Health Secrets: Lifeline #2

Good Health Rule #4: Prepare for Pregnancy

Since 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned, it is clear that we are not in control of our reproductive health. Every woman should be thinking about her reproductive and sexual health well before she chooses to conceive and plan accordingly.

5 Ways to Prepare for Pregnancy

  • Go to your OB/GYN and get a pre-conception check-up. This will tell you if you are in good health and physical condition for pregnancy. You will receive all immunization and medical workups necessary to make sure you are ready to go. The doctor will also tell you how much weight to gain for pregnancy. Fathers should also make an appointment with their physician to assess their overall health.
  • Go to your dentist. Dental health can be crucial to overall health, so have a dental check-up before becoming pregnant. Periodontal disease can lead to pre-term delivery and higher incidence of low birth-weight babies.
  • Eat balanced meals from all the basic food groups and take supplements approved only by your physician. To help prevent birth defects, make sure your folic acid, vitamin B, and iron levels are optimal.
  • Eliminate alcohol, smoking, and using illegal drugs. The same goes for fathers.
  • Working out 30 minutes every day prior to pregnancy lowers stress and provides more weight control during pregnancy.

Good Health Rule #5: Maintain a Healthy Weight During Pregnancy

While OB/GYN wisdom tells us that women should increase their nutrient and caloric intake when expecting, that doesn't mean you should skip the veggies and trips to the gym for the duration of your pregnancy. It is important for you to maintain a healthy weight and get regular exercise not only for the good of your health but also for that of your baby.

Tips for Controlling Your Weight during Pregnancy

  • Know the facts: Eating anything and everything because you're eating for two is a myth. Make sure your Body Mass Index (BMI) is normal. If your normal BMI is 18.4 or less you should gain 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy. If your normal BMI is 25 to 29.9, you are advised to gain 15 to 25 pounds. If you have a normal BMI of 30 and over, you are advised to gain 15 pounds. Learn more about how to calculate your BMI (
  • Keep tabs on nutrition. Low weight during pregnancy will increase the risk for a low-birth weight baby. Gaining too much weight will increase a mother's risk for complications. Therefore make sure you eat nutrient-dense food like fruit and vegetables, and nuts. Ask your healthcare provider for any vitamin or supplement recommendations, and get check ups regularly.
  • Take note of what is in your food. Avoid foods that may contain Listeria, Mercury and E. coli as they can affect your health and that of your baby.
  • Controlling food cravings may be the most important part of maintaining body weight during pregnancy. Try cooking at home using less grease, salt, fat and sugar. There are always recipes for a low calorie foods and deserts.
  • Don't say goodbye to exercising as it does not increase your risk of a miscarriage. Never exercise to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Take lots of breaks and drink fluids during exercise. Avoid extremely hot weather. Always include relaxation and stretching before and after your work out.

Swedish Medical Center and American Pregnancy Association.

Good Health Rule #6: Manage Stress in Healthy Ways

High levels of stress can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to high blood pressure, depression, and weight gain. Since feelings of stress and anxiety are inherent to our experience, how can we address it in a healthy way? Cultivating positive outlets for processing these emotions are essential to good health. Here are a few ideas to get you started thinking about your own plan for managing stress.

Mid-Life Stress Prevention Tips

  • Take a walk or a swim. Any physical activity will reduce stress.
  • Talk to a nutritionist. Dietary changes can also affect your mood.
  • Prepare yourself so you can sleep at night. Find a way to settle down that works for you: reading, meditation, a cup of herbal tea, massage, stretching, or aromatherapy.
  • Make lists. The more prepared you are, the less stressed you will be if something comes up.
  • Do something for you. Seek beauty, listen to music, go dancing, or go somewhere new.
  • Don't isolate yourself. Surround yourself with loved ones.

Good Health Rule #7: Taking Steps to Preserve or Increase Fertility

Even if you aren't the least bit interested in getting pregnant, these guidelines for preserving or increasing fertility are still bits of good health advice every woman should follow.

Tips to Increase Fertility

  • 1. Live a healthy lifestyle
    It's a fact of reproductive life that what you eat, how much you weigh, the exercise you do, the colas and coffee you drink, and the cigarettes you light up can profoundly affect your ability to conceive.
  • 2. Get your vitamins, but not too much
    Both partners should take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement. A woman's supplement should contain 400 units of folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal chord that occur within 30 days of fertilization. Zinc may be especially important for men to produce healthy sperm and for normal testicular function. Whatever you do, avoid vitamin mega-doses, especially A and D. The body doesn't quickly excrete these fat-soluble vitamins, allowing them to build to toxic levels. And don't take herbs. These are mostly untested and unregulated substances, and there is evidence some can cause problems. For example, St. John's Wort, a commonly used remedy for depression, has an adverse affect on male fertility. The solution? Stay away.
  • 3. Stay away from chemicals
    Let weeds take over your lawn. If you're rebuilding your deck, give it a rest. Pesticides, weed killers, paint thinners, and the like can have a deleterious effect on male sexual function and sperm production. Women working with chemical solvents, nitrous oxide, or vinyl chloride, for instance, may be at risk for early miscarriage. Wear protective gear when working with these substances, particularly if there's regular exposure at your workplace.
  • 4. Take another look at your everyday medications
    1. Sulfasalazine, a component of some medications for irritable bowel syndrome, colitis or Crohn's disease, has a negative impact on sperm development.
    2. Cimetidine, the key ingredient in some ulcer drugs, is linked to impotence and semen abnormalities.
    3. Spironolactone, found in many hypertension prescriptions, may interfere with testosterone and sperm production.
    4. Non-prescription anti-inflammatory drugs taken at the time of ovulation can interfere with embryo implantation.
    5. Prescription psychotropics can interfere with ovulation.
    6. In many instances, there are prescription alternatives, so check your meds and consult with your doctor as soon as you're thinking of having a baby.
  • 5. Timing is Everything
    Data show that as many as 20% of couples having difficulty conceiving consistently miscalculate the best time for intercourse. That's because there's a slender 12- to 24-hour monthly window when an egg can be fertilized, usually around the middle of your menstrual cycle. Calculate your prime time for conception by subtracting 17 days from the average length of your cycle.
  • 6. Do it frequently, but not too much!
    Have intercourse every other day during your most fertile period, at least four separate times. Just don't get overly ambitious. Having sex more than once a day depletes the sperm count.
  • 7. Play it cool!
    It's time to calm down and treat yourselve with the utmost kindness. Stress, along with a volatile mix of other emotions, is part of the make-a-baby fall-out. The key to staying sane is managing that stress. Express yourself. If you don't want to broadcast that you're trying to get pregnant, confide in a trusted friend or your journal. If you are dealing with infertility, find a reputable support group where you can unload and get a sympathetic hearing as well as advice. Regardless of your choice, the most important stress buffer is your partner. Keep your shared goal – a biological child – in mind and approach this as an unwavering, mutually supportive collaboration. Seek reassurance from health care professionals or patient advocacy groups. Nothing soothes like the balm of clear-headed, objective information.
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