Carolinas HealthCare System

Patient Education

Planning for a healthy pregnancy

You are probably already aware that you need to take special care of yourself when you are pregnant, as well as before you become pregnant.Listed below are some tips to help give you and your baby the best chance for a healthy beginning.

Folic Acid

It is recommended that all women planning a pregnancy begin taking 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folic acid daily beginning at least one month prior to conception through at least the first trimester of pregnancy. Eating foods rich in folic acid and taking one multivitamin a day can reduce the risk of certain birth defects for a baby, such as spina bifida and possibly other conditions such as facial clefts and congenital heart defects.Women who have had a previous pregnancy diagnosed with spina bifida will need to take a higher amount of folic acid, obtained through a prescription from their healthcare provider.

Avoid smoking and alcohol use

As part of a healthy lifestyle, women should not smoke during pregnancy. It is ideal to quit prior to a pregnancy since it takes time and patience to quit. Smoking during pregnancy can result in low birth weight and has also been associated with infertility, miscarriages, tubal pregnancies and infant death.
Once a woman becomes pregnant, she also needs to stop consuming alcohol. There is no known safe level of alcohol in pregnancy.The use of alcohol in pregnancy can be associated with an increased risk for birth defects, decreased growth of the baby as well as learning and behavioral problems.

Medication use and environmental exposures

Many women express concerns about the use of medication during pregnancy.Some women with medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or lupusare treated with daily prescription medications.Other women have concerns about the use of over the counter medications, herbal supplements or street drugs during pregnancy. If you would like to learn more about the possible effects of medications on pregnancy, speak with your physician about a referral to the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care. Consultation with either a genetic counselor or a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist can be arranged to answer your questions.You should speak with your physician before discontinuing any medications.You should also inform your physician if you herbal supplements or multivitamins containing large doses of vitamins.

Managing maternal conditions

It is important to review your complete medical history with your healthcare provider to identify any possible sources of complications duringyour pregnancy.Some women have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, kidney disease, heart conditions and seizures that may require special care during pregnancy. Getting these conditions under control prior to a pregnancy will help minimize associated risks to you and your baby.

Offer for preconception counseling

Once a woman has decided to start a family, it is helpful to have a preconception visit with her healthcare provider. At this visit, your doctor can check for preexisting health conditions such asdiabetes, make sure vaccinations are up to date, and review any medications currently being taken.Your physician can also provide guidance on making lifestyle adjustments, like beginning a healthy diet and avoiding tobacco and alcohol. In addition, your healthcare provider can help you learn if you could benefit from genetic counseling or a Maternal-Fetal Medicine consult prior to conception.

For more information and answers to common questions, please see the March of Dimes website. Several excellent fact sheets are available in the "for professionals" section.

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