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.

Healthy Body

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.

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.

Healthy Environment

Creating a healthy environment provides big benefits for you and your future family. These tips will make your home and work safer and healthier:

Healthy Mind

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.

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.