September 10, 2018 by Katie Keepers, MD

Every expectant woman has one wish above all others — a healthy baby. Healthy pregnancies and healthy babies actually begin before conception.

Before trying to get pregnant, schedule a check-up to ensure you are in good health. Your provider will discuss your medical conditions, health history and immunizations as well as current prescription and over-the-counter medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, early, regular prenatal care is essential to ensure the best possible outcome for mom and baby.

Moms-to-be should begin taking prenatal vitamins before trying to conceive. The multi-vitamins contain essential nutrients, folic acid to prevent birth defects and iron needed by growing babies. Your provider will prescribe your prenatal vitamins. The vitamins are available over the counter, but make sure they contain 400 micrograms or more of folic acid. 

A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to give your baby a good start. We urge women to quit smoking before conception. Smoking can lower your ability to conceive and increase your risk for miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth.

Skip the wine, beer and margaritas. No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. Alcohol can put your baby at risk for premature birth, birth defects and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. That’s why it’s best not to drink if you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant or think you might be pregnant.

A healthy body weight and regular exercise can improve your chances of conceiving. Once pregnant, having a healthy body weight lowers the risk for complications such as gestational diabetes or hypertension.  

If you exercise, keep it up. You may even begin an exercise program with your provider’s approval. Walking and swimming are good choices. Exercise during pregnancy can make you feel better, make labor and delivery easier and reduce complications such as gestational diabetes. Most women can benefit from 30 minutes of physical activity 5-7 days a week. But your workouts may need to be modified during pregnancy.

To eat a balanced diet, choose nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and dairy products. These foods give you and baby the nutrients you need.

You don’t need to give up your morning coffee. March of Dimes recommends limiting your caffeine to 12 ounces of coffee per day or less than 200 milligrams per day. But remember your favorite pick-me-ups like soda, tea and chocolate also have caffeine. 

Pregnancy can be a wonderful time in a woman’s life. Yet we also understand that pregnancy poses many challenges. That’s why the Mankato Clinic Foundation helps fund First Steps, a community collaborative that connects pregnant women to resources and support in their community.

First Steps Coordinator Teresa Freitag is located in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Mankato Clinic. She can assist pregnant women who receive their health care from Mankato Clinic, Mayo Clinic Health System Mankato, and Open Door Health Center. Call First Steps at 507-385-3847 if you need support.