Congratulations, you’ve decided to have a baby! Whether this is your first attempt, or you’re looking to expand your family, there are a few things you should do to prepare for pregnancy.
When my husband and I decided we were ready to have a family, we wanted to do everything right. We did everything we could to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. Despite my endless hours of research and extreme efforts to do everything perfectly, there are still a few things I would have done differently. Let’s talk about some ways you can prepare for this beautiful adventure…
How to Prepare Your Mind and Body for Pregnancy
1. Schedule a Preconception Visit for you AND your partner
Before you do anything else to prepare for pregnancy, you need to make these appointments. Your doctor will be able to tell you if there is any reason why you may need to wait to conceive, as well as any additional steps you may need to take to prepare for pregnancy. You will likely need a pelvic exam and your doctor may recommend testing as needed.
This is a great time to ask about lifestyle changes that may be beneficial for fertility as well as a healthy pregnancy. We will cover some in this post, but everyone is different. Your doctor may have some recommendations specific to you or your partner.
Your partner may not think that they need to get a checkup, but it is an important step. After all, it takes two to make a baby! His health is an important factor with fertility and can still play a role in the health of your baby as he or she develops. Additionally, some of your partner’s lifestyle choices may affect you and your baby along the way. For example, even if you do not smoke while pregnant, second-hand smoke exposure from a partner who smokes can be just as harmful to your baby.
Medication and Medical Conditions
Your doctor will also assess any medication you are taking and whether or not you should continue doing so while trying to conceive as well as any medical issues that may need to be addressed.
It is possible that you may need to get a medical condition under control prior to becoming pregnant in which case they may recommend that you continue using contraceptives until that point. Take this time to ask your doctor about what vitamins you should be taking as you prepare for pregnancy. They will likely suggest that you start taking a prenatal vitamin that includes a high dose of folic acid.
This is also a good time to make sure that you are up to date on all immunizations and to get a flu shot while you’re at it!
2. Go to the Dentist
This is one thing I wish I had thought of prior to trying to conceive. Pregnancy makes you more susceptible to gum disease and gum disease is associated with preterm delivery. Of course, when you are pregnant, you will be limited to the medication you can take so its best to get any dental procedures done prior. If you plan to breastfeed, you will also be unable to take certain medications during that time period.
I completely failed to account for breastfeeding in the early days of pregnancy. Because I decided to breastfeed my son for his first year, that meant that I was limited in many ways for almost 2 years all together! That’s a long time to wait for a dental procedure. Granted, there may be alternative ways to still get the work done without compromising the health of your baby, but it’s best to just get it out of the way beforehand.
3. Start Acting Like You Are Pregnant
This was something that I was so glad I did. I did my research and learned all about what you can and cannot do when you are pregnant. As soon as we were ready to start trying, I acted as though I was already pregnant. I gave up alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine. I avoided foods that could cause Listeria (unpasteurized soft cheeses, cold deli meats, etc.) and I tried to limit my exposure to anything that could be harmful like cleaning products.
There are a lot of opinions out there about the dos and don’ts of pregnancy, particularly when it comes to diet, but I didn’t want to take any risks. I tried to avoid anything that had any potential for harm.
Why Limit Yourself Before You Have To?
Now, some may say that you should enjoy the things you can’t have during pregnancy as long as you can. After all, you’ll already have to give up so much for 9 months, why not take it while you can? Well, I can give you two compelling reasons to start now.
The first is that you won’t know immediately when you become pregnant. It takes some time for a pregnancy test to confirm that you are, in fact, pregnant. Which means that by the time you discover that you are pregnant, your little one will have already started developing. A harmful substance can also prevent you from becoming pregnant, or from a pregnancy sticking before you even knew it existed.
The second reason is that pregnancy is hard enough! Trying to quit a bad habit with a heavy dose of hormones is not fun. Imagine your worst day of PMS. Would you want to try to quit drinking coffee on that day? Probably not. Get the hard part out of the way before you have to battle the hormones too.
4. Eat Like You Are Pregnant (It’s not what you think)
It’s a common misconception that the phrase “eating for 2” means eating nearly double what you would normally. In reality, that tiny human growing inside of you doesn’t need much! The Institute of Medicine says if you’re a healthy weight, you need no additional calories in the first trimester, 340 extra calories a day in the second trimester, and about 450 extra calories a day in the third trimester.
I’ll be honest, I did not follow this recommendation. I gained more weight that I would have liked to during my pregnancy and I wasn’t at my ideal weight beforehand either. That being said, I did maintain a healthy diet. I just ate a little too much of that healthy food!
As you prepare for pregnancy, go ahead and start implementing some healthy eating habits. Eat lots of veggies, avoid processed foods, and pay attention to calories. I’m not recommending that you significantly cut calories when you are trying to conceive or when you become pregnant (unless your doctor tells you to do so) but it’s important to recognize how much you are consuming. It will make it easier later on when you need to increase our calorie intake in the second and third trimester.
If you are overweight or underweight, make sure to talk to your doctor at your preconception checkup about how you should alter your diet prior to conception and/or during pregnancy.
Want some ideas for a healthy diet? Check out The 5 Food Fundamentals I follow.
5. Get Moving!
During my pregnancy, my good friend and co-worker went for walks with me every day. Once or twice a day we would power walk through the business complex and vent about work or whatever else was on our mind. At the time it felt like a great excuse to get away from my desk for a moment, but as I got further along in my pregnancy, I realized that it was probably one of the biggest reasons why I was still energetic and comfortable (for the most part) even when I was about to pop!
