By: Maurine Anderson
So you and your significant other have decided to try for a baby, and you’ve already had the parenting talk and settled in a place where you’d like to raise children. What’s next? Here’s a look at ten more things to do before trying to get pregnant.
Eliminate substance use.
Drug or alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to a number of complications in an unborn child, including physical deformities, impaired brain function, spontaneous abortion, miscarriage, and stillbirth. This is why it’s crucially important to eliminate any drug or alcohol use before you conceive. For women who are facing drug or alcohol addiction, medically assisted detox and rehabilitation may be necessary in order to prevent shock to your system. To learn more about the rehabilitation process and about the effects of substance use on an unborn child, click here.
Cut back on caffeine.
You should also talk to your doctor about caffeine use as you prepare for pregnancy. Caffeine in excess amounts has been linked to reduced fertility, birth defects, and premature labor according to some studies, and it can also raise blood pressure and heart rate—two things that aren’t recommended during pregnancy. Be sure to talk with your doctor about what he or she considers safe in terms of caffeine use during pregnancy.
Start taking prenatal vitamins.
It’s also important to start taking prenatal vitamins before conception. This is because a baby’s neural tube, which eventually becomes the brain and spinal cord, develops during the first month of pregnancy, when many women don’t yet know that they are pregnant. The folic acid that prenatal vitamins contain can help prevent neural tube birth defects. Women should start taking these vitamins a month before conception and continue to take them throughout pregnancy to cover any nutritional gaps and to support strong health in both the mother and the baby. These vitamins are beneficial for the mother after delivery as well—especially if she is breastfeeding.
Stock up on healthy foods.
You may not be expecting yet, but it’s a good idea to get into the habit of healthy eating and to get the right nutrients into your body before you become pregnant. Try to eat about 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day, and focus on eating whole grains, protein-rich foods, and calcium-rich foods as well. Also be sure to start weaning out foods that aren’t so safe for pregnancy, including deli meats, fish containing mercury, smoked seafood, raw eggs, and soft cheeses.
Get to a healthy weight.
Being at a healthy weight can increase your chances of conceiving and holding a pregnancy, so work with your doctor to make any changes to your lifestyle that you need to make.
Start setting aside extra cash.
Setting aside some extra cash on a weekly basis before you become pregnant is a smart financial move, as you’ll likely encounter more expenses than you anticipated when you’re pregnant. And if you happen to have some money left over after paying for pregnancy and parenting books, maternity clothing, stretch mark cream, antacids, and that pregnancy body pillow, you can always spend it on new baby needs.
Get some extra sleep.
Studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to ovulation irregularities, so getting some extra sleep can help improve your chances for conceiving. Moreover, many pregnant women have difficulty getting restful sleep at night during pregnancy, so it isn’t a bad idea to get those forty winks in now while you still can.
Talk to the women in your family.
Now is a good time to talk to your mother, aunts, and sisters about their pregnancies. Did they have any medical conditions that complicated their pregnancies? Did any unexpected problems arise? How quickly were they able to conceive? Certain health conditions tend to run in families, so it’s a good idea to be aware of these potential complications ahead of time.
Visit your doctor.
Once you’ve gathered some details on your family’s medical background, now is a good time to visit your ob-gyn for a pre-pregnancy checkup. At this appointment you can make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations, get checked for STDs, get a genetic carrier screening, and be tested for certain health conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This also gives you an opportunity to ask your doctor any pregnancy questions you may have and to determine whether this is a doctor you’ll want to continue seeing once you are expecting. Plan on booking your appointment at least three months before you plan on getting pregnant.
Visit your dentist.
On that note, you’ll actually want to pay a visit to your dentist as well. Did you know that brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist regularly can actually reduce your risk of miscarriage by up to 70 percent? Visiting your dentist now will give you the chance to get any gingivitis under control before pregnancy.