Updated: Jun 3
It is a fact that too many women only start to really take care of themselves when they are preparing to have a baby. Pregnancy has been described in medical literature as 'a “teachable moment” as women are motivated to change their behavior (sic) to protect and improve their as well as their baby’s health.'
Writing as a general dentist and woman who is dedicated to supporting all people on the path to true health, I have a few issues with this way of thinking - surely we should value and look after ourselves all of the time, not just when we are planning for a baby.
However, placing these objections aside, many women are willing to make beautiful changes at this time, so it is wise to capitalise on the awareness and use it an an opportunity to maximise your total health.
When preparing for pregnancy, consider taking all of the following steps:
Talk to your doctor and work with them to get your body in the best possible condition. Follow their recommendations in regard to supplementation, medical testing and the timing of referral to specialists.
This is a great time to look at the foods and drinks that make up your diet. Start to embrace fresh veggies, and plenty of water. Pregnancy is not an opportunity to eat anything you want, as it is too often portrayed to be. Gestational diabetes and increased risk of tooth decay are two very good reasons to start reducing sugar before you become pregnant.
See your dentist for a thorough examination and diagnosis of any conditions affecting your teeth, gums, jaw and soft tissues of your mouth. Ensure that your gums are as healthy as possible and that you have no tooth decay. Gum disease can impact adversely on fertility and the pregnancy. Gum disease is often aggravated by pregnancy too. Teeth are at higher risk of decay during pregnancy, and pre-existing cavities will get deeper, quicker at this time.
Tune up your oral hygiene. Work with your dentist, to ensure that what you are doing is really working for you. A solid hygiene rhythm established when going into pregnancy will support you through the pregnancy and in the months after the baby is born.
This is the time to let go of alcohol, smoking, vaping and recreational drug use. The first few days and weeks of pregnancy support the development of a good connection between the placenta and uterus. The more cared for your body is beforehand, the more you are supporting this delicate process.
Get your partner on board with the changes you chose to make. No pressure or demands, but it is so much easier to develop a healthy way of living together. The added benefit (if you can get this to work!) is that the baby is born into a home where the health messages are consistent and aligned.
Every one of these points applies to every single person at every stage of their life.
It is worth reflecting on the fact that a lot of people only get really serious about embracing them when a baby is on the way. . .
The key with the changes you make is to embrace them for yourself as much as you do for the baby.
This is essential for your own ongoing wellbeing, as well as creating the opportunity for you offer your child a living breathing role model of how to live a beautiful, healthy life.
Khanna S, Dhaimade PA. Coalition of oral health care and antenatal counseling: formulation of guidelines. Int J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2015;2:155–163.