If you think your health doesn’t really matter until you actually get pregnant, think again. A study in the Lancet says that preconception health is extremely important. And, that women (and men) aren’t paying enough attention to their lifestyle choices before becoming pregnant.
Preconception Health Research
The research study looked into many different factors across income groups and countries and found that women are more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and child when they are healthy at the point that they become pregnant. One noteworthy finding was that poor nutrition and obesity among both men and women can have negative impacts on pregnancy, the ability to conceive, and the child’s health throughout their lifespan. When a woman is obese and has poor nutritional habits, the effects can span generations. But when she reduces her weight prior to conception, the risk of pregnancy-related health complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, as well as stillbirth and preterm birth also go down.
Meanwhile, the typical American diet of abundant red meat, refined sugars, refined grains, and high-fat dairy often leaves women lacking important nutrients like magnesium, calcium, iodine, and vitamin D. All of which are important to overall health and a healthy pregnancy. Studies show that women may be able to reduce their risk of acquiring gestational diabetes and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy. This can be accomplished by eating a diet that’s high in fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, and fish, and low in red and processed meats.
Research also shows that a man’s weight before conception can influence the child’s future health as well. When a father is obese, a couple may have more difficulty conceiving due to problems with sperm quantity and quality. And, the future child will be at an increased risk of chronic disease. Men can improve their fertility and the health of their future children by maintaining a healthy weight.
Tips for Improving Preconception Health
- Eat healthy, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese puts you at higher risk for serious health conditions. It can also be harmful to your future child’s health.
- See your physician regularly and do what you can to keep existing medical conditions under control.
- Women should take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid daily, along with any other supplements recommended by your physician.
- Be mindful of alcohol, smoking, and drug use. Some recommendations advise that both women and men avoid smoking and alcohol use starting at least three months before conception.
- Make efforts to maintain positive mental health.
- Avoid coming into contact with environmental contaminants and toxic substances. These can be harmful to female and male reproductive systems, make it harder to get pregnant, and harm your future child’s health.
- Schedule a preconception care checkup with your ObGyn. Your provider can assess your health and pinpoint factors that might impact your ability to become pregnant.
Some people develop diabetes for the first time during pregnancy. Why? Gestational diabetes (GD) can occur when pregnancy hormones interfere with insulin production and blood sugar levels rise. Women with GD need special care during and after pregnancy.
There are numerous risk factors, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Physically inactivity
- Having GD in a previous pregnancy
- Previously having a baby 9 pounds or more
- High blood pressure
- A history of heart disease
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Being age 25 or older
- Hispanic, African-American, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
GD also can develop in women who have no risk factors.
- Good Health Before Pregnancy: Prepregnancy Care
- Gestational Diabetes
- COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant, Breastfeeding, or Trying to Conceive
- Why Pregnant Women Should Receive a Flu Shot
- Maternal Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.