Pregnancy Planning Checklist
- Make a plan.
- Choose a pregnancy care provider you would like to work with.
- Learn your family’s health history.
- Identify and make note of any current medical conditions such as high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, or chronic health problems.
- Audit your lifestyle and habits, including whether you use substances like medical marijuana or drugs, drink alcohol or live or work in a toxic chemical environment.
- Make a list of all of your current medications, including supplements and herbs.
- Begin taking a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of Folic Acid.
- Reach and maintain the healthiest weight possible.
- Get help if there is violence in your home.
- Get mental health support if you often feel worried, sad, anxious or stressed.
Whether this is your first or fifth baby, each time you try to conceive there may be different health questions or actions you need to address for the healthiest pregnancy possible. Every pregnancy is different, just as each one of your children has their own unique characteristics and personalities.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices Support Healthy Pregnancies
Prenatal vitamins come in all shapes, flavors, and types—you can find them at any major retailer or drug store. They contain at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, which is a B vitamin. Having enough folic acid in our body at least one month prior to conceiving a pregnancy can help prevent major birth defects in baby’s brain and spine.
If there are habits and changes you need to make, do those before you conceive your baby. This is the time to stop habits known to harm developing babies right from conception, including smoking, drinking alcohol, or the use of certain drugs such as medical marijuana, to name a common one. Even if medical marijuana is legal where you live, it’s a controlled substance with known risks to baby and pregnancy and could potentially cause harm to your baby.
Of note, healthcare providers are mandatory reporters and may have to inform local authorities or agencies about lifestyle practices and choices that could be a concern for your unborn growing baby. Reach out to mental health care professionals if you think you need counseling, treatment, and or other support services to be able to limit these practices before pregnancy occurs.
Where You Live Can Affect Your Baby
Experts at the CDC advise avoiding harmful toxins like those in synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces around the home and in the workplace. These substances can affect the reproductive systems of both women and men; for women, they can make it more difficult to get pregnant. Exposure to even small amounts during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, or puberty can lead to diseases.
Your blood pressure may rise to unhealthy levels because of environmental or other personal stressors. Don’t live near a grocery or retailer with fresh produce and healthy choices? Living in what experts call a “food desert” means you’ll have limited healthy food choices that can rob your pregnancy of optimal nutrition for you and your developing baby. If you find this is your situation, speak with your health care providers about resources available in your community that can support a healthy environment, food choices, and lifestyle during your pregnancy.
When Your Relationship Affects Your Health
Violence destroys relationships and families. Sadly, research demonstrates that violence toward women often begins when a woman becomes pregnant. Talk to your pregnancy care provider and make an actionable plan to get to a safe home, as needed, to protect yourself and your developing baby.
Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is healthy eating and regular physical activity. Determining what that looks like for you specifically can be challenging. It requires planning and thought to determine how to get that activity in daily. But it you can do it and it can be fun and free of cost.
Perhaps it’s simply counting your steps at work (using your phone or an app), parking farther away from your job for a longer walk to the door, working at home where you can squeeze in a quick walk during lunch. Plan for short breaks throughout your day—15 to 30 minutes at a time. Take a walk, go up and down the stairs, or do a quick exercise video on your phone or TV.
If maintaining a healthy weight is a struggle for you, don’t be afraid to speak to someone about planning to lose weight. Perhaps your doctor, a nutritionist, or your place of employment may have a fitness, lifestyle modification, or weight loss program. Such an option may even be free or low-cost to you as an employee. This is a first and essential first step in creating a healthier you before you get pregnant. Contact your human resource department or benefits coordinator to find about health modification options you may not have even realized were available to you!
Learn Your Family and Pregnancy History
Get Mentally Healthy
LaShea Haynes, MEd, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, RNC, C-EFM
LaShea Haynes, MEd, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, RNC, C-EFM, is an obstetric nurse with more than 25 years in practice. She is editor of Healthy Mom&Baby magazine and president of the nursing education and consulting company, Perinatal Potpourri, LLC, in the greater Atlanta metro region.
The information contained on this article should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your health care professional.