A Healthier Family: Pre-pregnancy thoughts

Planning a pregnancy is an exciting time and there are several topics worth considering when it comes to your health and that of your baby. These tips apply whether you are currently planning your pregnancy or if you are already pregnant!



Exercise. We recommend 30 minutes, five times per week of moderate activity. If you are already in a good exercise program, continue it and if you haven’t started the habit, now is the time to start. Getting to a healthy weight increases your ability to conceive and lowers overall pregnancy risk.

Family history. Ask your family if there are any inheritable conditions that have affected your family. There are many tests (even prior to pregnancy) to check for genetically inherited disorders that could be passed along to your child. Diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders or obesity can impact your pregnancy health so be sure to have any of these conditions under control before you get pregnant.


Alcohol. Avoid alcohol anytime you could possibly be pregnant — after ovulation (which usually happens around cycle day 12 to 14 but can vary) until your period comes. Alcohol intake is not considered safe during pregnancy.

Smoking. Smoking reduces your chances for conception and increases your risk
for preterm birth, growth restriction and sudden infant death syndrome. Ask your provider if you need help quitting.

Marijuana. Many women wonder if marijuana is a good option for early pregnancy nausea and vomiting but currently it is not a good choice. Call your provider and get on safe medications for serious nausea and/or vomiting during pregnancy.

Caffeine. Caffeine is OK, just limit yourself to two cups or less of coffee or equivalent during pregnancy.

Mercury. Certain fish contain high levels of mercury which can harm developing brains and should be avoided for several months prior to conception, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The Department of Health has produced a list at www.doh.wa.gov/fish.

Chemicals. Chemicals or substances in your home or work can hurt your unborn baby. For example, people living in homes built prior to 1978 may have lead paint on their walls or woodwork which could be harmful to you and your baby. Plan now to remove these substances.


Vaccines. The flu vaccine is strongly recommended if you are planning pregnancy or pregnant during the flu season. Pregnant women are more likely to get the flu and be very ill from it. Rubella and chicken pox vaccines are available before pregnancy and your provider can check to see if you are immune.

Vitamins. Folic acid (folate) is very important in preventing certain birth defects. Take the recommended dose of 800 mcg daily before getting pregnant. Most multivitamins and all prenatal vitamins contain adequate folic acid and any over the counter brand is fine. Taking Vitamin A from a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin is a good idea, but do not take more than 5000 IU per day.


Traveling can be very safe and enjoyable throughout pregnancy but check to ensure that your destination doesn’t have risks like Zika virus or malaria. If you need to travel to such an area, talk to your provider to fully understand how to protect yourself.


Dori McLennan, MD, is an Obstetrics & Gynecology physician with The Everett Clinic at Shoreline. Dr. McLennan strives to listen carefully, provide information and advice, and to engage each woman in her own health and outcomes. She feels it is a privilege to be involved in her patients’ lives throughout life. She is currently accepting new patients to her practice.

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