The best time to plan for a healthy baby is before getting pregnant. Making healthy lifestyle choices now, can help reduce the risk of problems during pregnancy. There are many things that both men and women can do to protect the health of their future children.
My Reproductive Life Plan is an online tool that will help you understand how to protect your ability to have children, think about when to have children and how to have the healthiest baby possible when you’re ready.
Health Before Pregnancy is designed for those thinking of having a baby in the near future. It provides information to help plan for the healthiest baby possible. It also includes a pre-test to find out if you are ready for parenthood.
Stress can make it hard to form good health habits and stick with them. It can also make it hard for a woman to get pregnant.
Tips for Avoiding Stress
- Get regular physical activity
- Eat healthy meals and snacks
- Learn about the signs of stress
- Learn about the signs of depression
- Get between seven and nine hours of sleep
Both men and women should get into the habit of exercising regularly. Being active before pregnancy will make it easier to stay active during pregnancy. Physical activity during pregnancy will help ensure that the baby has a healthy birth weight.
Too much exercise can make it hard to get pregnant, so it is important to find a balance.
Tips for Staying Active
- Do some kind of physical activity for at least 30 minutes three to four times a week
- Take a walk every day
- Try using the stairs instead of elevators or escalators
Women who are planning on becoming pregnant should make sure that they take a multivitamin that contains folic acid. Taking a multivitamin that has 0.4 milligrams of folic acid helps prevent serious birth defects in the spine and brain.
See Healthy Eating for New and Expecting Mothers for more information on nutrition.
Both men and women should quit smoking before pregnancy. This is because there are many health risks associated with smoking. Smoking can also cause a man’s sperm to have trouble fertilizing a woman’s egg.
Smoking during pregnancy can cause babies to:
- Be born too small
- Be born too early
- Have breathing problems
- Have ear infections
- Have an increased chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Tips for Smokers
- Give yourself time to cut down and quit before the pregnancy
- Call the Smoker’s Helpline: 1-877-513-5333
- Avoid second hand smoke
- Do not allow others to smoke in your home
Caffeine, Drugs and Alcohol
Many types of drugs including caffeine, alcohol and prescription drugs can harm a growing baby. When planning a pregnancy women should talk to their health care provider about which prescription and over the counter drugs can make it hard to become pregnant. Men should avoid alcohol because it can affect their sperm and make it hard for a woman to become pregnant.
Caffeine, alcohol and recreational drugs can cause the baby to be born too small or have birth defects. Drinking during pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Tips for Safe Consumption
- Stop drinking alcohol before becoming pregnant
- Do not drink alcohol while you are pregnant
- Stop taking recreational drugs before becoming pregnant
- Do not take recreational drugs while you are pregnant
- Limit caffeine intake to 300 milligrams (about one and a half cups) a day
- Talk to your pharmacist or health care provider about your prescription and over the counter medication
It can be difficult for men and women who are exposed to chemicals such as lead, pesticides, solvents or mercury to get pregnant. These chemicals may also cause health problems for the baby.
Tips for Avoiding Unsafe Chemicals
- Take the time to think about the chemicals you are around every day
- Read all the labels on containers at work, at home and everywhere in between
Men and women should take a critical look at their relationships before deciding to become pregnant. This is because having a baby can add stress to a relationship instead of making it better. Abuse often starts or becomes worse with a pregnancy.
It is also important that both men and women have people they can talk to about their feelings during the pregnancy.
Tips for Relationships
- Family and friends can be a great support before, during and after pregnancy
- If you are being abused, talk to someone you trust
- If you are abusing your partner, talk to your health care provider
- Research community supports like Sandgate and Yellow Brick House
Men and women can benefit from a checkup before pregnancy. Women who have had a problem with a previous pregnancy, have a medical condition or are taking drugs may need specialized care. These things should be discussed with a health care professional.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can make it hard to get pregnant and can harm an unborn baby. It is important that both partners are tested for STIs before trying to get pregnant.
Tips for Physical Examinations
- Book a preconception checkup with your health care provider
- Get tested for STIs
- Make sure your immunizations are current and up to date
- Wait at least three months after having your immunizations before trying to conceive
- Learn how to prevent pregnancy until you are ready to start a family
It is important for men and women to talk to their families about health histories. Health problems can be passed down through families.
Things to Look For
Consider talking to a genetic counsellor and/or health care provider if you or your partner has a family history of:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Sickle cell anemia
- Down syndrome
- Mental health problems
- Physical health problems
If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, it is important to ensure that your immunizations are all up to date including:
The flu shot is also recommended annually for all household members and for healthy pregnant women.
See the Immunization and Pregnancy Factsheet for more information about immunizations before, during and after pregnancy.
- Best Start’s Health before Pregnancy Workbook
- Best Start's Healthy Eating for a Healthy Baby
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
*Information contained on this website is not intended to be medical advice or to be used for diagnosis. Please consult your physician for diagnosis and advice on medical treatment
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