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5 tips to help you give your baby the healthiest start possible

Follow these steps to help guide you through your pregnancy

Amanda Thorson, DOAmanda Thorson, DO, OB/GYN at  Dignity Health’s Bishop’s Peaks Women’s Health Center and the Arroyo Grande Specialty Center, can help guide you through your pregnancy, starting with preconception visits.

Dr. Thorson reminds those thinking of conceiving that taking care of your body before and during pregnancy is one of the best ways to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.

While it’s not possible to completely prevent birth defects, the following tips can help give your baby the best chance at a healthy start.

5 Tips for a Healthier Baby

See a doctor before and during your pregnancy.

If you are thinking about getting pregnant soon, it’s best to see a doctor before pregnancy so you can address any health issues you may have in advance. and discuss what to do about things like taking medications or getting vaccinations when pregnant. Although there may be some medications that need to be stopped or switched, in most cases, it will be best to continue your treatment. It may also be recommended that you get or avoid certain vaccinations during pregnancy. Begin prenatal care as soon as you think you are pregnant and keep all recommended appointments.

“I think visits during pregnancy are likely a well known resource, but people often forget they can see us for preconception counseling, both for the patient and their partner,” Dr. Thorson says. “Knowledge is power and that’s certainly true going into a nine-month marathon.”

Dr. Thorson says “optimizing health conditions ahead of time” is critical.

Take folic acid daily

This essential nutrient can help prevent birth defects in a growing baby’s brain and spine. Although some foods naturally have folate, such as beef liver, dark green vegetables, beans, peas and nuts, it’s very difficult to get enough folate through diet alone. That’s why it’s so important to take a supplement with folic acid when pregnant. In fact, it’s best to begin taking folic acid even before pregnancy. The recommended amount is 400 micrograms a day for most women, but can be even higher for those with certain medical conditions. Prenatal vitamins typically have the needed amount of folic acid in them.

“For optimal efficacy, it’s recommended to begin taking a prenatal vitamin three months before conceiving,” Dr. Thorson says.

Lose weight before pregnancy

Try to get to a healthier weight before you get pregnant. Obesity raises the risk for some serious birth defects and may also contribute to other pregnancy complications.

“Optimizing health before pregnancy can include reaching a healthy weight,” Dr. Thorson says. “This is a great thing to discuss at a preconception visit. You may weigh fertility-related risks with age alongside the benefits of delaying conception to reach a healthier body weight.”

Don’t drink, smoke or do illegal drugs

The best thing to do is to abstain completely from alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, opioids and other illegal drugs. There is no safe level of alcohol for a developing fetus and it is best to stop drinking alcohol when trying to get pregnant. Not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke is also recommended. If you smoke, quitting as early in your pregnancy as possible can help prevent pregnancy problems, such as low birth weight. Since it is not known whether there is a safe level of marijuana during pregnancy, it is also a good idea to avoid this substance as well, even if it is legal where you live. Illegal drugs should never be used when pregnant.

“Alcohol, drug and tobacco use can affect your health, the baby’s health and play a role in your fertility journey,” Dr. Thorson says.

Avoid overheating

Exposure to high temperatures, such as having a fever or being in a hot tub, increases the body’s core temperature. This may increase the chances of having a baby with certain birth defects.

Dr. Thorson notes that staying hydrated is also key when pregnant, particularly if you’re exposed to a situation that may lead to you overheating. 

What you do before and during pregnancy can have a big impact on the health of your baby, so give your baby the healthiest start possible by seeing a doctor regularly, adopting healthy lifestyle habits and following these tips.

“I feel it’s important that women have an understanding of what’s going on with their bodies when they’re pregnant,” Dr. Thorson says. “We love being a resource before, during, and after pregnancy so women can have a sense of empowerment in their health care.”

“It’s important to develop a relationship with an OB/GYN you feel comfortable with to help guide you through this journey.”

To learn more about Dr. Thorson and the Bishop’s Peak Women’s Health Center, visit

Dr. Thorson is accepting new patients. Call 805-786-4111 for more information.

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Date Last Reviewed: November 20, 2023

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