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Almost every mother-to-be knows the importance of prenatal care. But how many know about the need for special attention before pregnancy starts?

"What it boils down to is the fact that we have identified during pregnancy different factors that can have a significant negative effect on both the mother and the developing fetus," Dr. Jeffrey Ellis, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emery University School of Medicine, Atlanta, told the Deseret News."What we are extending this to is for women to take a similar approach to the pre-pregnancy period, as they would be being pregnant," Ellis said in a telephone interview.

"While women are attempting to become pregnant they should take care of themselves as though they already are."

An interview with Ellis and new mother Helen Padovan was arranged by Ruder-Finn Inc., a New York firm that represents the makers of EPT, an early pregnancy test kit.

Ellis said women who want to become pregnant should take care of their future babies through "appropriate lifestyle; eating appropriately; physical exercise; avoidance of known toxic substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs and certain prescription drugs.

"What we're saying is, just follow a generally healthy lifestyle."

Meanwhile, the woman should assess if she has any special needs. "Number one, does she have any chronic medical conditions that need to be brought under control before (she becomes) pregnant?" he said. Among these are high blood pressure and imbalances caused by diabetes.

"Number two, does she need any surgery that should be performed before becoming pregnant? For example, extensive dental work, gallbladder removal, hemorrhoid surgery and so on."

Another consideration is whether the reproductive organs could require any treatment before she becomes pregnant.

"Number four, is she taking any prescription medication that needs to be stopped because it may have an adverse effect on the developing fetus?" These could include certain medicines used to treat epilepsy or acne, and certain anti-biotics.

Also, the woman should consider whether she or her partner has any inherited illness that could affect the developing fetus.

Padovan, 31, who lives in San Pedro, Calif., was featured in a nationwide television ad produced by EPT. She was shown checking the results of an early pregnancy test, and discovering to her disappointment that she was not pregnant.

"It was really disappointing at the time, because we were trying to get pregnant," she said of herself and her husband, Nick.

"But it just reinforced our thoughts about early pregnancy thinking, and taking care of ourselves when it did happen."

Soon afterwards, she and Nick had better news. Their first child was born about a year after the segment was filmed.

"I think it's really important to detect your pregnancy as early as possible, so you can get prenatal care as early as possible," she said.


(Additional information)

Free pregnancy guide available by mail

A free, 40-week guide to prenatal care and fetal development, distributed by the makers of an early pregnancy test kit, can be obtained by writing to: EPT Calendar, 301 E. 57th St., New York, NY 10022.

The guide includes information about weight gain, warning signs that could indicate problems, the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis, nutrients, contractions, labor, feeding the child and other topics.