Good preparation for pregnancy is essential. Because the fertility period occurs two weeks before your period, three weeks may go by before you find out if you’re pregnant or not. The most critical period for your baby is between your second and eighth week of pregnancy, a time during which the face and organs such as the heart and kidneys are forming. Your lifestyle and habits (diet, smoking, alcohol consumption) may affect the baby. It is preferable to adopt a pregnant woman’s lifestyle before your pregnancy is confirmed.
Your baby eats what you eat. It is highly recommended to follow the Canadian food guide recommendations, especially if you want to become pregnant. If you are vegetarian or currently dieting, it is advised to consult a dietician to make sure that your baby won’t lack anything during his or her development.
Being overweight can increase your chances of suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy. If you have to lose weight, plan on losing it before you get pregnant.
To reduce the risk of your baby having congenital anomalies, it is highly recommended to consume folic acid at least three months before getting pregnant. Folic acid (or folate) is a type of Vitamin B. Foods that are high in Folic acid include cereals, green vegetables (spinach, broccoli), meat (liver) and beans (lens and dry beans). Although Folic acid is found in these foods, it is hard to get the total daily recommended dose in our diet. All women who could become pregnant should take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of Folic acid every day.
Being in good physical shape will make your pregnancy and delivery easier. However, it may be more difficult to get pregnant if you do too much exercise, especially if exercising is a recent habit and your body is not used to it. Daily walks are a great way to start. To get an idea of the best exercises for your condition, talk to a health professional.
Are you a smoker? It is important to note that tobacco use is responsible for miscarriages, bleeding, premature births and low weight at birth. It's better to stop your smoking habit before even trying to get pregnant.
Do you love beer and good wine? Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), responsible for many problems like mental retardation, underdevelopment, facial malformations and heads that are too small. It is highly advised not to drink alcohol before and during the whole 9 months of pregnancy.
Drug consumption also increases the risk of miscarriages, premature births, and malformations. Furthermore, some drugs will make the baby addicted to the drugs their mother uses, and they will have to go through a weaning period when they're born, which is extremely painful and dangerous.
Pregnant women should also steer clear of cat litter boxes because cat's stools can pass on parasites that are responsible for toxoplasmosis. A pregnant woman that gets toxoplasmosis can pass it on to the fetus through the placenta. The risk level and the gravity of the situation depends on how far along the pregnancy is. In certain cases, toxoplasmosis can result in induced abortion, the death of the fetus or premature birth. If the birth gets to term, blindness, cardiac or cerebral problems and even death could result. You can also get toxoplasmosis if you eat raw or insufficiently cooked meat, or if you're in contact with soil stained with cat stools, like in a garden for example. When gardening, make sure to wear gloves.
If you enjoy hot baths, know that they can be harmful to the baby’s health during your first trimester. Research has shown that excessive heat from a fever, a bath or a sauna during the first three months can cause malformations to your baby.
Be sure not to be exposed to any danger in your workplace and at home, like heavy metals (lead and mercury), carbon disulfide, acids, anesthetic gases, and radiation. On this subject, we encourage you to check out the “Pour une maternité sans danger” program on the CNESST website (available in French only).
If you are taking medication, whether it be prescription meds or off-the-counter meds, you must make sure that they will not cause any harm to the baby. Check your medication with your doctor or pharmacist.
You may need to have certain tests done to see if you have any health issues that could create problems for you or your child’s health.
If you don't know if you've had rubella or been vaccinated for that disease, a blood test will let you know. Getting rubella while pregnant could be very harmful to the baby, and you can avoid problems by getting the vaccine before becoming pregnant.