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Health Before Pregnancy & Getting Pregnant

Plan for your baby

  • Talk to your partner about:
    • your views on parenting
    • your emotions
    • your relationship
    • how many children you want
    • how old you want to be when you start/finish having children
  • Get a physical check-up.
  • Start making healthy choices
  • Create a smoke free home.
  • More ideas (external link)

Make healthy choices

  • Do:
    • Eat healthy foods
    • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
    • Be physically active
    • Manage your stress
  • Don't:
    • Drink alcohol
    • Smoke or be exposed to second-hand smoke
    • Do drugs
    • Be exposed to environmental hazards

Are you thinking about having a baby?

Creating your own Reproductive Life Plan (external PDF) can help support and protect you, as well as future pregnancies.

The choices you make before pregnancy are crucial because they impact your chances of becoming pregnant – it’s important to keep your eggs and sperm healthy. Your health before pregnancy directly affects your health during pregnancy and can affect the future health of your baby.

The health choices you make before pregnancy are important because they:

  • impact your chances of getting pregnant
    • Helps keep a women's eggs healthy
    • Can improve the quality of a man's sperm
  • impact a healthy pregnancy
  • can affect the future health of your baby

Did you know?

  • The most critical time in a baby's development (17 - 56 day of after conception) is before a women knows she is pregnant
  • 50% of pregnancies are unplanned
  • Sperm is continuously produced. It takes about three months for sperm to fully develop and its quality (external PDF file) may be affected by many factors during that time:
    • Overall medical health
    • Smoking
    • Medications and drugs
    • Alcohol
    • Workplace safety (e.g., heat, lead, pesticides)
    • Stress

What immunizations should I get prior to pregnancy?

It is best to ensure immunizations are up to date before pregnancy. Certain diseases can put a baby at serious risk for birth defects and/or complications during pregnancy such as premature labour.

  • Find out if you are immunized against measles (red measles), mumps, rubella (German measles), and varicella (chicken pox) disease or have immunity.
  • It is also good to ensure you have your annual influenza (flu) immunization and are up to date on your diphtheria, tetanus, polio and pertussis (whooping cough) immunizations.
  • If you are unsure about your risk or are not up to date with your immunizations speak with your health care provider.
  • Hand washing is the number one way to keep disease from spreading.
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Does smoking affect my chances of getting pregnant?

Yes it can. Sperm quality can be affected by smoking. The sperm can’t swim as fast to reach the egg and the sperm of someone who smokes has a harder time getting into the egg to create a pregnancy.

There is less chance of becoming pregnant if you smoke and there is more of a chance of a miscarriage if you become pregnant.

Give yourself time to quit before pregnancy - the first few weeks are the hardest. There are many resources available to help you quit. Work with your doctor as you try to implement this healthier lifestyle choice.

What impact do alcohol and drugs have on pregnancy?

If you drink alcohol (external link), take care (external link) before pregnancy. There is no determined safe level of drinking alcohol during any stage of pregnancy. If you are planning to get pregnant or are pregnant it is safest not to drink any alcohol.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be very harmful to a baby, causing brain damage and birth defects – this is known as FASD – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (external link). Find out more about FASD (external link) as well as supports and programs in Halton.

Alcohol can damage the quality of sperm making it difficult to conceive a baby. Research says heavy alcohol use may affect sperm formation and function, or may cause impotence.

Drugs can also lead to birth defects and learning problems.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any over-the-counter drugs you use. Over-the-counter drugs can also make it harder to get pregnant or cause on problems while a baby is growing inside of you

You can take charge of a drug or drinking problem. Contact Halton addiction services, ADAPT (external link).

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How active should I be prior to pregnancy?

Research shows that women, who are physically fit before pregnancy, have an easier time with the body changes that occur during pregnancy. Following the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines is a sure way to get your body ready for the challenge of pregnancy and labour.

If you are not active now or pressed for time, start with brisk walking, in bouts of ten minutes, three times a day, to meet the 30 minute requirement. Gradually increase your activity’s intensity (how hard you are working) and duration (the amount of time you are doing the activity) over time.

Starting to be active now, before you are pregnant, will make it easier to stay active when you are pregnant.

What type of foods should I eat to be healthy before I get pregnant?

A daily balance of vegetables and fruit, grains products, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives help build a healthy baby. Use Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide (external link) to make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Ask your doctor about Folic acid (external link) to prepare you for a healthy pregnancy. Folic acid is essential to the normal development of the spine, brain and skull of your baby, especially during the first 4 weeks of pregnancy (when you may not even know you are pregnant). Because of this, all women who could become pregnant should take a daily multivitamin containing folic acid. Your multivitamin should also contain Vitamin B12, and at least 10mg of iron.

  • If you've had problems with overeating or extreme dieting, explore these issues with your doctor before you get pregnant.

For more information on nutrition during pregnancy please visit Nutrition During Pregnancy.

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Are there chemicals at home or work that my partner and I should avoid?

Chemicals (external link) at home or work, such as lead and mercury, and those in garden pesticides, can create problems for men and women trying to get pregnant. In some cases, they can cause miscarriages or stillbirths.

To find out more, visit the Motherisk (external link) website to learn about chemicals and getting pregnant, and read the guidelines at your work on workplace hazardous materials (WHMIS).

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What do I need to know about my family history before getting pregnant?

Explore the medical history on both sides of the family. If you know of mental or physical concerns, you may want to get genetic counselling before pregnancy.

You and your partner should also know your blood type.

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Why are emotions important before pregnancy?

Learning how to cope with your emotions can help you be ready for the changes a pregnancy can bring. It helps if both you and your partner can try to pace yourself at work and home. If you have concerns about your emotional ups and downs, discussion with your doctor can help you figure out what's normal for you and how you can manage.

Depression can sneak up on you: 25% of women and 10% of men go through it at sometime in their life. Learn signs of depression (external link) and know who you can call for help.

It is important to know that you can lean on your partner for support during a pregnancy. Sometimes, during pregnancy, relationships can get too tough to handle. Abuse of women, in about 40 per cent of reported cases, starts during the first pregnancy - don't let it go on. In Halton, reach out to your local woman's shelter (external link) or SAVIS (external link) (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services of Halton).

Why does stress affect pregnancy?

Sometimes if you or your partner is under too much stress it can prevent you from getting pregnant. Stress is also linked to babies born too early or underweight. Eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep (7-9 hours per night), trying to think positively, prioritizing, limiting alcohol and caffeine, avoiding smoking/drugs are the main ways to reduce stress (external link).

Figure out ways to reduce your stress, and talk through your emotions with others and seek support if you need it.

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What impact does sexual health have on pregnancy?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be the main reason pregnancy doesn't happen (infertility). Chlamydia is a common STI that often has no signs or symptoms, yet has to be treated so it doesn't lead to infertility.

Talk to your doctor about testing and protecting yourself from infections spread through sexual contact (including HIV/AIDS). You can also contact one of Halton Region’s Sexual Health Clinics for free and confidential advice.

How does my age affect pregnancy?

It may take longer to conceive if you are age 35 or older. It is important to get help early if you are age 35 or older and have concerns about getting pregnant.

Most women age 35 and older will have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. However, there are some conditions that you are more likely to experience if you are pregnant at age 35 or older, especially if this is your first pregnancy. Some examples include: multiple birth (twins, triplets etc.), a baby with a chromosomal difference (like Down Syndrome), pregnancy loss (miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or stillbirth), gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks gestation).

Sperm quality also decreases gradually as men age.

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If you have questions about getting pregnant or health before pregnancy, call HaltonParents at 311.

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