What is considered to be your first week of pregnancy is actually your menstrual period. This week counts as part of your 40-week pregnancy even though your baby hasn’t been conceived yet. At this time you should take the time to prepare your body for motherhood. Before becoming pregnant, you should:
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products. These substances can cause birth defects, fetal alcohol syndrome, respiratory problems, low birth weight, and other health problems.
- Talk to your doctor about any prescription drugs you are taking. You’ll need to take special precautions with medication because many prescription and over-the-counter medications can adversely affect the fetus. However, you shouldn’t stop taking prescription drugs without consulting your health care provider - he or she will help you weigh potential benefits and risks to discontinuing your prescription.
- Maintain a diet that contains an adequate amount of vitamins, especially folic acid. Women who are attempting to become pregnant should take at least 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams of folic acid a day. Adequate folic acid intake reduces the risk of neural tube defects (birth defects caused by incomplete development of the brain or spinal cord), such as spina bifida. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about taking a folic acid supplement while you are trying to conceive.
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD