How To Have A Healthy Baby: 7 Things To Do Before You're Even Pregnant
Your health long before you get pregnant determines your future baby's health. That includes protecting them from allergies, eczema, asthma, depression, gut problems, autoimmune disease, diabetes, heart disease, and more. If you know you want a baby sometime soon, here are a few ways to help make sure you have a healthy baby:
1. Maintain a healthy weight.
Women who enter pregnancy overweight have a higher risk of prenatal and birth complications and need for a C-section, and baby is much more likely to have a host of health problems ranging from allergies, asthma, and obesity in childhood to diabetes and heart disease later in life. Find the right program for you, based on whole foods, wise eating habits, and yoga or your other fave form of exercise.
2. Go organic.
Exposure to pesticides in the womb may lead to trouble for kids' neurological functioning. Studies show1 that exposure to pesticides is linked to lower IQ scores2 and increased risk of autism spectrum disorder3. While going fully organic might not be practical or even necessary, start now by doing your best to at least avoid "The Dirty Dozen," the list of foods that has the highest level of pesticide contamination, or go organic on these. (And anyway, there are many reasons to eat organic other than expecting a pregnancy!)
3. Can the tuna and all other high-mercury fish.
Newborns are loaded up with about 300 chemicals that can be identified in their umbilical cord blood at birth. Fish is a super-nutritious protein source, but some are loaded with mercury. Mercury (and other heavy metals) in mom literally download directly to baby throughout the pregnancy and can cause a host of health problems. Mercury is particularly noxious because it affects the neurological and hormonal systems. Check out the Environmental Working Group's list of fish to avoid for more information.
4. Clean up your cosmetics.
Most women apply as many as 10 body products before leaving for work in the morning, and most of those have a dozen ingredients, some of which are known toxins, including lead found in some lipsticks and eyeliners4. Our skin is our biggest organ—a lot of what goes on also goes in! As with mercury, we accumulate these chemicals over our lifetime, and then baby inherits more than just our good looks—baby gets a cosmetic chemical infusion. Once again, the EWG is your go-to resource for the best cosmetics and body products to start using now. When you're ready, here's how to switch to natural makeup step by step.
5. Maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
Did you know that a person's gut flora is pretty much determined by age 3, and most of all, it's thanks to mom? Mom having a healthy gut flora (and then having a vaginal birth and breastfeeding if possible) are like investing in gold for baby's gut flora bank account. And it all starts long before pregnancy.
The top things you can do to create a healthy gut flora for yourself:
- Avoid antibiotics (unless of course truly necessary—and they rarely are).
- Eat a wide variety of foods and especially leafy greens and fermented foods.
- Take a good-quality probiotic.
6. Take your vitamins.
If you want to have a baby and are planning to get pregnant, taking folic acid (a B vitamin) is extremely important for protecting your baby's health against neural tube defects. But not only that, it protects against pregnancy loss, preterm birth, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia in pregnancy, and can lower the risk of autism in your baby. With autism rates in the U.S5. now at one in 54 kids, that's a vitamin worth taking.
I recommend 400 mcg to 1 mg of the active form, called methylfolate, for optimum protection. Also, while you're at it, hop on the fish oil train and add in some vitamin D3 (1,000 to 2,000 units daily), both of which can prepare you for an optimal pregnancy and which are great for your health even now.
Stress messes with your hormones and causes fertility problems. Stress messes with your blood sugar and insulin levels and may exacerbate pregnancy problems. And a mother's emotional distress during pregnancy is linked to6 a higher risk of mental health problems for her kids. In general, it's estimated that at least 80% of all health problems are caused by stress. That's a lot of mess from stress.
So, pick your healing tool: yoga, meditation, exercise, counseling, making big scary but needed life/work/relationship transformations...just do it. Conquer that stress and cultivate peace. This equals a better you, better babies, and a better world.
Remember: The world we create today is the world our kids will inherit tomorrow.
Aviva Romm, M.D. is both a midwife and an Internal Medicine and Board Certified Family Physician with specialties in Integrative Gynecology, Obstetric and Pediatrics, with a focus on women’s endocrinology. She’s also a world renown herbalist, and author of the textbook, Botanical Medicines for Women’s Health, as well as 7 other books, including The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. A practitioner, teacher, activist and advocate of both environmental health and women’s reproductive rights and health, she has been bridging the best of traditional medicine, total health ecology, and good science for over three decades. She practices medicine in both NY and MA, and lives in the Berkshires of Western MA.