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The Best Possible Start

by Lori Sciame January 5th, 2018 | Health Observance
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babyI vividly remember the moment I read the positive pregnancy test.  I felt awash with emotions, including immense joy at the news I would be bringing a new life into the world. Would my first baby be a boy or girl?  Would he or she have brown or blonde hair?  Dozens of questions ran through my mind.  After the initial elation, my thoughts drifted towards more practical concerns, such as visiting the doctor.

My concerns about my child, however, began long before I conceived.  When my husband and I decided it was time to start a family, I researched steps to take to help ensure a healthy baby.  I learned that I needed to stay away from alcohol, I needed to avoid second-hand cigarette smoke, and I needed to take folic acid, along with having a healthy diet.  Basically, I thought about preventing birth defects as much as a year before my first missed menstrual cycle.

Although research shows that not all birth defects can be prevented, the truth is that many can.  A first step for any woman hoping to begin a family in the next couple of years would be to establish a good relationship with her doctor if she hasn’t already done so.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “A woman should be sure to see her doctor when planning a pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as she thinks that she is pregnant. It is important to see the doctor regularly throughout pregnancy, so a woman should keep all her prenatal care appointments.”

As the CDC explains, being monitored by a doctor before a pregnancy and continually during a pregnancy can help to give a child a healthy start.  Most people know someone who has put off going to her scheduled prenatal visits.  She may think them unnecessary, yet they are the single most effective way to stop a problem before it starts – that is besides living a drug-free, healthy life!

Another step a woman can take to prevent birth defects would be to quit smoking (or using illegal drugs) and drinking alcohol long before conception.  The same can be said for the man!  If he takes drugs or lives a relatively unhealthy life, then his sperm may be damaged.  Just like going to the doctor, clean living for both the future mom and dad can help to ensure baby doesn’t suffer in the long run.

Finally, a woman who may be overweight should work on getting in shape before she becomes pregnant. It is hard enough being pregnant, but being obese and pregnant would tax a woman’s system immensely.  Also, being overweight can increase the risk of diabetes, not a healthy situation for mom or baby.

Because I had done my research, and because I wanted my children to be as healthy as possible when born, I took steps to prevent birth defects in the months before conception and during my pregnancies.  My advice:  all prospective parents should do the same.

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.