Having a healthy baby starts before you get pregnant, Penn State doctors say.
Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, said Dr. Andrew Lutzkanin, a physician in the department of family and community medicine.
“Fortunately, most women of childbearing age are healthy,” he said. “And most pregnant women are motivated to make lifestyle changes, because they’re not just doing it for themselves.”
Research has shown that a woman’s physical, spiritual and emotional health before pregnancy can affect the health of the baby, Lutzkanin said.
“You want to be as healthy as possible going into it,” he said.
His recommendations include:
- Following a healthy diet low in fat and cholesterol, with plenty of fruits and vegetables and lean meats.
- Exercising for at least 20 minutes most days of the week.
- Keeping well-hydrated.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Not smoking.
- Taking 400 mcg of folic acid daily.
- Avoiding alcohol.
- Getting chronic medical conditions under control.
Lutzkanin said many doctors realize they need to do more to help women cope with mental health problems after having a baby, particularly postpartum depression.
“Now, we are constantly screening for it, especially if there is a history,” he said. “Pregnancy is a stressful period with a lot going on, so we want them to get on a good regimen of medication and counseling before pregnancy if possible.”
The March of Dimes offers more on planning a healthy pregnancy.