Staying active during pregnancy can make a world of difference in how you feel and how quickly you can recover postpartum. I highly recommend walking regularly but other restorative activities like stretching and yoga can be great options as well. These activities not only keep you feeling good physically but they help to balance your stress hormones.
Start making daily exercise a habit as you prepare for pregnancy, especially if you are out of practice.
Aside from restorative exercise, strength training while pregnant can be extremely beneficial. Exercises like kegels and squats as well as exercises that strengthen your back and hips can help make the birthing process less painful and sometimes faster. Additionally, you will likely recover more quickly postpartum. Make sure to check with your doctor before starting any strength training programs and always listen to your body. If it feels like too much, don’t push it.
Since you can push yourself a little harder before you are pregnant, it’s not a bad idea to introduce a good strength training routine while you prepare for pregnancy; however, training too much might make it harder to become pregnant so you’ll need to find a happy medium.
Looking for a simple exercise plan to do at home with no equipment? Here’s my workout plan.
6. Consider the Future
While my husband and I did our best to think things through before we decided to start trying, there were many things we failed to account for. It’s important to think through some of the important details before making this life-changing decision.
The first hurdle you will encounter is maternity leave. Find out if you are permitted to take leave at work, how much time it allows and whether or not you will be paid. Some companies that don’t pay for maternity leave do offer short-term disability for a small monthly payment, which will pay you a certain percentage of your typical pay for a certain duration of time. Make sure to sign up for this before you become pregnant to avoid any issues.
You may also want to look into paternity leave. Find out if your partner can take time off with you as well. Recovery can be tough and being home alone with a new baby when you’re in pain is no fun. Of course, depending on your circumstances, you may have a more intense recovery period. Find out if your partner can stay home with you and whether or not they will be paid as well. If they can’t, look into other options. Perhaps a friend or family member can help out a bit during your recovery period.
Depending on whether or not you and your partner will be paid during the time you take off of work, you may need to do some financial planning to ensure that you are able to cover your bills while you are in the hospital and at home recovering. I recommend saving up some money either way. You never know if you may end up in the hospital longer than expected or if your little one may need special care after birth. That being said, you should always look into the medical coverage you have and what it covers for pregnancy and delivery, as well as the coverage you will be obtaining for your new baby.
Of course, you will also need to consider the new costs you will encounter as a parent. Diapers and wipes are expensive! Granted you can get by with very little in the early days, particularly if you are breastfeeding, but there are some necessities you will simply have to make room for. Also, consider that there may be a few unexpected expenses. If your little one has any medical conditions, you may need to purchase additional medication, procedures or equipment.
MyBabyCare.org has a great baby shopping list for expecting parents. It covers all of the basic baby items that you’ll want to have before you head to the hospital. Click here to read the post and get your free baby shopping checklist
7. Day to Day Planning
After your little is finally here, and you’ve completely recovered, what is the plan? Will you be going back to work or staying home? Do you need daycare? Some daycare facilities have long waiting lists. You won’t want to take any action on this until you are pregnant, but it’s not a bad idea to look into the available options.
Another big factor that many new parents overlook is the difference in opinion between you and your partner when it comes to parenting. Before you decide to embark on this journey together, it is important to discuss some of the more controversial topics. Trust me, it’s much better to hash out some of these details before you are pregnant and hormonal.
Take some time to talk about religious traditions, discipline methods, and parenting styles. Obviously, these opinions may change a bit for you both when you actually become parents, but now is a good time to make sure there aren’t any red flags that might cause a problem later.
8. Take Care of Your Mental Health
Did you know that depression can contribute to fertility issues? When you are ready to start trying to conceive, you need to make sure that you and your partner are in the best mental state possible. Set aside your differences, take the time you need to focus on yourself and make your future baby the number one priority.
Eating a healthy diet and getting in some restorative exercise will already have you on the right track, but make sure to do whatever you need to feel at peace. If you are overwhelmed or stressed, learn to recognize this and make a conscious decision to resolve it. Take a long bath, tell your boss you need to take something off your plate at work, or go for a relaxing walk.
Related Post: How to Create a Daily Self-Care Routine in 3 Easy Steps
9. Get Off Birth Control
Alright, you’ve don’t the prep work and you are finally ready to start trying to have a baby! I’m excited just thinking about other people having babies! It was such an exciting time for us and it will be so fun when we are ready to try for another one.
The first thing you will need to do is to stop using any form of birth control. If you are on the pill, patch or ring, you should be able to start trying right away. For some, it may take a month or so to resume ovulation, but for many, it resumes almost immediately.
If you have an IUD, you will need to have it removed at the doctor’s office. With an IUD you never stop ovulating, so you are ready to start trying immediately. Unfortunately, if you have been using the Depo shot, you may be in for a long wait. It can take up to a year after your last shot for you to start ovulating again.
**Make sure to talk to your doctor about your birth control method, how to properly stop using it, and whether or not you can or should start trying immediately.
10. Start Tracking Ovulation
While some women prefer to simply wing it when it comes to trying for a baby, it can be extremely helpful to get a little bit technical. Charting your Basal Body Temperature and the changes in your cervical mucus can help you to determine when you are ovulating and the optimal time to try, as can ovulation predictor kits.
There are also a variety of smartphone apps that help you track this data as well as the days that you had intercourse. This information not only helps you to improve the chances of conception, it can also help you to nail down a more precise due date when you do become pregnant.
There are a variety of different opinions when it comes to things you can do to increase fertility but my advice, in the beginning, is to just have fun. Enjoy the excuse for intimacy and the excitement that comes along with it. If you find that it’s taking longer than expected to become pregnant, you can talk to your doctor and consider some fertility improvement methods.
Are you trying to conceive? Are you newly pregnant? Tell me all about your journey in the comments below!
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