We spend a lot of time helping students figure out how to avoid getting pregnant, but there are a fair number of Lady Buckeyes out there who are ready to start planning a family, and they need good information too! So in the spirit of fair play, here is a checklist of things you should do if you’re planning to get pregnant.
- Be sure your vaccinations are up to date, especially MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella), Varicella (chickenpox) and Hepatitis B. Your unborn child can be harmed if you contract these infections while you are pregnant. These vaccines are part of the standard childhood immunization schedule, but you can make an appointment with Student Health Preventive Medicine to check your immunity if you aren’t sure whether you received them.
- If you haven’t received a tetanus shot within the last 10 years, you should receive the Tdap (Tetanus-Diptheria-Pertussis) vaccine.
- If you have any chronic health conditions, be sure to see your primary health care provider so she can review your medications and make sure your conditions are under optimal control.
- Schedule a GYN exam. This will give your health care provider a chance to assess your overall health status, screen you for sexually transmitted infections, review your health and family history, and give you proper guidance for pregnancy planning.
- Stop your birth control at least 3 months before you are planning to get pregnant. If you’ve been taking birth control pills, a pill-free break will allow you to go through several normal cycles before you conceive, which will make it easier to determine when ovulation occurred and to accurately estimate your due date. Your fertility may return to normal as early as two weeks after you stop taking the pill. If you are using Depo Provera, it may take several months for fertility to return.
- Basal Body Temperature charting is a very useful tool for couples trying to conceive because of its ability to confirm ovulation. You need to use a basal thermometer, which is different than a regular thermometer. You can get them at most pharmacies.
- Quit smoking, alcohol and recreation drugs.
- Try to reach a healthy weight. Being overweight or underweight can make things more difficult before and during pregnancy. Ideally, your Body Mass Index (BMI) should be between 19 and 25. Check out this BMI calculator to figure out your BMI.
- Try to eat a healthy and balanced diet. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may need to add a Vitamin B12 supplement to your diet. Be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider.
- Start an exercise program now, even if it is just walking every day. You should aim for a goal of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin that contains 400 mcg of Folic Acid at least 3 months before you are planning to get pregnant. Folic acid deficiency can cause birth defects. These vitamins are available over-the-counter so you don’t need a prescription for them.
- Avoid consuming a lot of fish, especially swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark. These fish contain methyl mercury, which can harm the nervous system of your unborn child. You can eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, Pollock and catfish. The FDA has a great website that tells you what foods to avoid during pregnancy.
- Avoid raw and undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and dirty cat-litter boxes. All of these things can be infected with Toxoplasmosis gondii, which is harmful to your unborn baby. If you don’t have a cat, don’t get one. If you do, have someone else change the litter box, or at the very least wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately afterwards. Be sure to wear gloves when gardening.
- If you or your partner work in an environment where you are exposed to X-rays, lead, mercury or chemicals, you should take extra precautions at work or explore options for moving to a different area. You can check out Ohio State’s Environment Health & Safety office if you have any questions about safety or hazards in your work place.
Li-Chun Liu, MSN
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University