Planning a pregnancy: Six steps to improve pre-pregnancy health and reduce the risk of fertility problems and complications


Gynecologists say that having a baby is a major decision that should start a few months before the couple even starts trying to conceive.

Pre-pregnancy health—a woman’s health before pregnancy—is as important as health during pregnancy, especially in the case of unintended pregnancies.

  • In-depth understanding of women’s health
  • This story is the second part of a temporary series that explores the important health issues that affect women. If you want to know more topics, please send an email to Tracey Romero at [email protected]

Although doctors do not fully understand why one in eight babies are born prematurely, they agree that many women need to be healthier during pregnancy.

Any underlying health conditions will not only affect the ability to have a healthy pregnancy, but also cause fertility problems. Unexpected pregnancy is More risky Premature and low birth weight babies.

As the saying goes, a healthy mother means a healthy baby. Therefore, before embarking on the journey of motherhood, doctors emphasize the importance of understanding the ways in which women’s health and lifestyle affect pregnancy and baby health. They recommend that women start preparing at least three months before conception.

Check with your doctor

The first thing a woman should do before becoming pregnant is to contact her healthcare provider, saying Lakeisha Montgomery, Director of Professional Education and Training for Perinatal Cooperatives in Southern New Jersey. Together, they can count the lifestyle behaviors and family and work environment factors that may be harmful to women’s fertility and infants.

For example, smoking and drinking alcohol can cause fertility problems and pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and pre-eclampsia.So you can obesity.

some studies Studies have also shown that people who consume large amounts of caffeine may delay conception and increase the risk of miscarriage. Women who are trying to become pregnant should also avoid changing cat litter, as this puts her at risk of toxoplasmosis, an infection that can lead to miscarriage and birth defects.

The doctor will also discuss any underlying health conditions that may affect the ability to conceive and a healthy pregnancy.

Arthur Castlebaum, a reproductive endocrinologist at Jefferson Health, admits that obesity is difficult to control, but said it increases the risk of pregnancy. He said that many people do not know that it is related to a higher rate of birth defects and infant mortality.

Montgomery explained that even poor mental health can make conception more challenging.

“Poor mental health can lower the immune system, affect weight, and cause sleep problems-all of which can make pregnancy difficult,” Montgomery said.

STDs and pregnancy

Sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia can be transmitted to babies and can lead to premature birth, stillbirth, and sometimes even death after birth. Sexually transmitted infections are also related to fertility problems.

Montgomery said: “The important thing is to empower women with the ability to ask questions, research and prepare.” “Being a mother has changed a lot both physically and mentally.”

It is recommended that women protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections immediately after being sexually active, so that they will not face unexpected complications when preparing to start a family.according to Mayo ClinicScreening for HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia and syphilis usually occurs during the first prenatal check-up.

Genetic screening

One of the main decisions that couples must make when they become pregnant is whether to be screened for genetic diseases before becoming pregnant. Genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia are usually inherited in families. Some people are also at higher risk of having children with chromosomal diseases.

If the couple has a family history of genetic diseases, birth defects, or chromosomal diseases, or if the woman has had multiple miscarriages or stillbirths, the doctor may recommend screening.

Castlebaum said one benefit of screening before conception is that if couples know that the baby is at a higher risk of genetic disease, they can choose in vitro fertilization. In this case, the egg can be tested before fertilization and implantation.

Common fertility problems

Infertility-when a couple cannot conceive or become pregnant to term-is more common than many people realize.

The fertility rate in the United States has been declining for decades.

The reasons for this situation are many, say Gabriel Bogner, co-founder of Mate Fertility. Part of the reason is people’s lifestyle and more and more women postpone pregnancy until she grows up. In the past 40 years, the sperm count of men has fallen by 50%.

About 20% of people have fertility problems.

Castlebaum said that in one-third of the cases, the woman had fertility problems. In the other third of the cases, this person has a problem. In the remaining cases, there is no known cause.

Bogner explained that as women age, the quality and quantity of eggs will decline, especially after the age of 35, fertility will decline. Older women are also at higher risk of having children with genetic diseases such as Down syndrome.

Women can protect their egg quality by freezing some eggs at a young age. However, most women do not consider doing this until they are in their 30s and 40s. Bogner said this should be a more affordable service for young people.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome cannot ovulate regularly and often face fertility challenges. Sometimes women develop a disease called luteal phase deficiency, in which the endometrium is never fully prepared for pregnancy. The presence of uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease can also hinder the passage of eggs into the uterus through the fallopian tube, which can lead to fertility problems.

The most common fertility problems in men are the shape and movement of the sperm. Some men may also have a higher risk of sperm genetic defects, or just have a low sperm count. Men’s lifestyles—especially alcohol and drugs—can reduce sperm quality. STI and other medical conditions may also make conception more difficult.

“Go find a doctor who is good at listening,” Castlebaum said. “You also need a complete physical examination and tests for eggs, semen and fallopian tubes.”

Bogner said the good news is that there are effective fertility treatment options. For women with ovulation problems, the first line of treatment is usually a combination of ovulation-stimulating drugs and intrauterine insemination. This method injects male sperm directly into the female reproductive tract.

Assisted reproductive technology is another possibility, where eggs and sperm are mixed in a laboratory, and then the resulting embryos are put back into the woman’s body. Donating eggs or sperm and surrogacy-when another woman is pregnant with a child-are also options.

The general rule of thumb is that if women are younger than 35 years old and cannot get pregnant after one year of frequent sex without birth control measures, or they are 35 years old or older and have been trying to get pregnant but failed to get pregnant, then they should See a fertility specialist. At least 6 months.

“Go find a doctor who is good at listening,” Castlebaum said. “You also need a complete physical examination and tests for eggs, semen and fallopian tubes.”

Here are six ways to prepare for a healthy pregnancy:

1. Start taking 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid daily to reduce the risk of some birth defects, including spina bifida. Ideally, women should start taking it one month before pregnancy, Montgomery said. If women have trouble taking prenatal vitamins, two Flintstone complete vitamins can also provide the extra nutrients needed by a growing baby.

2. Women who smoke or drink alcohol should stop smoking at least three months before planning to become pregnant.

3. Perform a comprehensive examination to find out any health problems that may affect the pregnancy and baby’s health. If your doctor recommends losing weight, make a plan before becoming pregnant. Now is the time to control any medical condition, including asthma, diabetes, obesity, eating disorders and epilepsy. Even oral health can affect pregnancy health.

4. Discuss with your doctor the use of any over-the-counter and prescription drugs and whether there are any potential hazards at home or at work, including chemicals and cat litter.

5. Keep up to date on vaccines and screening, including Pap test and screening for sexually transmitted infections, chickenpox and rubella, which can be dangerous for unborn babies. Get the COVID-19 vaccine this summer because the Delta variant is more contagious. Castlebaum said that it is a myth that vaccines reduce fertility.

6. Stop contraception and track your menstrual cycle to know the best time to conceive. After women stop taking birth control pills, menstruation usually returns within 30 days. Doctors advise women to have at least a period of time before conception.

“The important thing is to empower women with the ability to ask questions, research and prepare. Becoming a mother is a huge change in body and mind,” Montgomery emphasized.



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