Seven planning tips for a healthy pregnancy

Dr. Jenny Ruan, obstetrician and gynecologist at Tufts Medical Center. (Image courtesy of Tufts Medical Center.)

By Dr. Jenny Ruan, Tufts Medical Center


Happy Chinese New Year! As we welcome the Year of the Dog, Dr. Jenny Ruan, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Tufts Medical Center, offers seven tips to welcome a new addition to your family.


  1. Take a prenatal vitamin

Take a prenatal vitamin that has at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects. A baby’s neural tube becomes the brain and spinal cord. The neural tube develops during the first month of pregnancy, possibly before you even know you are pregnant, so it is important to make sure you have enough folic acid. Start the prenatal vitamin at least one month before trying to get pregnant.


  1. Quit smoking

Smoking can make it more difficult to get pregnant. Smoking during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of problems such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. It can also cause problems for the baby, such as being born too small or too early.

Ask your partner to quit too. Secondhand smoke is also dangerous, and smoking may affect male sperm quality.


  1. Stop drinking alcohol

The safe level of alcohol intake during pregnancy is unknown. Alcohol can affect the development and health of the baby, increasing the chances for birth defects and learning problems. For women who are pregnant or planning for pregnancy, it is safest to stop consuming alcohol.


  1. Cut back on caffeine

Limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams a day while you are trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy. That is about two 8-ounce cups of coffee or four 8-ounce cups of tea.


  1. Get a checkup

Consider seeing your doctor for a pre-pregnancy checkup. If you have medical problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, they can cause issues for you or your baby during pregnancy. You should work with your doctor to get these conditions under control before getting pregnant.


  1. Ask about your family history

Ask your family members and your partner’s family members to see if there are any genetic diseases or children with birth defects. Some of these diseases may be passed on to your baby, and you may be able to get testing before you get pregnant.

If there are genetic diseases, you may be referred to see a genetic counselor to help you find out what the chances are your baby will have the condition.


  1. The best time to get pregnant

You are most likely to get pregnant if you have sex one to two days before ovulation and on the day of ovulation. Most women ovulate approximately 14 days before the start of the next period. A urine ovulation predictor kit can help determine when you are going to ovulate. If you are unable to get pregnant after 12 months of regular sexual intercourse, you and your partner may need to be evaluated for infertility. If you are more than 35 years old, you should have an evaluation after trying for 6 months.


About the author

Dr. Jenny Ruan serves in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Tufts Medical Center. To make an appointment with her, please call (617) 636-4872.

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