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Health Before & During Pregnancy

Your Reproductive Life Plan

If you don’t have a plan to prevent pregnancy, you have a plan to get pregnant.

Planning is an important part of life. We spend a lot of time planning for our future based on our priorities, values, and goals. Planning whether or not to have children and when the right time to have them is known as a Reproductive Life Plan.

You have the control and ability to make decisions about:

  • whether or not to have children
  • when to have children
  • how you plan to have children

What’s Your Plan?

Whether you are planning to be a parent, a baby will change your life. Preconception health is your health before and between pregnancies. Taking positive actions to improve your health before and between pregnancies will help your chances of having a healthy baby.

With approximately 50% of all Canadian pregnancies being unplanned, making a plan before you become pregnant can help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby, now or in the future.

The following describes things you may want to consider based on your current Reproductive Life Plan.

Your Reproductive Life Plan is…

You’ve made a decision not to have a baby at this time

Things for you to consider:

  • Live a healthy lifestyle by making healthy food choices, being active, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping immunizations up-to-date, being smoke-free, limiting alcohol and drug use, and limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals.

Remember: All women who could become pregnant need a multivitamin with folic acid every day.

  • Practice safer sex. Many birth control methods do not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs, if untreated, may make you sick, and may interfere with your future plans of having a baby. You can reduce your risks of STIs by practicing safer sex.
  • Find a birth control method that is right for you and your partner. Talk with your health care provider or a counsellor at a Sexual Health Clinic to find a birth control method that is right for you. Be honest and ask lots of questions. All birth control methods work best only if used properly.

You’re thinking about having a baby someday

Things for you to consider:

  • Consider your life situation. Are you physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially ready to have a baby? Think about what resources you have available to support a pregnancy and baby.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle by making healthy food choices, being active, maintaining a healthy weight, being smoke-free, limiting alcohol or drug use, and limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Use birth control and practice safer sex. Until you are ready to get pregnant, use a birth control method that works for you and reduce your chances of becoming infected with sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Get regular check-ups with your health care provider, and discuss your preconception health and your reproductive life plan. This includes screening for and managing any medical conditions, including testing for STIs and HIV.  If you’re a woman, it is important to have enough folic acid in your body before you get pregnant and in the first few weeks of pregnancy. One way is to take a daily multivitamin with 0.4 mg of folic acid.
  • Ensure your immunizations are up to date. This includes immunizations for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), hepatitis B, varicella,  tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap), and human papillomavirus (HPV). Having any of these illnesses while you are pregnant can lead to birth defects.
  • Talk to family, friends, and your health care provider for emotional support. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes, but if these feelings don’t go away and they interfere with your daily life, it’s important to talk to your health care provider. Stress may make it harder to follow good health habits. It can also make it more difficult to become pregnant. If either you or your partner has a history of depression, talking to a health care provider before pregnancy can decrease the risk of depression during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby.

You’ve made a decision to have a baby

Things for you to consider:

  • Eat healthy and be active. Choosing healthy eating options and regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). Being overweight or underweight can affect your ability to become pregnant and puts you at higher risk for health problems. If you are overweight, you may be at risk for diabetes or high blood pressure.  Being underweight may put you at risk of preterm birth or your baby may be born with a low birth weight. It may also impact you and your baby during and after pregnancy. It is best to talk with your health care provider before pregnancy about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. It is best to stop drinking, smoking and using drugs before getting pregnant as these substances affect the quality of the sperm and may make it difficult to get pregnant. If you’re having trouble quitting smoking, get help and keep trying.
  • Limit your exposure to harmful environmental substances. Exposure to environmental hazards can make it more difficult to get pregnant and may cause problems during your pregnancy.
  • If you’re a woman, continue to take a daily multivitamin with folic acid. This will help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Inform your doctor about your preconception health plans and have a complete medical check-up. This may include:
    • Completing a reproductive and family health history screening to identify any genetic disorders (e.g., hereditary conditions) or possible risks in a future pregnancy.
    • Updating your immunizations.
    • Discussing any medications you are currently taking. This includes all over-the-counter, prescription, and herbal medications.
    • Making sure you and your partner get tested and/or treated for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If left untreated, STIs can put your baby’s and your own health in danger.
    • Treating and/or controlling medical conditions before getting pregnant as they could get worse during pregnancy. These include diabetes, hypertension, depression, thyroid disease, tuberculosis, seizure disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. Consider using birth control until your medical conditions are under control.
  • Talk to family, friends, and your health care provider for emotional support. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes, but if these feelings don’t go away and they interfere with your daily life, it’s important to talk to your health care provider as too much stress can make it hard to follow good health habits. It can also prevent a pregnancy from happening. If either you or your partner has a history of depression, talking to a health care provider before pregnancy can decrease the risk of depression during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby.
  • Get ready to become a parent. This may include thinking about how you would care for and feed your baby.

Pregnancy is a time that can bring many questions.

Our Sexual Health Clinics offer pregnancy testing, counselling and referrals.

Renfrew County and District Health Unit offers Prenatal Education. Read more about prenatal care in Renfrew County and District.

Parenting programs can help make the transition to parenting easier.

Your health is very important for the whole family.

  • Make time to rest and relax. Rest is important for your physical, mental, and emotional health and getting enough sleep (6 hours in a 24 hour period) is a priority.
  • Do not expect or try to lose pregnancy weight right away. Moderate weight loss over several months is the safest way, especially if you are breastfeeding, eating healthy and being active.
  • It’s important to give a woman’s body time to heal. Is there sex after baby? Use birth control until you are sure you are ready to get pregnant again.
  • Get advice from your health care provider about your preconception health. This includes planning if and when to get pregnant again. To have a healthy pregnancy and baby, wait at least 18-24 months and no more than 5 years between each pregnancy.

You’ve made a decision to have another child.

Things for you to consider:

  • Plan each pregnancy. The time between pregnancies is an important time for you to take care of yourself.
  • Space your pregnancies. To have a healthy pregnancy and baby, wait at least 18-24 months and no more than 5 years between each pregnancy.
  • Consider your life situation. Think about what resources you have available to support another pregnancy and baby. Use birth control until you are sure you are ready to get pregnant again.
  • Get advice from your health care provider about your preconception health. This includes your plans to get pregnant again and having a complete medical check-up.

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