Preconception Health

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You plan for many events like school, weddings, holidays, but what about having a baby? Did you know that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned? You decide whether to have children or not.

What to consider if you're thinking about having a child:

Alcohol 

High levels of alcohol use and binge drinking can have serious effects on your baby such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD babies can have:
  • Small heads and slower growth
  • Abnormalities of the face
  • Learning and behavioural problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning problems

Alcohol can affect your baby in the early stages of growth, even before you know you are pregnant. There is no safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy. Men who drink alcohol have a greater chance of a lower sperm count.

For more information, visit our alcohol page. Speak with your health care provider if you need help controlling alcohol use.

Smoking

Both partners should quit smoking before pregnancy to increase chances of conception as well as to be healthy and risk free. Smoking and second hand smoke can:
  • Lower a male's sperm count
  • Decrease a female's fertility
  • Increase the risk for miscarriage, premature births,
  • Increase the risk of labour and delivery complications

Medications

Medications that are known to cause harm will do so within the first few weeks of pregnancy, when the baby's major body systems are forming, and often before you know you are pregnant. If you are taking a medication that is known to be damaging to babies, you may need to switch to a medication that is safer but still right for you. 

It is important to discuss with your doctor the risks of medications that you are taking.

Nutrition

Eating well before you become pregnant will help prepare your body to meet the dietary needs of your developing baby when you do conceive. The recommended number of servings per day for females aged 19-50 are as follows:
  • 7-8 servings of vegetables and fruit
  • 6-7 servings of grain products
  • 2 servings of milk and alternatives
  • 2 servings of meat and alternatives

The recommended number of servings per day for males aged 19-50 are as follows:

  • 8 - 10 servings of vegetables and fruit
  • 8 servings of grain products
  • 2 servings of milk and alternatives
  • 3 servings of meat and alternatives

Add for more information, visit unlockfood.ca

Folic acid

Folic acid (vitamin B9) helps grow and protect cells in your body. Folic acid before conception and during pregnancy decreases the risk of birth defects such as neural tube defects, heart and limb defects, urinary tract anomalies and oral facial clefts. Folate (natural source of folic acid) is found in dark green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, whole grains, and other foods. To increase your intake of folate, be sure to eat the following foods:
  • Fortified grains
  • Spinach
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Corn
  • Oranges
  • Folic acid is also included in most multivitamins

Exercise

Exercise decreases the risks that stem from obesity during pregnancy which can include: gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, postpartum hemorrhage, miscarriage, still birth, caesarean section, and neural tube defects in the infant. Women who are fit before pregnancy have fewer aches and pains and more energy during their pregnancy. Being active on a regular basis by doing activities such as brisk walking, swimming, or yoga will make a difference to weight management and general well-being.

Vaccinations 

 There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you're considering pregnancy, and one of those should be to make sure your vaccines are up-to-date before becoming pregnant. Some infections, such as rubella, can cause complications and harm to your baby if contracted during pregnancy. Your vaccines must be completed three months before becoming pregnant, as vaccines that are live virus (measles, mumps and rubella, for example) can be harmful if received while pregnant.

Street drugs 

Street drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and inhalants are dangerous for you and for your future child. They can affect your energy, motivation, judgment, appetite, sleeping patterns, memory, and mental health. Addictions take time to overcome and it may not be possible to quit using drugs if you become pregnant. If street drugs are taken during a pregnancy, there are risks for the baby such as addiction and withdrawal, brain damage, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and low birth weight.

Sexually transmitted infections

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be cured and some cannot. Herpes, Hepatitis B, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are STIs that cannot be cured and can be transferred to the baby during pregnancy and birth. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginosis, and syphilis are STIs that can be transferred to the baby during birth but can also can be cured if treated.

 

You can reduce the risk of getting an STI by avoiding these high-risk situations:

  • Having many partners
  • Not using condoms during sexual contact
  • Having anal sex without condoms
  • Injecting or using street drugs
  • Sharing needles

Symptoms of an STI are not always visible, so it is important to use condoms, limit the number of sexual partners, and ask new partners about their sexual history. If you have an STI and become pregnant, or get one while pregnant, talk to your health provider.

Additional resources

Is there a baby in your future? Plan for it.

Your Journey Starts Here. The facts on pregnancy and childbirth from Canada's experts.

Healthy Baby, Healthy Brain

Unlockfood.ca

pregnancyinfo.ca

What to consider if you're not planning on having a baby:

Are you currently using birth control? If not, remember you are at risk of getting pregnant, as well as risking a sexually transmitted infection. 

Find a birth control method that is right for you and your partner. Visit us at the sexual health clinic to speak with a public health nurse, or visit your health care provider. Be honest and ask lots of questions. The Clinic is 100% confidential.

 

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