Five most important things to boost your preconception health

Women and men should prepare for pregnancy before becoming sexually active — or at least three months before getting pregnant. Some actions, such as quitting smoking, reaching a healthy weight, or adjusting medicines you are using, should start even earlier. The five most important things you can do for preconception health are:

  1. Take 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day if you are planning or capable of pregnancy to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine, including spina bifida. All women need folic acid every day. Talk to your doctor about your folic acid needs. Some doctors prescribe prenatal vitamins that contain higher amounts of folic acid.
  2. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
  3. If you have a medical condition, be sure it is under control. Some conditions that can affect pregnancy or be affected by it include asthma, diabetes, oral health, obesity, or epilepsy.
  4. Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are using. These include dietary or herbal supplements. Be sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  5. Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials that could cause infection at work and at home. Stay away from chemicals and cat or rodent feces.

Talk to your doctor before you become pregnant

It's best to be at a healthy weight when you become pregnant. Being overweight or underweight puts you at increased risk for problems during pregnancy. Learn how healthy food choices and physical fitness, together, can help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Visit our Fitness and nutrition section.

Preconception care can improve your chances of getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy, and having a healthy baby. If you are sexually active, talk to your doctor about your preconception health now. Preconception care should begin at least three months before you get pregnant. But some women need more time to get their bodies ready for pregnancy. Be sure to discuss your partner's health too. Ask your doctor about:

  • Family planning and birth control.
  • Taking folic acid.
  • Vaccines and screenings you may need, such as a Pap test and screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.
  • Managing health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, obesity, depression, eating disorders, and asthma. Find out how pregnancy may affect, or be affected by, health problems you have.
  • Medicines you use, including over-the-counter, herbal, and prescription drugs and supplements.
  • Ways to improve your overall health, such as reaching a healthy weight, making healthy food choices, being physically active, caring for your teeth and gums, reducing stress, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol.
  • How to avoid illness.
  • Hazards in your workplace or home that could harm you or your baby.
  • Health problems that run in your or your partner's family.
  • Problems you have had with prior pregnancies, including preterm birth.
  • Family concerns that could affect your health, such as domestic violence or lack of support.