If the urge to become a mom is in your not-too-distant future, here are some healthy changes you should make before you even think about becoming pregnant.
- Get at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily. This B vitamin helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Great sources of folic acid include citrus fruits, asparagus, broccoli, beans, peas, peanuts, lentils, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables like spinach. Enriched foods such as cereals and pastas are also good sources. If you're having a hard time obtaining enough from your diet, then take a folic acid supplement.
- Work on improving your overall health. Start watching what you eat, get enough sleep, ditch cigarettes if you smoke, and limit your alcohol consumption. Also make sure to start exercising regularly. Doctors don't recommend increasing your exercise routine too dramatically once you're preggers, so it's best to start before the baby is on its way. Regular exercise will strengthen your body and your immune system, and also help you maintain a healthy body weight during and after pregnancy.
To see the other healthy changes you should make
- Take steps to control the stress in your life. Stress can affect your menstrual cycle, so if you're having a work-related problem or an issue in your life, ovulation may be delayed or not happen at all, which will make pregnancy impossible. So figure out what you can and can't do so that you're not putting more on your plate than you can handle. Set limits with yourself and others, and remind yourself that it's OK to say no to requests for your time and energy. If you need to seek help in dealing with stress, make an appointment with a therapist or a life coach.
- Get checked for hepatitis B and C and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs can affect your ability to conceive, can cause miscarriages and other issues during pregnancy, or they can be passed on to your baby.
- Discuss your meds you take with your doc. Go over all the prescription, over-the-counter medicine, and herbal supplements you take to make sure they're safe to use while you're trying to conceive or during pregnancy.