The early stage of pregnancy, the first two to eight weeks after conception, is a critical time for fetal development—when a baby’s facial features, brain, spinal column, heart and kidneys begin to form.


“Because you may not realize you’re pregnant until three weeks or more after conception, your health status before pregnancy is key,” saidDr. Faith Ighoyivwi, obstetrician-gynecologist at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital. “Caring for yourself before you conceive can help you avoid complications like preeclampsia (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes and preterm delivery, and reduce your chances for having a baby with birth defects.”


The pathway to a healthy baby begins with a healthy mom, and the journey starts long before a positive pregnancy test. If you’re thinking about having a baby, Ighoyivwi offers suggestions to help ensure good health for both you and your future little one.


Ighoyivwi says women should begin their pregnancy journey by visiting their doctor for a preconception visit. This checkup includes a complete physical exam and blood tests to look for infections and your immunity to certain diseases like rubella and chickenpox.


“Your doctor will update your vaccinations and discuss any medical issues, your medications, family history, body weight, fitness level and lifestyle. It’s a good idea to schedule a trip to your dentist now to have any needed X-rays or repair work done,” Ighoyivwi said.


Eating a well-balanced diet that includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and protein-rich foods like lean meats and fish is very important. Starting your pregnancy at a healthy weight can reduce your risk for complications like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or a difficult delivery. Cut back on caffeine by limiting or avoiding coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate and certain medications.


Studies show that women who don’t get enough folic acid, a B vitamin, are more likely to have babies with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida or anencephaly.


“Because the neural tube, which becomes your baby’s spinal cord and brain, forms within the first three weeks of pregnancy, it’s critical you get enough folic acid before you conceive. Take a daily supplement or a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid,” Ighoyivwi said.


When pregnant, women should get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. Being active before you conceive will help you improve your fitness, get down to a healthy weight, reduce stress and gain strength and balance. Continuing to exercise during your pregnancy can reduce your chances for developing preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. It can help ease constipation, varicose veins, backaches and fatigue.


Ighoyivwi says quitting bad habits like smoking, drinking alcohol or abusing drugs, is essential. They can cause miscarriage, premature birth, infant death, birth defects, and growth and learning problems. Ask your doctor about programs to help you quit.


If you’re thinking about having a baby, make the effort now to seek preconception care and improve your lifestyle to give your child his or her best start.


To ensure your safety, Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital is taking every necessary precaution during the coronavirus pandemic to keep you and our staff members safe, including, screening all patients, ensuring only those without COVID-19 symptoms are seen in the office; wearing masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) while providing patient care; reorganizing waiting rooms and check-in lines to ensure social distancing, and implementing additional sanitation processes to disinfect all equipment and surfaces.


The Houston Methodist Childbirth Center at Baytown provides advanced obstetrics services, including prenatal education and childbirth classes, neonatology and pediatric support teams and lactation education. Dr. Ighoyivwi and fellow OB/GYN specialist Dr. Paul Redman provide compassionate, expert care in treating the full range of OB/GYN conditions, such as menopause, pelvic pain, ovarian cysts, abnormal uterine bleeding and contraceptive care. To schedule an appointment, visit, or call 281.420.5760.