Here’s What You Should Do Now If You Want to Get Pregnant in the Future
You’re ready to get pregnant and have a family of your own. Congratulations! Making the decision to try for a baby a huge step in life. There is a long list of lifestyle changes that you need to adhere to in order to have a healthy and safe pregnancy journey. It's very nerve-wracking but yet exciting. So, do you have everything ready such as your mental and physical health, your financial planning and your nutrition needs? Here’s a list of considerations for the coming period of time for conception.
New additions are exciting for everyone, including family and friends. It’s likely that your monthly expenses will increase. If you’re planning to have a baby with a partner instead of alone (yes, you can be a parent without a partner too such as through sperm or egg bank and adoption), you could start by talking to them about any big changes that might impact your finances. For example, if one of you is thinking about staying home after the baby arrives, now is a good time to plan for life with one income. Look at your current budget—see if you can find wiggle room in your discretionary income and savings. Generally, this is where you’ll find the money to pay for your new expenses.
Establish a regular but not too intense exercise routine. Experts agree that being physically fit is crucial before conception. Try to get in the best shape you possibly can, as close to your recommended ideal body as possible. This won’t just help you have an easier pregnancy and delivery, but it may also reduce your unborn child’s future disease risk. If you practice physical exercise before conception, this has a very important positive effect on sperm and egg cells as well.
However, during the preconception phase, you should only practice mild to moderate exercise, unless you’re an elite athlete who’s fully adapted to high-intensity activities. Why? You are raising the stress and inflammation on the sperm and egg cells, and disease is the end result of inflammation. So skip the marathon training this year and adopt a 30 minutes of fast walking per day.
Mental health plays a major role in determining the condition of your overall health. Hence, get your stress levels in checks. Stress is one of the most important components acting upon sperm and egg cells. If you are stressed, you should do things like meditation, massage, saltwater floating, or listening to music to decrease and relieve your stress.
This is also a good time to pinpoint potentially stressful situations that could arise while trying to conceive and talk about them with your partner. You have to get really good at telling your partner what you need—the more intimacy-building skills you can learn now, the better. Not only that, it’s also important to discuss what’s going to happen after the baby arrives. A lot of times, people don’t talk about their parenting styles. How do you guys want to raise this baby? What things made your parents angry, and how are you going to deal with annoyance and anger?
The time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do as a couple because it’s not always as easy as you think it’ll be once your family starts to grow. So go ahead and book that epic couples getaway you’ve been dreaming about—and think of it as a particularly great form of preconception R&R.
Some practitioners will offer you genetic carrier screening before you start trying to conceive to see whether you or your partner is a carrier for any serious inherited illnesses such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and others. If both you and your partner are carriers, your child will have a 1 in 4 chance of having the disease.
You can meet with a genetic health professional who will be able to tell you more about the condition and help you sort out your reproductive choices. This may be the single most important thing you can do to help ensure a healthy baby, and all it requires is a saliva or blood sample from each of you. It's even covered by most health insurance policies.
Your health professionals will likely discuss diet, weight, exercise, and any unhealthy habits you may have (such as smoking, drinking, and taking drugs); recommend a multivitamin; make sure you're up to date on your immunizations; test you for immunity to childhood diseases such as chicken pox and rubella; and answer any questions you have. In addition, you may be referred to a specialist if you have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, that need to be controlled before you get pregnant.
If it's been at least a year since you had a checkup, you can also expect to have a pelvic exam and a Pap smear, and to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases if you're at risk.
Nutrition & Multivitamins
It is advisable to adopt a pregnant woman’s eating habits. The rules of eating for two should apply to both parents during the preconception phase. Essentially, that means cutting out the junk food, alcohol, and caffeine, and loading up on healthy whole foods, like leafy greens, eggs, and omega-3s. Both parents should also make an effort to avoid any foods that could be contaminated with pesticides such as conventionally grown fruits and veggies or heavy metals like high-mercury fish.
Prenatal vitamins should also be part of a prospective mom’s supplement routine during those 180 days. Some nutrients—like folic acid to prevent neural tube defects—need to be present in the very early stages of conception, likely before a woman would even know she is pregnant.
Establishing healthy eating habits in advance can impact fertility, especially on the man’s part. Men who maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle are more likely to have quality sperm and improved overall fertility. For men, we often recommend consuming zinc-rich foods, like oysters, to help boost semen and testosterone production.
Cut Off Nicotine and Review Medications
Women and men who quit smoking before conception or within the first three months of pregnancy reduce the risk of their baby being born prematurely to the same level of risk for non-smokers. Adults who stop smoking early in their pregnancy have babies with similar birth weights as babies born to non-smokers. Not only that, cutting down nicotine can result in many health benefits to the baby and the parents.
Medications that can do harm to a developing fetus usually do so in the first weeks of pregnancy – often before you know you are pregnant. Review the medications you are currently taking with your health care provider when you are planning a pregnancy and before you get pregnant. They may advise a different dosage or additional tests to monitor the effect of the medication throughout your pregnancy. Or, you may be advised to stop taking the drug altogether. In most circumstances the right treatment for a condition you have while trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy is exactly the same as the right treatment when you are not pregnant. Don’t stop effective treatment of any medical condition until you have discussed that treatment in your plan to become pregnant with your healthcare provider.
Note Your Ovulation and Stop Using Contraceptives
Ideally, you want to stop birth control at least one month before conception. If you've been on the Pill, it's a good idea to finish out your pill pack, rather than stopping mid-month.