It’s a new year and you’re trying to start a family. Or you’re newly pregnant. Here are five resolutions to help optimize your chances for a healthy pregnancy.
1. Take your folic acid. Obstetricians have known for years that proper folic acid supplementation, both pre & during pregnancy, significantly decrease the risk of brain and spinal cord defects in your baby. A very recent study (JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 3. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.4050.) suggests that folic acid used both before and during pregnancy significantly reduces the risk of autism. How much folic acid is enough? Bare minimum—400micrograms a day though I typically counsel my patients to shoot for 800mcg to 1milligram a day.
2. Take your vitamin D (if you’re deficient). Low vitamin D levels (under 30 ng/ml) have been linked to infertility and pregnancy problems—recurrent miscarriage, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes among other things. But don’t run out and buy mega-doses of vitamin D until you speak with you doctor, who may want to check your level first. Too much vitamin D can lead to kidney problems.
3. Maintain a healthy BMI. Before getting pregnant, an ideal BMI range is 18.5-24.9. Being below or above this range can be associated with more difficulty conceiving. If your BMI is out of this range and you’re already pregnant, don’t worry but talk with you doctor about the appropriate amount of weight to gain. Women who start off pregnancy with a lower than normal BMI should gain more weight during pregnancy while overweight/obese women should try and gain less. The CDC shares some helpful information and guidance on this page: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm
4. Stay up to date with your vaccinations. Now that it’s flu season, it’s ALWAYS a good time to get the flu vaccine—whether you’re pregnant or trying. While not perfect, the vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu. Serious complications from the flu during pregnancy can endanger you as well as the pregnancy. Try to make sure you’re immunized against rubella and varicella (chicken pox) before you get pregnant as these viral infections can cause some serious problems (miscarriages –both early and late—as well as limb deformities etc) with your baby if you’re not protected.
5. Quit smoking/drinking alcohol/drug use! A lot of us resolve to clean up our act with the new year but find it’s hard to stick with the plan. What better motivation do you need beyond the desire for a healthy pregnancy and baby? If you’re struggling to quit (it’s definitely not easy), consider seeking support from a mental health expert or acupuncturist. In the end, you’re not just helping your pregnancy, you’re benefiting yourself as well.