- Before you start trying to get pregnant, there are a lot of things to consider and get checked out.
- The best thing you can do to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy is to have a checkup with your obstetrician.
- Genomic medicine can help show how likely you and your partner are to have trouble with fertility and the chances that you could pass on certain conditions to your child.
- Maintaining an ideal body weight can prevent prematurity or other complications.
There are lots of things to consider before trying to have children. Your weight, diet, medical history, and habits all can have an impact on your ability to get pregnant and once you are pregnant, those things can affect your health and the health of your child.
“I think that there’s a new paradigm in medicine and that’s preventative medicine,” Dr. Alan B. Copperman from Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York (RMA) told INSIDER. “Years ago, things used to happen to us and then we would eventually figure it out and then we’d go to a doctor and by the time we started treating it, it was sometimes too late.
“These days … using this whole concept of big data and personalized medicine, we can figure out who’s at risk of having bad outcomes and we can intervene before they become a problem. And a perfect example is pregnancy.”
So instead of waiting to figure out these things once you’re already pregnant or actively trying, Dr. Copperman said being proactive is the best thing you can do.
According to Dr. Copperman, focusing on your mental health and wellness, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, taking prenatal vitamins, and taking advantage of genomic medicine can all help prevent infertility and help to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy.
Read on to see what are some of the things you should consider before trying to get pregnant.
It's worth noting that the most-important thing you can do is visit your obstetrician. They'll help you figure out the specifics of what you and your partner need to do to have a healthy pregnancy.
Taking folic acid even before you try to get pregnant can prevent birth defects
Dr. Copperman said folic acid prevents neural tube defects like spina bifida or anencephaly. Folic acid, a B vitamin, is used by our bodies to make new cells. The CDC recommends women take 400 mcg of folic acid every day, whether they are pregnant or not. But in pregnancy, folic acid is what helps form the neural tube.
Because spina bifida and anencephaly can develop early in pregnancy, before a person may know they're pregnant, it is especially important to be taking folic acid even before you are pregnant.
Smoking can make it harder for you to get pregnant and can cause low birthweight for your baby
Smoking can make it more difficult to get pregnant and can damage the lining in the womb for people with a uterus and for people with a penis, smoking can reduce the quality of their semen.
Smoking also increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or low-birthweight babies.
Maintaining a healthy body weight can prevent complications such as prematurity or gestational diabetes
"By maintaining a body weight close to the ideal range - not too thin, not too heavy - we can prevent complications ranging from prematurity on the lower end to gestational diabetes and complications for mom and baby on the higher echelons," Dr. Copperman said.
Some of those complications can include pre-eclampsia, longer labor, or blood clots.
According to the Office on Women's Health, your BMI can help you figure out if you are under or overweight.
You should look into your medical history to see how it could affect your ability to get pregnant
"When we're looking at a couple who goes six months or even longer without getting pregnant, we start asking questions: Are the eggs OK? Is the sperm OK? Is the uterus normal and are your tubes open?" said Dr. Copperman.
"If, for example, we have somebody who has a history of a ruptured appendix and a sexually transmitted infection, then we know she's at risk of having blocked tubes and we should think about checking the tubes with a test called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG). And if the male partner has had an undescended testicle or some medical condition or is on certain medications, we may check a semen analysis earlier to look at the count and motility of the sperm, to make sure there's no problem."
Talking to your doctor can help you determine the best course of action given your medical history.
Some medications can affect your pregnancy and the development of your child
"If you're taking medications, [such as] an anti-seizure medication, then you want to know what the risks are and maybe you want to be put on a different one for pregnancy. Or, [if] you're taking a certain anxiolytic [to help with anxiety] and there are better choices that are less teratogenic, less likely to end up having an effect on the physical development of the children," Dr. Copperman said.
You should know how your age can affect your fertility
"Ultimately, a lot of the issues surrounding fertility relate to the eggs," Dr. Copperman said.
"A woman is born with all the eggs she's ever going to have in her lifetime and by the time she's in her 40s, [though some studies say by the time she's in her 30s] nearly 90% of eggs are unhealthy. So if a woman is in her mid to late 30s or early 40s or has a family history of early menopause or has had endometriosis or surgery on her ovaries, then she'll want to take seriously evaluating her ovarian reserve and maybe intervening sooner rather than later in her family planning goals."
As far as age goes, Dr. Copperman said being proactive is the best option.
"A woman who is single and 34 maybe would consider freezing her eggs so that the normal age-related decline doesn't compromise her ability to get pregnant when she wants to."
Know that with genetic testing, you and your partner can pinpoint and prevent complications before they arise
Dr. Cooperman told INSIDER that we're currently in an era of genomic medicine, which, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute, "involves using genomic information about an individual as part of their clinical care (e.g. for diagnostic or therapeutic decision-making) and the health outcomes and policy implications of that clinical use."
"We used to have a lot of unhealthy babies being born, with diseases that weren't identified until after birth … nowadays, we're testing for hundreds of genes and we're finding more and more carrier couples. Carrier couples who are healthy, but together, because they both carry a mutation of the same gene, can have a one in four chance of having a really sick child. And we're living in an era where we can do something about this," said Dr. Copperman.
"We can use technology and knowledge to prevent a lot of diseases, to prevent infertility, and to treat infertility by addressing it early," he added.