Planning for pregnancy is one of the essential steps you can take to give your future child the best possible start in life. These days, with more parents having their children in their late 30s and 40s, it’s even more important. Becoming pregnant later in life makes certain complications more likely, including miscarriage, premature birth and birth defects. However, there are steps all parents can take before conception and during pregnancy to help you have a full-term pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Getting informed

For older parents, it may be harder for you to become pregnant. If you’re age 35 or older and have been trying for six months to have a baby, you may be considering fertility treatment. If so, talk to your doctor about ways to help you get pregnant with a single baby. This can help reduce the health risk of pregnancy complications from twins, triplets or higher order multiples such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and growth problems.

“Before pregnancy, start taking a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid and a B vitamin, and continue into early pregnancy ...”

Staying on top of wellness

There are also specific things, regardless of age, that expecting parents should do to improve their chances of having a healthy baby. Before pregnancy, start taking a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid and a B vitamin, and continue into early pregnancy; get control of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure; make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations.

Avoiding complications

It’s also important to avoid unhealthy substances. Don’t take any medication, especially herbal products, prescription pain medications or statins, before checking with your doctor; avoid fish high in mercury or lead, and steer clear of raw or undercooked meat and unpasteurized juice and dairy products; protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, including mosquitos; do not clean cat litter boxes while pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Friends and family can show their support by speaking out and showing their support by donating to medical research and supporting organizations that take action to help give every baby a fighting chance.