Pregnancy planning

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

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Pregnancy planning facts

  • Many women choose to start pregnancy planning prior to conception so that they may minimize possible toxic exposures to the fetus.
  • Women or couples with an increased risk or family history of genetic (inherited) diseases may undergo genetic counseling as a step in pregnancy planning.
  • For the best outcomes, chronic medical conditions should be treated and under good control prior to attempting pregnancy.
  • Smoking cessation and avoiding alcohol or illicit drug use strongly improve a woman's changes of having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
  • The amount of weight that a woman should gain during pregnancy depends partially on her pre-pregnancy weight.
  • As soon as a woman stops using birth control, she is able to become pregnant. Some long-term hormonal contraceptives may require a period of time for the hormonal effects to wear off.
  • Women who are planning to become pregnant should take folic acid supplements to reduce the likelihood of neural tube defects in the fetus.
  • Some types of fish may be high in mercury or other toxins and are not recommended for pregnant women.
  • Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle and is recommended for most pregnant women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
  • It is important to review all medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), with your health-care professional if you are planning to become pregnant.
  • Sexual activity is safe for most pregnant women.
  • Certain infections, including Zika virus, rubella, toxoplasmosis, and parvovirus B19 can pose risks for the fetus.
  • Women who do not have immunity to the rubella virus should be vaccinated before trying to conceive.
  • Women who have been infected with the HIV or hepatitis B viruses can receive medications during pregnancy or at delivery to reduce the likelihood of transmitting these infections to their newborn.

What is pregnancy planning?

Pregnancy planning begins even before conception for many women. Others choose to start planning when they are aware of a pregnancy. While it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby without a pregnancy plan, developing a pregnancy plan is one way to help ensure that your baby has the greatest chances of having good health and that you have a healthy pregnancy. Planning for pregnancy typically involves discussions with a woman's partner and her health-care team and includes discussions about nutrition and vitamins, exercise, genetic counseling, weight gain, and the need to avoid certain medications and alcohol.

Because some women experience light bleeding known as implantation bleeding around the time of the expected menstrual period, or because of irregular menstrual cycles, some women may not realize they are pregnant until specific symptoms of pregnancy start to develop. By this time, the woman may have unknowingly exposed herself to substances that may be harmful for the pregnancy. Women who choose to begin pregnancy planning before conception can take steps to ensure that potentially harmful exposures are avoided.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/12/2016

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