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These 5 things can help you give your baby the healthiest start possible.

Taking care of your body before and during pregnancy is one of the best ways to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. While it’s not possible to completely prevent birth defects, the following tips can give your baby the best chance at a healthy start.

5 Tips for a Healthier Baby
  1. See a doctor before and during your pregnancy. If you are thinking about getting pregnant soon, it’s best to see a doctor before pregnancy so you can address any health issues you may have in advance and discuss what to do about things like taking medications or getting vaccinations when pregnant. Although there may be some medications that need to be stopped, in some cases, it will be best to continue your treatment. It may also be recommended that you get or avoid certain vaccinations during pregnancy. Begin prenatal care as soon as you think you are pregnant and keep all recommended appointments.
  2. Take folic acid daily. This essential nutrient can help prevent birth defects in a growing baby’s brain and spine. Although some foods naturally have folate, such as beef liver, dark green vegetables, beans, peas and nuts, it’s very difficult to get enough folate through diet alone. That’s why it’s so important to take a supplement with folic acid when pregnant. In fact, it’s best to begin taking folic acid even before pregnancy. The recommended amount is at least 400 micrograms a day. Prenatal vitamins typically have the needed amount of folic acid in them.
  3. Lose weight before pregnancy. If you are overweight or obese, try to get to a healthier weight before you get pregnant. Obesity raises the risk for some serious birth defects and may also contribute to other pregnancy complications.
  4. Don’t drink, smoke or do illegal drugs. The best thing to do is to abstain completely from alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, opioids and other illegal drugs. There is no safe level of alcohol for a developing fetus and it is best to stop drinking alcohol when trying to get pregnant. Not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke is also recommended. If you smoke, quitting as early in your pregnancy as possible can help prevent against pregnancy problems, such as low birth weight. Since it is not known whether there is a safe level of marijuana during pregnancy, it is also recommended to avoid this substance as well, even if it is legal where you live. Illegal drugs should never be used when pregnant.
  5. Avoid overheating. Exposure to high temperatures, such as having a fever or being in a hot tub, especially for long periods of time, increases the body’s core temperature. This can be harmful to your developing baby.

What you do before and during pregnancy has a big impact on the health of your baby, so give your baby the healthiest start possible by seeing a doctor regularly, adopting healthy lifestyle habits and following these tips.

“Many chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, psychiatric and thyroid disease have implications for pregnancy outcomes and should be optimally managed before pregnancy. It is a good idea to inform your health care provider if you are considering becoming pregnant within the next year at the time of your routine scheduled appointments.” 

Emily M. Bienvenu, MD, FACOG

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Date Last Reviewed: November 20, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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