Barbara Head, M.D.
Spring is in the air and with the change in season; you may find yourself considering pregnancy. Whether you are the prospective mother or the prospective partner, this is an exciting time! Will we have a boy or a girl? Will the baby look like me? What will we name our baby? Whether you are having your first baby or adding to your family, there are some important steps to consider before you get pregnant.
- Schedule a visit with your health care provider. Do you know that only 1 in 10 women see a doctor before becoming pregnant? Discussing your health with your obstetrician, family practitioner or midwife is essential! If you have health issues, medications may need to be adjusted before you become pregnant. In addition, your healthcare provider can review your vital signs including your weight and blood pressure, medical and family history to determine if any additional information is needed before you get pregnant. The obstetrical physician and nurse midwife providers at MUSC are skilled in providing preconception care.
- Take a daily prenatal vitamin with 400-800 mcg of folic acid. Folic acid is a crucial part of preconception (before you get pregnant) care and will decrease the chance of your baby having a neural tube defect or spina bifida. The neural tube closes in your baby within 2 weeks of missing your period. While not all spina bifida can be avoided with supplemental folic acid, taking folic acid before you become pregnant will decrease the chance of spina bifida in your baby.
- Stop drinking alcohol, using tobacco and/or drugs. These exposures may make it more difficult to get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, alcohol, tobacco and drugs risk the health of your pregnancy and increase the chance of having a miscarriage, birth defects, and low birthweight l babies, problems with the placenta, early delivery and even stillbirth. It may be difficult for you to stop and if it is, ask for help! At MUSC, we have resources available to help you and your future baby.
- Eat a well -balanced diet and get daily exercise. Eating a well -balanced diet and getting daily exercise will help you to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight prior to pregnancy. Women who are very overweight (BMI or body mass index of >40) will be at risk for many more pregnancy complications than those who have a pre-pregnancy BMI <40. In some women who are very overweight, bariatric surgery may need to be considered to have the healthiest pregnancy. Our obstetrical and midwife providers at MUSC can discuss when this would be recommended. If you are interested in a weight loss program, we can guide you in that journey along with our certified nutritionists.
- Consider genetic testing. Remember that family reunion where you met very distant relatives? Family history is important in determining potential conditions that can be passed on to your baby but there are many conditions that are “silent” in families and sometimes occur when two people with silent genes have a baby. There are a variety of genetic panels that can be performed even before you are pregnant to determine the chance of you having an affected baby. Having this information before you are pregnant will give you a chance to discuss this further with your partner and a genetic counselor. We have a team of highly trained genetic counselors available at MUSC to help you understand this testing if you are interested in further information.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, call 843-792-5300 or visit MUSC Women's Health pregnancy services on the web.