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5 steps to preparing for pregnancy

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Vitamin supplementation

A healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need. 1 However if you’re pregnant or hoping to conceive, there are certain vitamins that are essential. Supplementing with prenatal vitamins can prevent any deficiencies: 1

  • Folic acid – prevents neural tube defects which are serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.1 Start folic acid (400 micrograms per day) at least 3 months before conception 2
  • Iron – supports the baby’s growth and development and helps prevent anaemia, a condition in which blood has a low number of healthy red blood cells 1
  • Vitamin D – regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. All adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, need 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day 3
  • Calcium – vital for ensuring healthy development of your baby’s bones and teeth 
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – may help promote the baby’s brain development 1
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Aim to get to your goal weight

Being overweight during pregnancy increases the risk of several pregnancy and childbirth complications, including high blood pressure, diabetes that arises due to pregnancy (gestational diabetes), preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks) and pre-eclampsia, (a serious complication of pregnancy in which there is high blood pressure and other organ damage, usually the kidneys and liver). 2,4 Obesity during pregnancy increases the risk of having a larger-than-normal baby (macrosomia) and other birth defects, as well as an increased risk of birth injury and caesarean delivery. 2,4

Being underweight also carries risks during pregnancy. 4 For example, it increases the risk of a preterm birth and of having a low birthweight baby. These babies are at a higher risk of problems during labour and may have health and behavioural problems that last into childhood and even adulthood. 4

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Avoid use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs

Smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs during pregnancy can have harmful effects on the baby, especially during the first trimester (first 3 months). 4

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Go for a full medical check-up

The goal of this check-up is to find things that could affect your pregnancy and allows you to take steps that can increase the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. 4 During this visit, your healthcare professional will ask about your diet and lifestyle, your medical and family history, any past pregnancies and about any medication you take. 4 Some medications, including vitamin supplements, over-the-counter medications, and herbal remedies, can be harmful to the unborn baby. 4 It is important to tell your healthcare professional about all the medications you are taking during this check-up. 4

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Ensure your vaccinations are up to date

Some infections during pregnancy can cause birth defects or illnesses in the baby. 4 It is important to know which vaccines you may need such as rubella, varicella and hepatitis B and to get them at least a month before becoming pregnant. 2

If you are planning a pregnancy, speak to your Medicare Pharmacy Healthcare professional about prenatal vitamin supplements and any vaccinations you may require.

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