Planning a Pregnancy
Health Care before Pregnancy
If you have decided that you are ready to have a baby, visit your health care provider for a pre‑pregnancy or “preconception” visit. A preconception visit with your health care provider can help determine and modify any risks to you or your pregnancy. This may help you decide what type of care provider you would like during your pregnancy, and what tests you may want to have done during pregnancy.
Here are some things to consider:
- Have a blood test to check your rubella immunity. If you test negative, you will need an immunization. After being vaccinated, wait at least 3 months before you get pregnant. Exposure to rubella during early pregnancy can harm your baby.
- You and your partner may want to be screened for potential genetic problems, such as sickle cell anemia if you are of African descent, or Tay‑Sachs disease if you are of Jewish‑European or French‑Canadian descent.
- If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, seizure disorders, or any inherited diseases, talk with your health care provider before getting pregnant – they may want to modify your treatment and may be able to prescribe medicine that is safer for the developing baby.
- If you have symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or are unsure of your partner’s sexual history, arrange for STI testing.
Health Behaviour before Pregnancy
There are many things you can do to ensure optimal health during the preconception period:
- Eat healthy.
- Take a multivitamin that contains 0.4 milligrams (400 micrograms) of folic acid to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida (a defect in which the spine does not completely close around the spinal cord). During pregnancy, some women may need more than 0.4 milligrams (400 micrograms) of folic acid ‑ ask your health care provider what the right amount is for you. Do not take a multivitamin or folic acid supplement with more than 1000 micrograms or 1 milligram of folic acid unless advised by your doctor or midwife.
- Be physically active and control your weight, as advised by your health care provider.
- Stop drinking alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and hard liquor.
- Stop smoking.
- Stop all illegal drug use and eliminate any medications that are not absolutely essential. Check with your health care provider before you stop taking any of your medications.
- See your dentist and have any necessary fillings or other work done before you get pregnant. Some medical tests and x‑rays, including dental x‑rays may not be safe if you could be pregnant. Before having X‑rays, dental X‑rays, CT scans, and other tests, be sure to tell the technician you could be pregnant.
- If you get your drinking water from a private well, get the water tested by a laboratory to ensure the drinking water is safe. Your well water may not be safe, even if you are not getting sick. Some chemical contaminants sometimes found in well water can cause long‑term health problems that can take years to develop. Dangerously high levels of nitrates have been found in a number of wells in certain parts of the province. For more information, see the HealthLink BC file Should I Get My Well Water Tested?