Preparing for a Baby: Health Tips to Consider When Planning to Conceive

The Maternity Unit at RWJUH Somerset Provides Preconception Tips for Couples Who Wish to Become Parents

George Tweddel, MD, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset

The birth of a child is often considered to be one of life’s greatest gifts and one that is desired by many. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 12% of women age 15 to 44-years-old in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. While conceiving can become a source of frustration for many couples who wish to have a child, there are a number of things couples can do to make conceiving a healthy baby more probable.

The journey of parenthood begins even before finding out you’re expecting. Once the decision to start a family is made, both mother and father-to-be are encouraged to begin preparing their minds, bodies and homes for a baby. Beyond painting the nursery and considering baby names, preparing to conceive under the healthiest possible circumstances can be made easier with a few simple lifestyle changes and diligent monitoring and scheduling. The maternity unit at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset (RWJUH) has compiled a few preconception tips for those hoping to start a family.

Stop using birth control
Planning ahead is key. It is important to stop using all forms of birth control before you begin trying to conceive. Be sure to cancel any birth control prescriptions. For women taking oral contraception, suggests planning for at least three months without taking the pill to restore regular ovulation. For injectable hormonal methods such as Depo-Provera, allow at least nine months after the last shot before trying to conceive. While some couples will require a few cycles to succeed in conceiving, it is important to remember that getting pregnant can occur at any time without the use of birth control. If you have any questions about how or when to stop taking your birth control, consult your doctor.

Track your cycle
Once your regular menstrual cycle has been restored, it is time to begin tracking ovulation, the time when a woman is most fertile. The American Pregnancy Association outlines how hopeful couples can predict ovulation by tracking a women’s basal body temperature, her periods or by ordering an ovulation predictor kit. Each method, whether it observes internal temperature patterns, physical symptoms or hormone levels, requires diligent monitoring and scheduling. However, by being aware of when ovulation occurs, couples can be more proactive in choosing the best time to try conceiving a child.

Maintain a healthy diet and make health a priority
For both women and men, making health a priority before, during and after conceiving is crucial for a successful, full-term pregnancy. Couples who wish to conceive should adopt healthy, well-rounded diets. The CDC recommends that women adopt diets that are high in folic acid, a B vitamin that can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. Folic acid has everyday benefits for women as well, helping to strengthen the health of cells that the body makes daily, including hair, skin and nails. It is recommended that women take a supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.

Avoid harmful substances

Couples interested in conceiving should avoid harmful substances, such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco. They should also work to reduce stress and eliminate exposure to toxic substances such as synthetic chemicals, fertilizer and bug spray. If you want to quit smoking and are looking for help, the Tobacco Quitcenter located at the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJUH Somerset, 30 Rehill Avenue, Somerville, N.J., offers resources that have assisted over 4,100 tobacco users. These resources include valuation, breath carbon monoxide testing, specialized counseling and, when needed, pharmacotherapy to help deal with nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings. An appointment is required for a consultation with the Tobacco Quitcenter. To schedule an appointment, call the Tobacco Quitcenter at 908-685-2442.

Meet with your physician and/or midwife
By meeting with your physician and/ or midwife, couples who wish to become parents can gain insight on how their diet, weight and lifestyle can influence fertility. Couples should also consult with their physicians and midwives about how their current and past health conditions may be influencing their fertility. Conditions such as kidney disease, cancer and diabetes can play a role in why pregnancy may be difficult to achieve or retain. While trying to conceive, the most important thing to remember is that it often takes time.

When couples do conceive, the maternity unit at RWJUH Somerset is available to provide specialized care for every step of the way for expectant mothers, newborns and their families in a newly-renovated state-of-the-art facility. With a focus on personal attention and individualized care, the maternity unit at RWJUH Somerset provides a wide range of services to expectant mothers and their families including maternal-fetal medicine counseling, a Comprehensive Diabetes Center, a Family Practice Center with physicians dedicated to obstetrics and family care, obstetrics-dedicated anesthesiology, a Level II Intermediate Care Nursery, lactation consultation and childbirth education for mothers and families.

Patient rooms at the Mother-Baby Pavilion at RWJUH Somerset now feature updated accommodations and the GetWellNetwork®, an interactive- television system offering access to the internet, email and videos about health-related topics during a patient’s stay in the hospital, designed to enhance the comfort and care of both mother and baby.