Trying to get pregnant
Concerning Your Health
By Dr. Christopher Danielson
What should I do before I try to get pregnant?
It’s impossible to cover all the factors that contribute to a healthy pregnancy and delivery in one column. These are questions patients have asked me that seem to be topics which aren’t as well communicated as many pre-pregnancy topics.
Do I need immunizations?
If you aren’t up to date on adult immunizations, get vaccinated at least one month before you begin trying to conceive. Infections such as chickenpox, German measles and hepatitis B can be dangerous for an unborn baby. You will also need the Tdap vaccine, ideally somewhere between 27 and 36 weeks into your pregnancy. Tdap will protect your infant from getting pertussis (whooping cough), which can be deadly for newborns.
Do sexually transmitted infections affect fertility and pregnancy?
If you think it’s possible you could have a sexually transmitted infection, get screened prior to getting pregnant. Gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases can interfere with the body’s ability to conceive. These infections can also cause risks for both you and your baby during pregnancy.
Can I safely use over-the-counter medications?
If you are not pregnant, there obviously is no problem with using them. However, if you may be pregnant, it’s a good idea to avoid over-the-counter medications when possible. If you have a cold, ask your OB/GYN to recommend an OTC medication that is considered safer for pregnant women. For minor pain, it’s generally safe to take products containing acetaminophen such as Tylenol. Products with aspirin or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) are not recommended during pregnancy because they can interfere with your baby’s development in the early months and create problems later on during labor.
Do I have to quit smoking, drinking and using hot tubs?
If you want the healthiest pregnancy and baby possible, then you do need to make some lifestyle adjustments. Not smoking, and avoiding secondhand smoke as well, is critically important for your baby’s health, as well as your own. Do not smoke during pregnancy. Moderate consumption of alcohol, which is less than two drinks per week, is fine prior to pregnancy but once you are pregnant, avoid alcohol completely. Water that is more than 102 degrees is damaging to developing cells, so sitting in a hot tub could cause malformations in the fetus or even lead to miscarriage in the first trimester. Avoid very hot baths and saunas for the same reasons. Another practice fairly common among American women is douching. Don’t do it. This, too, may affect your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.
Do I need to see an OB/GYN before I get pregnant?
Choosing an OB/GYN in advance is always a good idea. A preconception appointment is strongly advised if you are older than 30 or have any chronic health conditions.
Christopher Danielson, MD, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist at Sanford Obstetrics & Gynecology in Bismarck. A graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine in Grand Forks, Dr. Danielson completed his residency at Synergy Medical Education Alliance in Saginaw, Mich.