Something's happening to you. There's not a baby you don't want to hold. Maternity clothes are looking cute and you're full-on "bump" obsessed. Diagnosis? Baby Fever. In other words, you're ready to start a family. Congratulations and buckle up for the ride!
Getting pregnant and having a baby are life-changing in the best way. But along with the excitement, you'll have lots of questions and decisions. Put a preconception game plan in place now to help make the journey smoother and you more relaxed during pregnancy -- a plus for mom and baby!
1. What do I do first?
Think of pregnancy as nine months with a tiny 24/7 hitch-hiker. You want to make sure baby has a safe and comfy home before hitting the real world. So the best first step in your preconception game plan is to try and be as healthy as you possibly can before you get pregnant, says Independence ObGyn, Dr. Stephanie Carpino. Eat right, get to and maintain a healthy weight, cut out lifestyle habits that are harmful to baby, and…relax.
And, oh-by-the-way, your partner doesn't get a pass on the healthy habits. Nutrition, lifestyle and overall health in both mom and dad impact fertility and pregnancy.
2. Meet your new best friend... the doctor or the midwife
If you haven't had a well check in awhile, now's the time. Before the visit, take a few minutes to write down things to discuss:
- Your overall health
- Any medicines, including birth control, OTCs and supplements, etc. and their impact on conception or pregnancy
- Routine or special testing you need or want
- Chronic health conditions
- Family history of birth defects, health conditions
3. Get your app on
There are plenty of pregnancy planning apps that help you do everything from tracking your periods to predicting ovulation and your best days for conceiving. Not an app person? Go old school and pick up an ovulation predictor from the pharmacy.
4. Your new lens for lifestyle choices: "Is it good for the baby?"
- Smoking – In a word, don't. This goes for mom and dad. Smoking can adversely affect the egg and sperm, as well as increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects. Even being exposed to secondhand smoke can cause you to have trouble getting pregnant.
- Recreational Drugs – Both legal and illegal drugs risk baby's health.
- Alcohol – It's best to put the drinks down as soon as you begin trying to conceive. The occasional drink may not hurt your odds of getting pregnant but having two plus drinks a day can. And be aware, even moderate drinking during pregnancy has been linked to increased chance of miscarriage.
- Caffeine – You don't have to completely give up your morning cup of joe. Experts say one to two cups of coffee per day shouldn't interfere with your ability to become pregnant. Once pregnant, limit yourself to a 12-ounce cup of coffee or less per day. And keep in mind, caffeine isn't just coffee. Soda, energy drinks, tea etc. also count.
5. Pack in the prenatals
Dr. Carpino says you should begin taking prenatal vitamins at least three months before you try to conceive. These vitamins are jam-packed with what an expectant mom needs, especially folic acid. Folic acid is essential in early pregnancy to prevent brain and nervous system defects. The six most important minerals for your baby are:
- Folic acid – for prevention of neural tube defects like spina bifida
- Iron – for help making blood to carry oxygen to baby and helping baby make his/her own blood
- Calcium – for bones, teeth, heart muscles and nerves development
- Vitamin D – assists in calcium absorption and helps your baby get the calcium he or she needs
- DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) – for eyes, brain and nervous system development
- Iodine – for brain and nervous system development
6. I want a baby NOW!
We live in a world of instant gratification, but the reality is, pregnancy actually doesn’t always happen right away. The truth is, the time it takes you to get pregnant can depend on your age and health history. Independence ObGyn Dr. Nate Wegner says most women (approximately 80 percent) in their 20s, will conceive within a year of trying and 92 percent will get pregnant by the second year. As you get older, fertility rates can decline. If you are 35 or older trying to get pregnant, Dr. Carpino says don't wait a year. If you're not pregnant after six months, talk to your doctor about fertility testing. Learn more about infertility and when you should see a doctor.
7. Do I need special testing?
In most cases, Dr. Wegner says that a woman with a normal medical history, doesn't need initial testing. That said, about half of female infertility issues are due to not ovulating regularly or fallopian tube damage from scarring, diseases or other causes. So for anyone who has irregular periods, or known past conditions impacting her tubes, further testing may be recommended.
8. Diet do's and don't's
A good rule of thumb when you're trying to get pregnant is to eat and drink as if you already are pregnant. What does that mean? Dr. Wegner says assuming a normal weight (not over- or under-weight) and in overall good health, a well-balanced diet is generally all that's needed. See a list of pre-pregnancy diet do’s and don't's.
9. Eating for two, right? Well.... not exactly.
Both Dr. Wegner and Carpino advise getting yourself to a healthy weight before getting pregnant. The most concerning and common pre-pregnancy condition they see is in moms carrying too much weight before getting pregnant. This is not only unhealthy for mom, it can also result in higher risk of a baby with birth defects and higher risk for needing a C-section. Guidelines say:
- an average-sized woman should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy
- a woman who is underweight should gain 28 to 40 pounds
- a woman who is overweight should gain only 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy
10. Take time for "me" before it's "we"
Research shows that major stress can possibly hinder your ability to conceive. So try and get it under control before you try to conceive, and then relax, says Dr. Wegner. Pregnancy may not happen overnight, so don't panic if it's not right away. Whether it's reading, exercising, taking in a movie or anything else, take time for yourself – and your significant other – before baby arrives.