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National Childbirth Survey

1. Planning a healthy pregnancy begins before conception.

The majority of women (60 percent) carefully planned their pregnancies -- yet less than one in three (30 percent) of the women consulted a health care provider before sperm met egg. Why let your doctor in on your plan to get pregnant? Plenty of reasons, says David Plourd, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. "Counseling lets your caregiver see things in a larger context," explains Dr. Plourd. Points that a health care provider covers:

  • Medical History

It's important to go over your immunization record -- specifically, to see if you're protected against rubella, chicken pox, and hepatitis B, diseases that pose grave risk in a fetus. In addition, your caregiver will want to know whether you've had a sexually transmitted disease or are at risk for acquiring one (chlamydia, for example, can damage fallopian tubes or leave scar tissue), or if you smoke or use drugs.

  • Weight. Getting your weight within a normal range before you start lessens the risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia (if you're overweight) or delivering a low birth weight baby (if you're underweight).
  • Diet and exercise. Increasing your intake of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects is just one of the important ways nutrition plays a part in pre-conception planning. In addition, starting a modest exercise program eventually will pay off when you go through the ultimate workout of labor.