ANNOUNCER: When it comes to having a healthy baby, the most important checkup could be the one before you get pregnant.
SUZANNE LAJOIE, MD, OBSTETRICIAN GYNECOLOGIST: All of the organs formed by ten weeks of gestation. Preconception care is a way of encouraging health promotion and seeing if there are any interventions that need to be made to reduce risk factors that could affect a pregnancy, if one should occur. One aspect of preconception care is that we can actually prevent some birth defects.
ANNOUNCER: Taking folic acid for at least three months before conception cuts the risk of neural tube defects, which involve the brain and spinal cord.
SUZANNE LAJOIE, MD, OBSTETRICIAN GYNECOLOGIST: We think that there's a twofold decrease in neural tube defects when women take it before they try to conceive.
ANNOUNCER: Genetic counseling can identify other risks. And doctors say it's crucial to get any health issues under control.
SUZANNE LAJOIE, MD, OBSTETRICIAN GYNECOLOGIST: Certainly, if a woman is diabetic or has heart disease or hypertension, that's something that really has to be discussed and well controlled and sometimes there are medications that need to be changed beforehand.
ANNOUNCER: Preconception is the time to dump bad habits and develop good ones like exercise and proper nutrition. Reaching a healthy weight may even help you conceive.
SUZANNE LAJOIE, MD, OBSTETRICIAN GYNECOLOGIST: Women who are very underweight or obesity, obese women can have a hard time getting pregnant. The other thing about obesity is there's more of an inclination for diabetes and high blood pressure and cesarean section and preterm labor.
ANNOUNCER: But dieting during pregnancy is a no-no, says Dr. LaJoie.
SUZANNE LAJOIE, MD, OBSTETRICIAN GYNECOLOGIST: Even if a woman is obese when she gets pregnant, there is some weight gain that's expected and that we want to happen. So, no, you cannot diet when you're pregnant.
ANNOUNCER: And don't forget to make sure your vaccinations are up to date ahead of time.
SUZANNE LAJOIE, MD, OBSTETRICIAN GYNECOLOGIST: A lot of preconception care is good healthcare for women, but it's a little bit more than that, I think. It's about planning. It's about screening and it's about counseling.
ANNOUNCER: Thanks for joining us on today's Once Daily.