Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

Maternity Monday: Planning a Pregnancy

You’ve found the right job, you’ve got the right guy, you feel those maternal instincts kicking in. You want to get pregnant. It’s the natural next step, right? Although we realize that sometimes pregnancies just happen without any planning, learning the best practices to plan your pregnancy is helpful for any woman who is sexually active. Not only will you be at your best, but it will help your unborn baby be as healthy as he or she can be, too.

Stories about preconception, pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum
Join us as we journey through preconception, pregnancy, childbirth and beyond in a series we call Maternity Monday.

Having a baby is a personal decision that should be discussed with your partner. Only you will know when you are truly ready in regards to your professional life, your relationship and your financial situation. Your doctor can help you plan a pregnancy in regards to your health and expectations. If you think the right time has arrived for you to get pregnant, we are ready to help prepare you for your journey to motherhood.

Taking All of the Right Steps for a Healthy Pregnancy

When you and your partner decide it’s time to start trying to get pregnant, you should begin taking extra care of yourself. Taking the right steps toward a healthy lifestyle not only helps you get pregnant, but also will protect your baby in the critical first weeks when you may not realize you are pregnant. During this time you should:

  • Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol due to the harmful effects it may have on an undeveloped fetus.
  • Be at a healthy weight; being underweight or overweight may cause complications in your pregnancy going forward.
  • Increase your intake of folic acid. Your body and the fetus need extra folic acid for a number of reasons. Folic acid helps to prevent spinal cord injuries, cleft lip, cleft palate and types of heart defects on baby. Your body needs the folic acid in order to make red blood cells and prevent anemia. It also helps to produce and repair DNA, which helps to promote rapid cell growth in your developing baby.
When planning a pregnancy be sure that you are at your best. Take Folic Acid, exercise, and rid your body of toxins.
When planning a pregnancy be sure that you are at your best. Take folic acid, exercise, and rid your body of toxins.

The Center of Disease Control (CDC) suggests that all women of child-bearing age take 400 mcg of folic acid each day, which you can buy at many grocery stores and pharmacies. You can also find foods high in folic acid like:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Citrus fruits
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Avocado

UVA pediatrician Ina Stephens, MD, also suggests an organic, toxin-free diet. “It’s never too early to start eating right and changing your lifestyle,” she says. “It’s as important to take care of yourself before you get pregnant as it is when you find out you are carrying a baby.”

“Prenatal exposure is still a mystery,” Stephens says. “Any changes to eat right and exercise and remove toxins from your life will help.”

Birth Control Myths

When you stop taking birth control, you may wonder how long it will take to get completely out of your system. Each woman is different, and each birth control method is different, too.

According to Stephens, birth control medication leaves your body fairly quickly. “That’s why you take a daily pill,” she explains. “When you miss a pill, your body doesn’t get those hormones.”

However, since your menstrual cycle lasts several weeks, you will probably need to stop taking birth control pills several days before you can get pregnant. Also remember, birth control pills are not 100 percent preventative, so there is still a slight chance to become pregnant while taking them.

What to Know About Your Family History

Your family health history will play a role in your child’s life and there are things that you and your OB/GYN  should discuss and consider before your baby is born.

If your parents or grandparents suffer from diabetes, heart disease, hypertension or a number of other illnesses, be sure to mention that to your OB/GYN. You may be more likely to develop complications during pregnancy. However, these diseases can be treated and managed during pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor about genetic diseases that could affect your baby such as sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis and many heart conditions.

There’s a lot to know and a lot to think about when planning a pregnancy, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. The most important thing to remember is that your baby will need you to be at your very best in order to grow into a healthy human. Those first few days and weeks of pregnancy are very important, so starting a healthy routine before you know you’re pregnant is your best bet!

Tags: pregnancy

Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week