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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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March 2000

Q. Is there anything I should do BEFORE I get pregnant?

A. It is true that what you do before you get pregnant can affect the pregnancy outcome. For example, if you never had rubella, getting a rubella shot is important. This is because catching rubella while pregnant can be very harmful to the baby. Be careful, though. You should NOT get pregnant for a few months after the injection since the immunization involves a live (but attenuated) virus.

Of course, you should do what you can to have good health habits. Both the woman and man should stop smoking (if they are smokers) since 2nd hand cigarette smoke is harmful to babies. Naturally, other drugs, such as marijuana & cocaine, should be avoided. Alcohol consumption should be moderate (if at all), and you should exercise regularly. Now is a good time to get to your ideal body weight. This is important because the weight gain in pregnancy will be added to your current weight (a woman who weighs 160 can easily gain 40 pounds and weigh 200 pounds by the end of the pregnancy), and this extra weight will be hard on your body.

Taking folate (a B vitamin) is a good idea since this will decrease the risk of a certain birth defect (spina bifida).

Finally, seeing your doctor for a physical exam is a good idea. Your doctor can ask special questions for your particular situation and answer all of your questions.

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