The following is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult with your own provider for your healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy.
So, you’re thinking about having a baby and you want to know what to do before getting pregnant. Let me guess: you and your partner have been dreaming about a future of little fingers and tiny toes.
At the same time, the to-do list can feel overwhelming – a health checkup before pregnancy, changes to your diet, prenatal vitamins – it can start to feel like a lot. But never fear – when you break it down, and take it one item at a time, it’s totally doable.
Pre-Conception Checklist: 10 Steps to Take Before Getting Pregnant
Start taking a prenatal vitamin
Get a regular physical check-up
Talk to a doc about any mental health medications you’re taking
If over 35, see a pregnancy care provider for any recommendations
Clean up your diet
Limit caffeine to 200 mg/day (about 12 oz. coffee)
Exercise daily for 30 mins.
Stop drinking alcohol
Have the big “talk” with your partner about childcare, parental leave, and finances
See a doctor if unprotected sex doesn’t result in conception after 6 months (if you’re over 35) or 1 year (if you’re under 35)
What to Do Before Getting Pregnant
Pre-pregnancy care focuses on the things you can do before you have a baby to prepare and make sure you are healthy and ready for welcoming a little one. Whether this is your first baby, or you have already welcomed a little bundle before, you can check the following off your list to get ready:
Step 1: Preconception Counseling
If you are over 35, have specific medical conditions or you and your partner have had trouble conceiving, a pre-pregnancy counseling session may be in the cards.
Your doctor will ask you about any medical conditions you have and discuss your current medications and what to do before getting pregnant. They may also bring up genetic carrier screening to prevent certain birth defects. Be sure to ask any burning questions now – this is your chance to learn!
Step 2: Standard Health Checkups
If you haven’t been to the doctor in a while, it’s a good idea to get a general physical checkup and blood workup. Make sure any medical conditions are controlled and treated. If you are taking medication, certain ones may cause serious birth defects if taken during pregnancy (this includes dietary or herbal supplements). Bring any prescriptions you are taking up with your doctor. If you take any medications for mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, you can also speak to your doctor about recommendations for continuing or weaning off any medications.
Many medications for mental health disorders are considered safe to continue during pregnancy, but it’s normal if you have questions or concerns about what that entails for both you and your baby, so be sure to speak to your doctor about any medications you are taking. How early should you go in? You can get a checkup any time – even up to a year before you anticipate becoming pregnant.
Step 3: Diet Changes
Whether you’ve been eating healthy for a while now or not, diet will be important. The saying “you are what you eat” takes on new meaning when you are thinking about conceiving! Overall, you want to eat food that nourishes and prepares your body.
Other ways to shift your diet for the better: eat more fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and lean proteins. Avoid fish that has a high mercury content in favor of a moderate intake of low-toxin fish (up to three servings a week maximum). Reduce empty calories (e.g. sugary sweets), and steer clear of artificial sweeteners. Limit caffeine – if you’re a regular coffee guzzler, you can slowly wean yourself off to the daily 200 milligram limit recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the amount of caffeine in about a 12 oz. cup of coffee) per day.
Step 4: Lifestyle Changes
Your lifestyle plays an important role in baby’s development. Smoking, drinking, and using illicit drugs can harm your baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you stop drinking entirely once you start trying to make a baby.
And don’t forget exercise! Even 30 minutes of exercise a day can make a difference. If you’re just getting started, work your way up in increments until you have hit 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. Anything goes—hiking, dancing, yoga, cleaning your house. As long as you move your body, you’ll be better of for it!
Step 5: Prenatal Vitamins
Pregnancy taxes the nutrient stores in your body. One recommendation is to begin taking prenatal vitamins before conception. Your daily ritual should contain 400 – 800 milligrams of folic acid, a B vitamin and a critical nutrient to your baby’s developing brain and spine. Most over-the-counter prenatal vitamins have all of the recommended vitamins for pregnancy, but be sure to speak to your doctor if you’re unsure.
6 Steps to Take Before You Conceive
In addition to the practical health aspects, there are some other steps you should take before attempting to get pregnant. These could include:
Step 1: Have the “Talk” with Your Partner
There’s more to parenthood than just a sperm and an egg and a chance encounter. Your partner will be a critical piece of the whole journey. Together, you’ll navigate the ups-and-downs of life before baby. Chat about the big changes your body is going through and about what adjustments you both will need to make to welcome a new member of the family. There’s a lot of unforeseen things you may have to navigate for the first time together, but starting your commitment to staying open on the journey together now can make a big difference.
Step 2: Consider Work Arrangements
Are you planning to take leave from work or adjust your schedule? Parenthood will impact your work-life balance and what accommodations you or your partner might need. There is no time like the present when it comes to thinking about how to prepare.
Step 3: Plan Maternity and Paternity Leave
Precious bonding time with baby might be in short supply. Hopefully, you or your partner have access to maternity or paternity leave resources. Your Human Resources department at work should have details about any maternity or paternity benefits you are eligible for.
Step 4: Discuss Financial Aspects
Don’t forget the budget! There are many ways to budget for baby. You can also narrow down the list with these products for the first year. Beg, borrow, and steal (this was my favorite trick) from your BFFs with babies if you have to.
Step 5: Stock on Supplies
Aisle-upon-aisle of ovulation and pregnancy tests would overwhelm anyone. But you really only need to stock up on a handful of ovulation and pregnancy tests—It depends on how invested you want to be in knowing exactly where you are at in your cycle, and of course, how many cycles it takes for you to conceive.
If you have a family history of twins or plan to use reproductive assistance (which can increase your chances of multiples), you may also want to consider all of the supplies you’ll need if you conceive twins. It’s always good to be prepared!
Step 6: Know When to See a Doctor
This may be different for you, depending on any specific conditions you have, but in general, it’s recommended that if you’re under 35, that you see a doctor if unprotected sex hasn’t resulted in conception after 1 year. If you’re over 35, see a doctor if 6 months passes without you getting pregnant.
“If you’re under 35, see a doctor if unprotected sex hasn’t resulted in conception after 1 year. If you’re over 35, see a doctor if 6 months passes without you getting pregnant.”
Have you ever heard the phrase, “No one is truly prepared to have a baby?” Well, there is some truth to that. But there are ways to make the preparation a little easier. We know, even broaching the topic can be scary.
So whether you are hoping to get pregnant ASAP or down the road, taking some time to make sure you check off your pre-pregnancy checklist can will give you a head start. After all, you may soon be welcoming a new member of the family—and you’ll be glad for all that you did to get there.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I prepare my body for pregnancy?
Start by getting a pre-pregnancy full-body checkup. Begin taking a prenatal vitamin and eat healthy foods in lieu of junk food. Make sure to relax when you can and get some “me” time – it will be in short supply later on.
What should I avoid before getting pregnant?
Avoid harmful chemicals and any environmental exposure to toxins (think fertilizer, cleaning chemicals, etc.) Also say no to illicit drugs and reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake to prepare your body. Your doctor will have more to say about specific things to eliminate depending on your health profile.
How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant?
Use an ovulation test to predict your cycle and the best times to get pregnant. If you identify your most fertile days, you and your partner can get busy at the correct times. If you have any concerns about conceiving, be sure to see a doctor.
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