Preconception health is the health of all individuals before and between pregnancies during the reproductive years. Taking positive actions to improve your health before and between pregnancies will help your chances of having a healthy baby.
With approximately 50% of all Canadian pregnancies being unplanned, planning before you become pregnant can help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby, now or in the future.
Planning whether or not to have children and when the right time to have them is known as a Reproductive Life Plan.
Your Reproductive Life Plan Is…
Not Right Now
You’ve made a decision not to have a baby at this time
Things for you to consider:
- Live a healthy lifestyle by choosing healthy eating options, being active, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping immunizations up-to-date, being smoke-free, limiting alcohol or drug use, and limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals.
Remember: All women who could become pregnant need a multivitamin with folic acid every day.
- Practice safer sex. Many birth control methods do not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Zika. STIs, if untreated, may make you sick, and may interfere with your future plans of having a baby. You can reduce your risks of STIs by practicing safer sex.
- Find a birth control method that is right for you and your partner. Talk with your health care provider or with a counsellor at a sexual health clinic to find a birth control method that is right for you. Be honest and ask lots of questions. All birth control methods work best only if used properly.
You’re thinking about having a baby someday
Things for you to consider:
- Consider your life situation. Are you physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially ready to have a baby? Think about what resources you have available to support a pregnancy and baby.
- Live a healthy lifestyle by choosing healthy eating options, being active, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping immunizations up-to-date, being smoke-free, limiting alcohol or drug use, and limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals. Practising healthy behaviours will build healthy sperm, improving its quality and quantity.
- Use birth control and practice safer sex. Until you are ready to get pregnant, use a birth control method that works for you and reduce your chances of becoming infected with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Zika by practicing safer sex.
- Get regular check-ups with your health care provider to discuss your preconception health and your reproductive life plan. This includes screening for and managing any medical conditions, including testing for STIs and HIV. If you’re a woman, it is important to have enough folic acid in your body before you get pregnant and in the first few weeks of pregnancy. One way is to take a daily multivitamin with 0.4 mg of folic acid.
- Ensure your immunizations are up to date. This includes immunizations for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), hepatitis B, varicella, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap), and human papillomavirus (HPV). Getting vaccinated will keep you healthy and prevent transmission of infection to your baby.
- Talk to family, friends, and your health care provider for emotional support. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes, but if these feelings don’t go away and they interfere with your daily life, it’s important to talk to your health care provider. Stress may make it harder to follow good health habits. It can also make it more difficult to become pregnant. If either you or your partner has a history of depression, talking to a health care provider before pregnancy can decrease the risk of depression during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby.
I'm Ready Now
You’ve made a decision to have a baby
Things for you to consider:
- Eat healthy and be active. Choosing healthy eating options and regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). Being overweight or underweight can affect your ability to become pregnant and puts you at higher risk for health problems. If you are overweight, you may be at risk for diabetes or high blood pressure. For men, it can affect the amount of sperm you have and your sex drive. Being underweight may put you at risk of preterm birth or your baby may be born with a low birth weight. It may also impact you and your baby during and after pregnancy. It is best to talk with your health care provider before pregnancy about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. It is best to stop drinking, smoking and using drugs before getting pregnant as these substances affect the quality and quantity of the sperm and may make it difficult to get pregnant. If you’re having trouble quitting smoking, get help and keep trying.
- Limit your exposure to harmful environmental substances. Exposure to environmental hazards, including mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus can make it more difficult to get pregnant, may cause problems during your pregnancy and may cause problems with the baby.
- If you’re a woman, continue to take a daily multivitamin with folic acid. This will help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
- Inform your doctor about your preconception health plans and have a complete medical check-up. This may include:
- Completing a reproductive and family health history screening to identify any genetic disorders (e.g., hereditary conditions) or possible risks in a future pregnancy.
- Updating your immunizations.
- Discussing any medications you are currently taking. This includes all over-the-counter, prescription, and herbal medications.
- Making sure you and your partner get tested and/or treated for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs),including Zika. If left untreated, STIs can put your baby’s and your own health in danger.
- Treating and/or controlling medical conditions before getting pregnant as they could get worse during pregnancy. These include diabetes, hypertension, depression, thyroid disease, tuberculosis, seizure disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. Consider using birth control until your medical conditions are under control.
- Talk to family, friends, and your health care provider for emotional support. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes, but if these feelings don’t go away and they interfere with your daily life, it’s important to talk to your health care provider as too much stress can make it hard to follow good health habits. It can also prevent a pregnancy from happening. If either you or your partner has a history of depression, talking to a health care provider before pregnancy can decrease the risk of depression during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby.
- Get ready to become a parent. This may include thinking about how you would care for and feed your baby.
I'm Pregnant Now
I Just Had a Baby
Your baby has arrived!
There are a number of parenting programs and services that can help you to make the transition to parenting easier.
Remember: Your health is very important for the whole family.
Here are some important tips during this stage of parenting:
- Make time to rest and relax. Rest is important for your physical, mental, and emotional health and getting enough sleep (6 hours in a 24 hour period) is a priority.
- Do not expect or try to lose pregnancy weight right away. Moderate weight loss over several months is the safest way, especially if you are breastfeeding. Healthy eating and being active might be all you need to return to a healthy weight.
- It’s important to give a woman’s body time to heal. Is there sex after baby? Use birth control until you are sure you are ready to get pregnant again.
- Get advice from your health care provider about your preconception health. This includes planning if and when to get pregnant again. To have a healthy pregnancy and baby, wait at least 18-24 months and no more than 5 years between each pregnancy.
I'm Ready Again
You’ve made a decision to have another child
Things for you to consider:
- Plan each pregnancy before you get pregnant. The time between pregnancies is an important time for you to take care of yourself.
- Space your pregnancies. To have a healthy pregnancy and baby, wait at least 18-24 months and no more than 5 years between each pregnancy. This timing allows a woman’s body time to recover and provides a better chance for the next baby to be a healthy weight and size at birth.
- Consider your life situation. Think about what resources you have available to support another pregnancy and baby. Use birth control until you are sure you are ready to get pregnant again.
- Get advice from your health care provider about your preconception health. This includes your plans to get pregnant again and having a complete medical check-up.