Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider.

Some info below taken from: _woman.pdf

Ladies and gentlemen, please ponder this: If you don’t have a plan to prevent pregnancy, then what you do have is a plan to get pregnant. More than half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned. Why does this matter?

Fetal organs are already forming before the pregnant woman even sees her provider for the first time. Women can be pregnant for weeks and not realize they are, especially if the pattern of their monthly menstruation is usually irregular. In other words, the unborn child is affected by both mom’s and dad’s health states almost immediately after conception.

For example, alcohol intake: Alcohol is not considered safe during pregnancy in any amount. It is the leading cause of birth defects in the U.S. If a woman is pregnant, planning to get pregnant or at risk of getting pregnant, because she and her partner are not using contraception, experts advise that she should not be drinking alcohol. The same is true for illicit drug use, which is associated with several serious and negative birth outcomes. This is where that plan to get pregnant or to avoid getting pregnant comes in.

Your health matters.

To help themselves have the desired outcomes, to avoid preventable birth defects (and not all birth defects are preventable), women and men need to actively plan for pregnancy, enter pregnancy while in their own best health, and be well-informed. This is called preconception health. Any woman who can bear children and is not pregnant is in a state of preconception, even if she is taking steps to avoid pregnancy.

According to the March of Dimes, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to healthy families (see link above), “If you’re thinking about getting pregnant the best thing you and your partner can do for your baby is to plan ahead. Having a healthy baby begins well before you get pregnant, so start making healthy choices now!”

Most health resources (see links above) recommend the following for women of any age, but especially pertinent for women who can bear children: Work to achieve and maintain a healthy weight; take folic acid, a B vitamin, important in preventing birth defects; make and keep an appointment with your healthcare provider for what is now called a preconception checkup; and wait at least 18 months to two years before conceiving again between pregnancies to give your body a chance to fully recover from the last pregnancy, even if it did not result in a birth. The goal here is to make sure you’re as healthy as you can be. If you have no provider, please see those links above which help with guidelines.

On the other hand, if you’re not ready for a baby just yet, you need a plan to avoid pregnancy. Use whatever method you prefer but choose reliability overall.

Callie Wight is a California state-licensed registered nurse with a Master of Arts in psychology.