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During pregnancy, women do everything in their power to ensure they and their growing babies are healthy. But there are some things you can and should do before becoming pregnant that can protect your future baby.

"If you should do something or avoid something else while you're pregnant, it makes sense to do the same thing when you're trying to conceive in case you become pregnant and don't know it right away," said Gehred Wetzel, DO, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Geisinger.

Here are the things you should and shouldn't do if you're trying to get pregnant.

Stop smoking

If you're trying to get pregnant, or even just considering it, and you're a smoker, now is the time to quit.

"Smoking during pregnancy is a leading cause of problems for both mom and baby," Dr. Wetzel said. "Smoking while pregnant is linked to low-birth weight, preterm delivery, and even delivery death."

Quitting about eight to 10 months before you conceive gives you plenty of time to kick the habit and ensure your baby and your pregnancy start off on the right foot. Stopping smoking before you get pregnant may make it easier for you to become pregnant.

"Smoking lowers a woman's fertility - it directly affects the ovaries and decreases estrogen levels," Dr. Wetzel said.

Reconsider alcohol

As soon as you start trying to get pregnant, you should stop drinking alcohol.

"There's no known 'safe' amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy or when you're trying to get pregnant," Dr. Wetzel said. "If you're trying to get pregnant, you may conceive and not know you're pregnant for up to four to six weeks - if you haven't eliminated alcohol, you may be exposing your baby to alcohol without meaning to."

Alcohol can cause problems for your developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before you know you're pregnant - alcohol use during pregnancy can potentially lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), which can result in a range of physical and intellectual disabilities.

Start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid

Begin this regimen about two months or more before trying to conceive to ensure that when you do become pregnant, you and your baby will be getting all the nutrients you both need.

"Aim to get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day - getting enough folic acid during pregnancy reduces the risk of serious birth defects," Dr. Wetzel said. "Taking a prenatal vitamin that also contains vitamin B6 before and during your first weeks of pregnancy may help decrease morning sickness."

Plus, the zinc in a prenatal vitamin may also help improve your fertility.

Reconsider seafood

Women trying to conceive are advised to follow the same guidelines with fish and other seafood as pregnant women, which is to limit seafood to 12 ounces per week and avoid swordfish, any raw fish, king mackerel, tilefish and shark.

"The reason women trying to get pregnant should exercise caution with seafood is due to its mercury content - it can accumulate in fatty tissue and remain in your body long enough to pose a potential risk after conception," Dr. Wetzel explained.

Get a pre-pregnancy exam

Meeting with your doctor before becoming pregnant gives you the opportunity to make sure you're in tip-top shape and ask questions.

"During a pre-pregnancy exam, your doctor will review your medical history, screen you for any STDs, develop a plan to control any chronic conditions such as diabetes, check you for nutritional deficiencies and thyroid function, and make sure your medications are safe to take during pregnancy," Dr. Wetzel said.

Additionally, your doctor will check your immunity to infections and schedule any vaccinations you may need.

Talk to your doctor about traveling and Zika virus

If you're trying to get pregnant and have plans to travel to areas of ongoing Zika virus transmission, you need to talk to your doctor.

"Zika virus is typically a mild disease, unless you're pregnant - Zika virus can be dangerous to pregnant women's babies since there's a link between the virus and microcephaly," Dr. Wetzel said.

If you're trying to get pregnant and conceive before or during your trip, you may be at risk of serious complications. Plus, researchers haven't established how long the virus can remain in your system and effect a future pregnancy.

"Talk to your doctor before you book a trip to determine if there's a risk to you in a particular destination and again before you leave to learn how to protect yourself from mosquito bites," Dr. Wetzel said.
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