Preconception Health — Start Early for a Better Baby

Waiting until you are pregnant might be a bit late for the welfare of your baby. These days the topic of Preconception Health receives increasing attention. In its simplest sense, Preconception Health means care you receive before getting pregnant.

“The first 8weeksof pregnancy are of critical importance to the fetus,” says McLeod OB/GYN Dr. Joycelyn Schindler. “The mother’s health and well-being play a critical role as major body systems and organs begin to form. Preconception health includes steps to protect the health of a baby you might have, if you are trying to get pregnant or are only thinking about it.”

Preconception Health grew in importance with the understanding that nearly 50% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Unplanned pregnancies are more likely to result in low birth weight babies or preterm birth. Ideally, attention to Preconception Health should begin 3 months before a woman is pregnant or earlier, depending on her health to start.


  • Tell your OB/GYN about any over-the-counter or prescription medications you currently take so that you can ensure none are harmful to a pregnancy.
  • Work with your OB/GYN to bring any medical problems – such as diabetes, thyroid disease or asthma – under control.
  • Start taking folic acid every day to lower your risk of defects to the baby’s brain and spine. Even if you’re not planning an immediate pregnancy, folic acid helps create healthy skin, nails and hair cells for you.
  • Stop smoking or drinking and avoid toxic chemicals or feces from rodents and cats.
  • Follow a healthy diet by increasing fiber, reducing sugar sweetened soda or ice tea, eating less red or processed meat and replacing animal protein with nuts to lower your chance of gestational diabetes.

You and your partner should make a joint decision on pregnancy. With both of you working together toward the same goal of a healthy baby, the mother-to-be is more likely to get appropriate prenatal care and avoid actions that may harm the fetus, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking dangerous drugs.

If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, see your OB/GYN and discuss the issues above to enable you to work out a plan of action. Even if you can’t achieve all the guidelines, achieve as many as you can.

Find an OB/Gyn near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Modern Healthcare, British Medical Journal, National Institutes of Health