourself.
Resources Learn how to reduce your exposure to chemicals by downloading the CDC guide, “How to Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals at Home, Work, and Play.”
Learn how mercury exposure can affect you and your unborn child.
The Texas Council on Family Violence provides information on making a safety plan and a list of family violence service providers across the state. These providers can offer critical services such as 24-hour emergency shelter and advocacy for victims of domestic violence.
When you’re feeling stressed, you may experience high blood pressure, weight gain and, in pregnancy, even early delivery of your baby (called preterm birth).
Spending time now figuring out what helps you reduce the stress in your life will pay off later, especially during pregnancy.
Don’t ignore the issue Take on what’s bothering you directly by trying to work through the issue, resolve it, and move on. Sometimes, doing it by yourself or having friends and family try to help isn’t enough. Find counseling and therapy when you feel that you need help.
Take a deep breath When people feel stressed, they often take short, quick and shallow breaths. Try to ease your tension by switching to deep, slow breaths. It’s a great technique to adopt whenever you feel stress coming on. You can also try a meditation or yoga class to learn additional ways to relax.
Sleep a minimum of seven hours Clinicians recommend that you sleep between seven and eight hours every night. To fall asleep more easily, start slowing down about an hour before you go to bed. Turn off your computer and cell phone, read a book, snuggle up with your pet, drink some hot tea or get some fresh air. And try not to go to sleep with the television or lights on.
Work out the stress A good sweaty workout, simple stretch or even a brisk walk can have you feeling like a new woman again. Set an alarm at home or work to remind yourself to get up and get moving. And don’t forget to invite a workout buddy along. You’ll be much more likely to stick to your workout plan.
Could it be more than just stress? Sometimes normal stress becomes depression and anxiety. These medical problems can affect anyone.
Signs of depression and anxiety often include sad, hopeless or empty feelings that won’t go away and worrying too much. Other signs can include feeling powerless, having trouble sleeping and feeling detached.
If you think you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, seek help. Talk to your health care provider or nurse about your feelings so they can get you the help you need. You can also call the National Lifeline for Support at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
Resources The Texas Department of State Health Services has more information on mental health and tips to cope here.
One way to help with stress is to join a support group. Learn more about how these social networks can help you fight stress with this tool from the Mayo Clinic.
Find plenty of helpful information here to help you manage stress.
Learn more about the symptoms and treatment methods for depression.
Learn more about general mental health issues and treatments.
Life Planning Tool
Identify your goals for the future. Discuss with your partner and see how children fit into those plans. With the Life Planning Tool you and your partner will develop a plan for the future based on your hopes and dreams of today. You can download it here.