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To maximize your chances of having a happy and healthy pregnancy, consider a few things before you try to conceive.

1. Discuss your plans with your primary care manager: Based on your medical history, testing might help identify underlying medical issues that, if treated, could improve the likelihood of your pregnancy being uncomplicated. Your provider may also be able to provide information about how to maximize your chances for conception and vaccinations.

2. Update your vaccinations: There are a few viruses that can cause significant problems for a growing baby, but if vaccinated, this risk can be significantly decreased. Unfortunately, some vaccinations cannot be given during pregnancy. Necessary vaccines can be given without an appointment at the Malcolm Grow Medical Clinics and Surgery Center’s Immunizations Clinic.

3. Start taking prenatal vitamins: It is important to take these vitamins before you get pregnant. Having appropriate stores of folic acid in your body prior to conception can help decrease the risk for having a baby with a neural tube defect, like spina bifida. You can get vitamins over the counter at a civilian pharmacy or at the MGMCSC pharmacy with a prescription from your provider.

4. Know your body mass index: BMI is a number that reflects the relationship between your height and weight. BMIs between 18 and 25 are considered normal. If your BMI is above this range, start thinking about changes you could make to lose weight. The Health and Wellness Center offers classes on healthy eating and weight loss. For more information, call 240-857-5601. Nutrition consultations are also available with a referral from your PCM. The closer you are to your ideal body weight, the higher the likelihood that you will conceive faster and have fewer complications during your pregnancy.

5. Start, or continue, exercising: Exercise can help you reach your weight goals, but it also can improve your mood, lower your risk for certain diseases, and improve pregnancy outcomes if continued throughout. It is best to start a new regimen prior to conception, and if you have any medical conditions, always talk to your PCM first.

6. Stop bad habits: Stop bad habits like smoking, binge drinking, excessive stress, distracted driving, and emotional eating. All of these bad habits can affect your ability to get pregnant and your or your baby’s safety and health during your pregnancy. If you need assistance with any of these, the HAWC offers classes that may help.

7. Learn about your family: Are there any diseases that run in your family? Does your family have any babies born with significant medical problems? Knowledge of your family’s medical history may be helpful in identifying specific screening tests that may be beneficial to you either before or during your pregnancy.

8. Prepare your finances: Having a baby is a very expensive venture. Make sure that you have an emergency fund and that you’ve started to consider how diapers, clothes, food, and especially child care may impact your income. If you need help creating a budget, contact the Military and Family Support Center at 301-981-7087. The M&FSC staff offer help with personal financial readiness.

9. Consider your family plan: If you or your partner is deployed or sent on a prolonged temporary duty assignment, who will help out with your baby/children? What if your partner is deployed during your pregnancy? Who will be available to drive you to the hospital or babysit your other children?

10. Have fun: Try to relax and enjoy the ride! Stress and anxiety do not help your chances of conception. Remember that about 90 percent of couples will have a positive pregnancy test in the first 12 months of trying.

If you have any questions about this list, talk with your PCM.