Individuals who take care of themselves before and after they become pregnant help their babies stay healthy. Although it is never to late to make these healthy choices, many of the recommendations are best started at least three months prior to pregnancy. A baby's health begins even before they are conceived.
If you are planning on becoming pregnant, consider scheduling a visit with your health care provider to discuss your health or any recommendations for the healthiest pregnancy possible.
Ensure your immunizations are up to date before you get pregnant. Certain diseases affect your fertility and can put a baby at serious risk of birth defects or complications during pregnancy. Make sure:
- You get immunized against measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox
- Get your annual flu shot
- Make sure you are up to date on diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough immunizations
Smoking, Alcohol & Drugs
Substance use has an affect on overall health, including fertility, for all individuals. Many substances will affect the health of the baby if continued during pregnancy. Before pregnancy is the ideal time to try stop using substances. Consult your health care provider for supports and information to help.
|Smoking and Second Hand Smoke
||Quitting smoking and having a smoke-free environment can eliminate most negative effects on a pregnancy and future baby
- Less chance of becoming pregnant
- Higher chance of miscarriages
- Higher risk of birth defects
- Sperm have a harder time swimming and creating a pregnancy
Following the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (external PDF) for men and women reduces long term health risks and harms. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.
- Can cause brain damage and birth defects (FASD: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)
- Higher risk of birth defects
- Can damage quality of sperm
- Heavy alcohol use may affect sperm formation and function
- May cause impotence
There are risks from cannabis use to both immediate and long-term health. Canada's Lower-risk cannabis use guidelines recommend refraining from its use during pregnancy to avoid effects to a baby.
- Heavy cannabis use is linked to changes in menstrual cycle
- Can affect the growth and development of the baby, and lead to long-term learning and behaviour problems
- Lowers sperm counts in men
- Poorer sperm quality
- Prescription Drugs and other Medications - some medications are not safe for a developing baby during pregnancy. Discuss with your health care providers the medications or substances you are using to understand which can affect your fertility or a developing baby to develop a plan for your health and a pregnancy.
- Street Drugs - there are risks to your health and an unborn baby. There are special supports and programs to help you quit.
Being a healthy weight can improve your overall health, your chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthier baby.
If you are well above or below a healthy weight you may have troubles becoming pregnant. Babies may be born too small or early for women who are underweight prior to pregnancy. Being well above a healthy weight increases your risk of having a baby born with a birth defect, born too early as well as pregnancy and birth complications.
Men who are above a healthy weight can experience changes in hormone levels, such as lower testosterone. This can cause problems getting or keeping an erection as well as lower sperm counts.
Physical activity contributes to overall health and well being. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines suggest 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity for adults aged 64 and under. If you are not already fit, start with 30 minutes each day. A 10 minute walk, 3 times per day is all it takes to make it easier to stay active which can continue while you are pregnant.
Frequent strenuous exercise can affect menstrual function.
Women who are physically fit before pregnancy have an easier time adjusting to the body changes they experience during pregnancy.
Fertility can be affected by physical activity. Those who are moderately physically active have better sperm quality.
Healthy eating is a key component to overall health. Before becoming pregnant is an ideal time to begin these habits.
Nutritional needs change in pregnancy. Having healthy eating patterns before becoming pregnant helps lower health risks for you and your baby.
There is benefit to begin including some of the key nutrients important in the early weeks of pregnancy before becoming pregnant
- Take a multivitatmin containing folic acid. It is essential to spine, brain and skull development of your baby in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy.
- Include foods with the important nutrients iron, calcium and vitamin D
- Follow the Canada's Food Guide (external link) by choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables, grain products, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives
- Drink water throughout the day
If you restrict foods from one or more food groups discuss this with your health care provider.
Maintaining a healthy diet is just as important for potential dads as it is for potential mothers. It will not only reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but contribute to a healthy body weight. Eating well with Canada's Food Guide (external link) can help you have a healthy, well balanced diet and protect your fertility.
Making healthy eating choices in your everyday life now can make it easier for you to continue them into parenthood.
Oral health plays an important role in overall health and well-being.
Women should take care to see a dentist and resolve any dental problems before becoming pregnant, although almost all dental care is safe during pregnancy.
Poor oral health can lead to health concerns during pregnancy and the health of your baby.
Chemicals (external link) at home or work can create problems for couples trying to get pregnant. In some cases, exposure to certain chemicals can affect fertility, prenatal health and the health of your baby. To learn more, visit Motherisk (external link) and make sure to read the guidelines at your workplace on the hazardous materials with which you may come into contact. Some of the harmful chemicals to watch out for are:
- garden pesticides
- Explore your family's medical history
- If you know of mental or physical concerns, seek genetic counselling before pregnancy
- Know your blood type
Make sure any chronic conditions are under control before trying to conceive. This includes exploring any current medications for safe use during pregnancy.
Learning how to cope with your emotions can help you through your pregnancy and decrease your chances of having a baby born too early or too small among other possible infant health concerns.
- Up to 25% of women experience depression (external link) during some point in their life
- Speak to your health care provider if you have a history of mental health concerns or to discuss current medications that are safe to use during pregnancy.
Emotions can run high during pregnancy. It is important that you can lean on your partner for support during pregnancy. Of women who have reported being in an abusive relationship, about 30% of these women said it occurred during pregnancy. If you have concerns, reach out to your local woman's shelter (external link) or SAVIS (external link) (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services of Halton) for support anytime.