There are many months to go before you hear your baby's sweet cry, but as soon as you know that you're pregnant -- or better yet, before you start trying to conceive -- it's important to consider how your lifestyle or personal habits affect your baby's growth. A baby's brain and organs begin to develop very early in pregnancy, and behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and using certain medications and street drugs can cause irreparable harm to a developing fetus.
A nutrient-rich diet is also important early on, and it's especially important that you get adequate amounts of the vitamin folic acid. Start taking folic acid supplements as soon as possible (see "Folic acid reduces birth defects," page 26) if you're not already taking them.
Get off to the right start by calling your primary care physician or prenatal provider now to schedule a prenatal appointment. (Your first visit will likely be scheduled around week 10.) Good medical care during pregnancy is crucial for the health of you and your baby, and a doctor can help you make the critical lifestyle changes that are important for your baby's growth.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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