Planning for Pregnancy
If you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it is not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. Preconception health and health care focus on things you can do before and between pregnancies to increase the chances of having a healthy baby. For some people, getting their bodies ready for pregnancy takes a few months. For other people, it might take longer. Whether this is your first, second, or sixth baby, the following are important steps to help you get ready for the healthiest pregnancy possible.
1. Make a Plan and Take Action
Whether or not you’ve written them down, you’ve probably thought about your goals for having or not having children, and how to achieve those goals. For example, when you didn’t want to have a baby, you used effective birth control methods to achieve your goals. Now that you’re thinking about getting pregnant, it’s really important to take steps to achieve your goal [PDF – 764 KB]—getting pregnant and having a healthy baby!
2. See Your Doctor
Before getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about preconception health care. Your doctor will want to discuss your health history and any medical conditions you currently have that could affect a pregnancy. They may want to discuss any previous pregnancy problems, medicines you currently are taking, vaccinations you might need, and steps you can take before pregnancy to help prevent certain birth defects.
Take a list of talking points so you don’t forget anything. Be sure to talk to your doctor about:
If you currently have any medical conditions, be sure they are under control and being treated. Some of these conditions include: sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), diabetes, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases.
Lifestyle and Behaviors
Talk with your doctor or another health professional if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use certain drugs; live in a stressful or abusive environment; or work with or live around toxic substances. Health care professionals can help you with counseling, treatment, and other support services.
Almost every pregnant person will face a decision about taking medicines before and during pregnancy. Talk to your healthcare providers before starting or stopping any medicines. Be sure to discuss the following with your healthcare providers:
- All medicines you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbal and dietary supplements, and vitamins
- Best ways to keep any health conditions you have under control
- Your personal goals and preferences for the health of you and your baby
Some vaccinations are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or right after delivery. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep you healthy and help keep your baby from getting very sick or having lifelong health problems.
3. Take 400 Micrograms of Folic Acid Every Day
Folic acid is a B vitamin. CDC urges all people who can become pregnant to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day, in addition to consuming food with folate from a varied diet, to help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida).
4. Stop Drinking Alcohol, Smoking, and Using Certain Drugs
Smoking, drinking alcohol, and using certain drugs can cause many problems during pregnancy, such as premature birth, birth defects, and infant death.
If you are trying to get pregnant and cannot stop drinking, smoking, or using drugs, contact your healthcare provider, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or local alcohol treatment center.
Alcohol and Drug Resources
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a treatment facility locator. This locator helps people find drug and alcohol treatment programs in their area.
Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)
Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strengths, and hopes with each other so that they can solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. Locate an A.A. program near you.
5. Avoid Toxic Substances and Environmental Contaminants
Avoid harmful chemicals, environmental contaminants, and other toxic substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces around the home and in the workplace. These substances can hurt the reproductive systems of men and women. They can make it more difficult to get pregnant. Exposure to even small amounts during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, or puberty can lead to diseases. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from toxic substances at work and at home.
6. Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, including complications during pregnancy, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).1 People who are underweight are also at risk for serious health problems.2
The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity.
If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant.
7. Learn Your Family History
Collecting your family’s health history can be important for your child’s health. You might not realize that your sister’s heart defect or your cousin’s sickle cell disease could affect your child, but sharing this family history information with your doctor can be important.
Other reasons people go for genetic counseling include having had several miscarriages, infant deaths, trouble getting pregnant (infertility), or a genetic condition or birth defect that occurred during a previous pregnancy.
8. Get Mentally Healthy
Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. To be at your best, you need to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, get help. Talk with your doctor or another health professional about your feelings and treatment options.
- NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online:
- Moos, Merry-K, et al. Healthier women, healthier reproductive outcomes: recommendations for the routine care of all women of reproductive age. AJOG Volume 199, Issue 6, Supplement B , Pages S280-S289, December 2008.