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Pre-pregnancy health checklist

One way of giving your baby the best start in life is to make sure you’re in tip-top health yourself before you get pregnant. You could ask your GP for a prenatal check-up, about three months to a year before you start trying to conceive. You can discuss any concerns you have and get advice about changes you can make for a healthier pregnancy.

Here are some of the ways to prepare your body for pregnancy.

  1. Contraception review
    If you’ve had the contraceptive injection, it can take up to 12 weeks for the active hormones to leave your body. It may then take three months to a year for your normal fertility to return. And if you’re coming off the pill, it may take up to six months for your cycle to settle into a regular pattern.

    However, in most other cases, the type of contraceptive you use or were using won’t affect how long it takes to get pregnant. If you have any concerns about coming off contraception, discuss them with your GP.

    2. Medical history
    Make sure your GP knows about any health issues you or your partner have had in the past. If possible, let her know about any health problems that run in your families, including whether any close female relatives had pregnancy complications.

    Your GP can then advise you on any potential complications you may encounter when trying for a baby, or after you conceive.

    3. Cervical screening
    Cervical screening (also known as a cervical smear or smear test) isn’t reliable during pregnancy. This is because your cervix changes a little during this time.

    If you’re due to have cervical screening in the next year or so, ask your GP or practice nurse whether they recommend having it done before you start trying.

    4. Urine and blood tests
    These can check for a whole host of problems, including conditions like diabetesand anaemia, as well as infections. They won’t be offered routinely, so it’s important to speak to your GP if you have any concerns about your health.

Diagnosing conditions early means there’s more your GP can do to support you as you try to conceive. For example, if you have diabetes, your baby’s at a higher risk of certain defects. However, by closely monitoring and maintaining your blood sugar, you can help reduce these risks.

Consider going to your local sexual health clinic to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs don’t always have symptoms, so it’s worth getting checked out if you’ve ever had unprotected sex, including oral sex.

  1. Blood pressure check
    High blood pressure in pregnancy is quite common, especially if you’re overweight. In most cases, your midwife will simply monitor your blood pressure once you have conceived.

    However, if you have previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s helpful for your GP to record the exact measurement now, before you conceive. This will allow your midwife to better monitor how it changes when you become pregnant, and offer you extra support if needed.

    If you aren’t sure whether your blood pressure is high, book for a prenatal check-up with your GP. She can measure your blood pressure during this appointment.

  2. Healthy weight

Being overweight or underweight may affect your fertility, and can cause complications for you and your baby if you do conceive. Ideally, you should have a body mass index (BMI) between 19 and 25.

If you find lifestyle changes difficult to stick to without support, your GP will be happy to offer advice. If your BMI is particularly high or low, she may also refer you to a dietician

7. Vaccinations
Making sure you’re up to date with your jabs can help to protect both you and the baby you conceive from a range of health issues. There are some vaccinations that are not safe to have in pregnancy, so it’s best to get them now.

Your GP or practice nurse should be able to tell you if there are any you need.

8. Quitting smoking
Smoking can cause complications for you and your baby. It also increases your risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Although vaping with e-cigarettes is likely to be healthier than smoking, we can’t be sure exactly what effect it may have on you or your baby. The safest thing is to quit altogether.

Quitting smoking is really hard, which is why you’re more likely to succeed if you have support. Ask your GP for advice, or call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044.

9. Medication
If you’re taking any regular medication, check with your GP that it’ll be safe for you to continue taking it when you become pregnant. In many cases, you won’t need to make a change. But sometimes your doctor can prescribe a medicine that’s safer during pregnancy.

When you start trying, you should also avoid certain over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and antihistamines. These treatments aren’t always safe for developing babies.

10. Genetic testing
If you have a genetic disorder such as cystic fibrosis, or a congenital condition such as thalassemia, you may be eligible for genetic testing. This will tell you how likely it is that you’ll pass the condition on to your baby.

You may also be offered a test if certain conditions run in your family. Ask your GP what’s right for you.

11. Vitamin supplements
As soon as you start trying for a baby, you should start taking a supplement which contains 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day. You’ll need to keep this up until you’re at least 12 weeks pregnant.

You can take folic acid as a standalone supplement, or as part of a multivitamin. Some multivitamins contain high levels of vitamin A, which isn’t safe for your baby if you conceive. Choose multivitamins that are designed for pregnancy, and always check with your pharmacist if you aren’t sure.

Original article: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a7052/pre-pregnancy-health-checklist