Want to have a baby? 10 tips for aspiring parents
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – May 13, 2013 -- Deciding to have a baby can feel like standing at the bottom of a mountain, looking up at the road ahead. It’s an exciting time in your life, but the prospect of parenthood may also be daunting or overwhelming. Are you ready for the journey?
To make sure you’re prepared, Dr. Kelly Williams, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Murfreesboro Medical Clinic who delivers at Middle Tennessee Medical Center, encourages aspiring parents to take time to learn about pregnancy and delivery before they start trying to conceive. A few of his tips for a healthy pregnancy include:
- Talk to your doctor before you start trying to conceive: Your doctor will be able to discuss your health and spot any potential health concerns before they become a problem during pregnancy. This conversation is also a great time to discuss your health history and your partner’s health history with your doctor, to see if you should consider genetic testing for any hereditary conditions.
- Don’t drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs: Smoking, drinking and taking drugs endangers the life and health of your potential child. Studies have linked these activities with miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects or low birthrate babies.
- Take prenatal vitamins: Nutrients such as folic acid and iron greatly reduce your baby’s risk of developing birth defects. Start taking prenatal vitamins, which usually contain 800 micrograms of folic acid, at least a month before getting pregnant. However, be careful not to take extreme doses of vitamins, especially vitamin A. Taking too much of certain substances can be harmful.
- Focus on your health: Once you conceive, your health will affect your baby, so think about your own habits and lifestyle before getting pregnant. If you’re not already exercising regularly, ease into a program that includes 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Also, visit the dentist, as changes in your hormones during pregnancy can put you at risk for gum disease.
- Watch out for fish: Certain types of fish, suchas swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, are high in mercury, which makes them unsafe for pregnant women. However, fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, so the FDA and EPA recommend that pregnant women eat two servings (12 ounces) of fish that are not high in mercury a week. Good choices include salmon, herring, and sardines.
- Give up caffeine: A little caffeine may be safe during pregnancy, but having too much may affect your fertility or lead to an increased risk of miscarriage once you’re pregnant. To be on the safe side, limit your intake to 200 milligrams per day.
- Don’t clean the kitty litter: Toxoplasmosis, an infection that may be dangerous to your developing baby, can be transmitted through contaminated kitty litter, water and dirt. There’s no need to find a new home for your cat, but do find someone else to change the litter. Also, wear gloves any time you will be exposed to soil, such as while gardening, and thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before you eat them.
- Avoid eating cold deli meat, unpasteurized dairy products, and raw or undercooked seafood and meat: These items can carry bacteria called listeriosis, which sometimes cause illness that leads to miscarriage or stillbirth. In addition to avoiding these foods, be careful to wash your hands thoroughly after preparing meals or handling raw products.
- Get a financial check-up: The cost of prenatal care, delivery and postnatal care can be expensive. Call your health company before you get pregnant to find out how much this process will cost, so you can save money and avoid a pile of bills after baby is born. If you don’t have health insurance, contact your local health department to discuss what resources are available to help you get the care you need. And remember, expenses associated with childbirth pale in comparison to the cost of raising a child, so be sure to evaluate your long-term financial situation, as well.
- Don’t forget to look before you leap: Last but not least, think about how your life will change after you have a baby. How will you and your partner balance work and family life? Will you need childcare? Do you and your partner share the same views on parenting, or are there conflicts you should resolve before becoming parents? Take time to work through any concerns or differences now, instead of waiting until the nine month countdown begins.
These tips are a great starting point, but Dr. Williams cautions couples to really do their homework before starting down the road to parenthood.
“Read a parenting book together or take a class, and talk about having a baby over and over again. Most likely, you’ll have a lot to learn about having a healthy pregnancy. But that’s just a small part of it – you also want to think about the big picture of becoming parents,” he said.
For more information about Middle Tennessee Medical Center, a member of Saint Thomas Healthl, please visit www.stthomas.org/mtmc.