Pregnancy Planning

Pregnancy Planning Summary
Pregnancy planning is important to help prevent exposure of the mother and fetus to potentially harmful medications and substances during the early days, and throughout the pregnancy. Nutritional planning, prevention of birth defects, conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease need careful monitoring. Gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and pregnancy induced hypertension are conditions that may arise during pregnancy. Immunizations, inherited disorders, exercise, air travel, intercourse, and birth control are important factors to consider when planning a pregnancy.
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Pregnancy planning facts

  • Pregnancy planning can address issues of nutrition, vitamins, body weight, exercise, and potentially harmful medications and illnesses as well as immunizations and genetic counseling.
  • Women who take folic acid at least four weeks prior to conception can reduce their baby's risk of birth defects of the spinal cord and skull by 70%.
  • Alcohol has been implicated in infertility, early miscarriage, and birth defects.
  • Certain acne medications, other prescriptions, and OTC medications can cause birth defects.
  • Babies of older women have an increased risk of having chromosomal abnormalities.
  • The timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation does not influence the gender of the baby.

What is pregnancy planning and why is it important?

Having a baby is one of the most important events in a woman's life. Women considering pregnancy are encouraged to start planning for the pregnancy with their partners and healthcare professionals early. Such preparation is called pregnancy planning. The goal is to create a healthy environment for the fetus and to prevent birth defects and other pregnancy related problems to the greatest extent possible. The issues addressed during pregnancy planning include nutrition, vitamins, body weight, exercise, avoidance of certain medications and alcohol, immunizations, and genetic counseling. Even though many women will have normal pregnancies without any preparation, pregnancy planning improves the chances of a smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby. Unfortunately, many more women who are anticipating conceiving do not seek prior medical consultation.

Pregnancy planning can help prevent exposure of the mother to potentially harmful medications or substances during the early days of pregnancy. The baby's organs begin developing as early as 17 days after conception, and the fertilized egg begins to grow even before the first day of the missed period. Some women continue to have light bleeding that may be mistaken for a menstrual period during the first few months of pregnancy and may not even realize that they are pregnant. Others may not recognize that they are pregnant until they experience weight gain or abdominal enlargement. By then, they may have already been exposed to medications or substances potentially harmful to the fetus.

In addition to avoiding medications and substances that are potentially harmful to the fetus, other important health issues are addressed during pre-pregnancy planning.

  • Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and heart disease in the mother are controlled to optimize pregnancy outcome.
  • The status of the woman's immunity against German measles (rubella) and varicella (chickenpox) is also determined. Women lacking rubella antibodies are immunized before conceiving (see medical issues below). Women who are not immune to varicella (chickenpox) can be vaccinated, but should wait 30 days after vaccination before becoming pregnant.
  • Women who are carriers of the hepatitis B virus can be identified by blood tests, and their infants can be protected from hepatitis B infection by immunizations at the time of delivery. Women with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection should take certain medications during pregnancy to decrease not only their risks but those of the fetus as well.

The effects of diet, exercise, and each of the medical conditions previously discussed will be reviewed below.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/9/2014

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Pregnancy Planning - Lifestyle Changes Question: Please describe the changes you have made to your lifestyle with preparation for becoming pregnant.
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Pregnancy Planning - Symptoms Question: Please share your experience with early pregnancy symptom.
Pregnancy Symptoms

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Most women equate a missed menstrual periodwith the possibility of being pregnant, but other symptoms and signs are experienced by most women in the early stages of pregnancy. It's important to remember that not all women will experience all of these symptoms or have the symptoms to the same degree. Even the same woman can have different types of symptoms in a subsequent pregnancy than she had in previous pregnancies.

The following are the most common pregnancy symptoms in the first trimester:

  1. A missed menstrual period is most often the first sign of pregnancy, although a woman may still experience some bleeding or spotting around the time of the expected period. However, if a woman does not have regular menstrual cycles, she may notice some of the other symptoms of early pregnancy before it is apparent that the menstrual period has been missed.
  1. Feelings of breast swelling, tenderness, or pain are also commonly associated with early pregnancy. These symptoms are sometimes similar to the sensations in the breasts in the days before an expected menstrual period.