You're not pregnant. Not even thinking about it, as you haven't had three continuous hours of sleep in as many years! Or maybe you're just beginning to think about what it would be like to have another baby in the house. So what's the point in planning for another pregnancy that may or may not occur?
Steps you take now will help you protect your health — as well as that of your unborn child — when and if you do
decide to get pregnant. Also, you may be surprised to learn that about half of pregnancies in the United States are surprises, according to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. By taking control of the present, you can often make the future smoother and more manageable — not to mention more pleasurable.
Step One: Take a Multivitamin
The trick is to take one that contains 400 mcg of folic acid. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins so important for fetal growth and development. And it's best to get plenty of it even before you are pregnant, either as part of a multivitamin or as a separate preparation. Folic acid plays a particularly important role in the prevention of spina bifida and other birth defects of the brain and spinal column. Step Two: See Your Health Care Provider
Schedule a preconception visit with your provider. This kind of visit — remember, you're not pregnant at this point — focuses on tests that screen for illnesses like rubella (German measles) that could damage a growing fetus. If you've had rubella already, you can't get it again, but if you've never had that kind of measles, a simple shot can prevent any future damage to the fetus. Also during a preconception visit, your health care provider should review any medications you take routinely. She may adjust dosages or even prescribe different medications to take into account the possibility of a pregnancy. You may need to see whether you are anemic or have thyroid problems, which can bring on a fatigue you may have attributed to the effort of keeping up with a toddler. Step Three: See Your Dentist
Complex dental procedures add infection risks to a pregnancy, so get those pearly whites cleaned and tuned up now so your oral health is at its best. These three steps, as well as exercising regularly and eating reasonably, are the best way to be sure you're ready for any pregnancy — planned or not.
For more information on preventing birth defects, visit the March of Dimes Web site at www.modimes.org.