Ask A Doctor: How Can We Encourage A Healthy Pregnancy?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking into family planning resources. Congratulations! Deciding to start a family is a big decision and an exciting journey for couples. That said, it can also be an overwhelming process. Anyone who has done a little conception research knows just how much information is out there on how to conceive, what to do while pregnant, and more.

But before you even begin looking into how to get pregnant, or what to do after conceiving, there’s a big question that both parents need to ask: what should we do now in order to ensure our pregnancy is healthy from day one?

 This is a question that St. Clair Hospital’s own doctors and staff hear often, and it’s a very important one. While it’s not a secret that certain habits and lifestyle choices can affect a baby’s health during a pregnancy, it can be easy for an excited couple to forget that good health begins before a child is even conceived. The health of the sperm and the health of the egg that will transform over a nine-month period into a son or daughter is extremely important. Their wellness can affect whether or not an egg is fertilized, if the egg successfully implants in the uterus, and even whether or not the resulting pregnancy will be a full-term one.

So with that in mind, what should a hopeful couple do to boost their chances of a healthy pregnancy?

 According to St. Clair Hospital’s own Dr. Michelle Harvison, M.D. – who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology – step one is setting up an appointment with your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) before you even begin trying to conceive. By scheduling an appointment with your OB/GYN, you’ll be able to get a thorough review of your medical needs early in your family planning efforts. Not only that, but with the right advice and action, you can often head off a lot of future potential problems, too!

Dr. Harvison recommends making appointments for a number of reasons, particularly because they give couples and their doctors a chance to review crucial health information early on. For example, during an appointment couples can:

  • Review whether their immunizations are up to date, as missing out on certain boosters can potentially impact a pregnancy.
  • Consider whether or not any environmental exposures in their life could be a risk factor in a pregnancy.
  • Determine if it’s worth taking any genetic tests to see if hereditary diseases could be passed on to your children.
  • Discuss any chronic medical problems that one partner or another may be living with, such as diabetes or hypertension – these sorts of conditions should be under tight control before a pregnancy begins.

This appointment will also give doctors a chance to review all of a couple’s medications, to ensure that their prescriptions and even OTC medicines are safe for pregnancy. And of course, this appointment will give couples and the experts alike a chance to discuss any healthy living changes that need to be made early on, to ensure that any future pregnancies are healthy from day one. In many cases, doctors are likely to give advice regarding exercise and dietary habits – so definitely be prepared to implement some changes if necessary!

Still, as Dr. Harvison is quick to remind patients, the appointment alone won’t necessarily get you in the state of health that’s recommended for a healthy pregnancy. For example, health experts recommend that women begin taking folic acid supplements at least one month prior to conceiving. So if your doctor recommends taking any action to address your health needs for a set amount of time before trying to conceive, you’ll want to stick to this timeline so that you can truly optimize your health prior to conception.

Are you reading this after you began trying to conceive? Don’t fret too much! According to Dr. Harvison, M.D., the majority of pregnancies result in favorable outcomes for both moms and babies. Just schedule your normal doctor’s visits, and be sure to give your doctor any and all necessary information so they can assist you along the way.

If you’re still getting ready to start your family, though, it’s not too late to make an appointment with an OB/GYN. You can contact Dr. Harvison, please call 412.942.1866. You can also read more about her recommendations to couples who want to encourage a healthy pregnancy in Volume VII, Issue 4 of St. Clair Hospital’s HouseCall magazine.