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What if you didnt know you pregnant and drank and smoked the first month, could that harm or affect the growth and development of the unborn fetus?

It is unlikely that moderate smoking or drinking during the first month of pregnancy will be harmful. But it’s very important to stop smoking or drinking as soon as you know you're pregnant.

It’s always best to prepare for the birth of a child before pregnancy. But if preconception planning is not possible, you still can prepare during pregnancy. The key is taking good care of your health, which includes eliminating or reducing any toxins in your system as well as having good prenatal care. It will help ensure a healthy pregnancy — from embryo, to fetus, to the birth of your child. The healthier you are, the stronger you and your child are likely to be.

There are two important points to remember about toxins that can damage the developing fetus:

1. The most sensitive period for causing birth defects is the fifth to the 10th week after the last menstrual period (the third to eighth week of gestation).

2. Damage to the fetus also includes injuries that are not birth defects, such as low birth weight, premature delivery, respiratory problems, developmental delays, or even death. The safest way to prevent toxin-related damage is to stop toxin exposure before pregnancy. The longer and heavier someone smokes, drinks, takes other drugs, or is exposed to other toxins, the more their fetus is at risk of harm.

The pre-embryo — the developing ball of cells — is not exposed to whatever toxins are in your bloodstream during the several days after fertilization and before implantation. But after implantation, the embryo begins to receive toxins, as well as nutrients, from your bloodstream. Several days after implantation, you'll miss your period, may suspect that you're pregnant, and take a pregnancy test. Once you know you're pregnant, you must stop letting toxins get into your bloodstream.

Preconception planning gives you time to identify and clear your system of toxins before becoming pregnant. It may not be possible, however, for everyone to plan their pregnancies. But anyone who decides to bring a pregnancy to term should arrange for prenatal care as soon as they discover they’re pregnant. People who smoke, drink, or use other drugs should talk with their health care providers to develop plans for stopping or for referrals to programs that can help them break their smoking, drinking, or other drug habits.

It’s also important to see a health care provider regularly for prenatal visits to help ensure a healthy pregnancy. People who receive prenatal care are less likely to have serious problems related to pregnancy. And babies are much more likely to be born at a healthy birth weight if you get adequate prenatal care.

Contact your local Planned Parenthood health center to schedule an appointment.

Tags: drinking and smoking, pregnancy, prenatal care