Did You Know… A baby’s important organs form very early. Birth defects may happen before a woman has missed a period and knows she is pregnant.

You can lower the risk of birth defects and pregnancy problems by:

Choosing When to Get Pregnant is Important

Planning for Pregnancy

Planning your future is important. It lets you decide if you want a child, when that will happen, and helps you have a healthy baby. If you are having sex, it’s important to use a method of birth control until you are ready to have a baby. Before you stop birth control, and at least three months before you want to become pregnant, get a physical examination and counseling. Ask about taking vitamins and folic acid to prevent certain birth defects.

Don’t forget about birth control after you have your baby. For your own health and the health of your baby, it is best to space your pregnancies about two years apart.


Women under 18 and over 34 who have babies are more likely to have problems with pregnancy or have babies which are born too small or too soon.

Before You Get Pregnant …

There are many things you need to think about. What will you need to know and do to plan for your pregnancy and parenthood?

You may find helpful information from:

  • Family planning services
  • Prepregnancy books at your local libraries, bookstores or clinics
  • Exercise classes
  • Stop smoking programs
  • Food and nutrition programs
  • Counseling and mental health centers
  • Religious organizations
  • School counselors and nurses
  • Alcohol/Drug treatment programs
  • Medical Insurance plans
  • Social services
  • Doctors, nurses, clinics, hospitals or other health care providers

Talk To Your Health Care Provider About…

Medical Conditions

Medical problems need to be treated before pregnancy. This includes such conditions as diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart or kidney disease, infections, hepatitis, PKU, or anemia.


Make sure your immunizations are up to date. They can prevent some disease like measles (rubella) which cause birth defects.

Family Health

Does anyone in your family have an inherited disease, birth defect or mental retardation? Some diseases and birth problems can run in families.


You or your partner may have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that you don’t know about. All STDs, such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS, can cause serious problems.

Emotional Health

Pregnancy can cause money problems and interfere with school and work. During pregnancy domestic abuse may actually increase. Get help if you have violence or abuse in your life, high levels of stress or not enough support.

After You Have Done the Planning…

Getting Pregnant

An average woman can become pregnant during a short period of time about two weeks before her next period. However some women can get pregnant at very different times in their monthly cycles. Talk to your health care provider about when you are most likely to get pregnant. Mark your menstrual periods on the calendar. Get a pregnancy test if you think you are pregnant or if you miss your period. Usual signs of pregnancy include sore, enlarged breasts, urinating more often, nausea, and tiredness.

Prenatal Care

It is important to get care as early as possible and then regularly throughout your pregnancy.

Habits Can Affect Your Pregnancy


It’s important for you to eat healthy foods and regular meals. Dieting during pregnancy may be harmful. Talk to your health care provider about what your weight should be. Regular exercise will help you feel better and get your body ready for pregnancy.


If you smoke tobacco or marijuana, stop before you become pregnant. Avoid second hand smoke. Encourage others in your household to quit smoking.

Drugs and Alcohol

Talk with your health care provider about any drugs you are taking including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbs, street drugs, and alcohol–hard liquor, wine, beer and coolers. Some drugs, including alcohol, can be harmful to an unborn baby.

Other Hazards

Some metals, paints, and chemicals used in hobbies, at work or around the home can cause pregnancy problems and may harm your baby. Other hazards include eating raw meat, handling used cat litter or being around animals or people with certain diseases. If you have questions about materials or illnesses you may be around during your pregnancy, talk with your health care provider or call the Pregnancy RiskLine at 1-800-822-2229.