We all know that there are things you should do during your pregnancy. We know there are foods we should avoid, we should exercise, and take our vitamins; but did you know there are things you should do before you get pregnant to help you have a healthy pregnancy?
That’s right, there are things you should do to prepare your body for pregnancy because pregnancy really can be hard on your body if you are not prepared.
- Start taking prenatal vitamins. As soon as you start trying for a baby you should start taking prenatal vitamins. Honestly, it’s not a bad idea to start taking them as soon as you become sexually active because birth control isn’t always effective. I would even suggest that teenagers take prenatal vitamins. Any time you engage in sexual activity there is a potential for you to become pregnant. Folic acid is extremely important in the early days of fetal development, often before you even know you are pregnant. This is the same for your partner, he should be taking a vitamin with folic acid as well.
- Stop taking birth control pills. If you are on the pill it is often suggested that you are off them for at least 3 months prior to getting pregnant. This is to help minimize the risk of birth defects and miscarriages. In the meantime you should use a barrier method of birth control such as condoms. If you have an IUD you can usually start trying once it is removed, but talk to your doctor.
- Avoid or cut back on alcohol. We all know that it’s important to not drink alcohol while you are pregnant, but often times you are pregnant and you may not know it. On average a woman is 6-8 weeks pregnant before she has a positive pregnancy test. The first few weeks of fetal development is crucial to the development of the brain, spinal cord, and heart. Alcohol can hinder this, so cutting back on alcohol early is a must.
- Stop smoking. Smoking can cause birth defects, slow fetal growth, and placental abruption (a life-threatening situation for both mother and baby). It will be easier to stop smoking before you are pregnant because you won’t have pregnancy hormones fighting against you. Your baby can also withdrawal from the nicotine. Not only that, it will be easier for you to continue to not smoke after you deliver, which is beneficial to your health and your baby’s health.
- Cut back on the amount of caffeine you drink every day. Excessive amounts of caffeine can cause miscarriage and your baby can even withdrawal from it after birth. Most doctors suggest that you drink no more that 100 milligrams of caffeine per day while you are pregnant while others suggest you avoid it completely. Just to give you an idea, 100 milligrams of caffeine equals about 2 cups of coffee per day, but there are other sources of caffeine as well including tea, soda pop, energy drinks, and even some medications. So if you find that you can’t make it through the day without that third cup of coffee, now is the time to cut back.
- Watch which fish you eat. Fish can be an important source of omega 3s along with other vitamins, but you need to watch out for fish with high levels of mercury. You should avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. You can also eat up to 6 ounces of white canned tuna per week.
- Lose weight if you are trying to. If you are trying to lose a few pounds you should do so before you get pregnant because pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. Studies have also shown that if an overweight woman loses just 10-15 pounds it can make it easier for her to get pregnant. The same is true for men, losing just a few extra pounds can make it easier.
- See your doctor. You should get a pre-pregnancy check up a few months before you start trying for a baby, especially if you don’t normally visit the doctor. You want to make sure you don’t have any STDs or other complications that could hinder your ability to get pregnant or make pregnancy difficult for you. If you don’t have an OB/GYN this will also get you established before you are pregnant. This can also help you see if you and your doctor are a good fit, if you can get along and if your doctor will follow your wishes.
- Visit your dentist. You may not realize it, but good oral and gum health can decrease your risk of miscarriage and complications during your pregnancy. It also gives you a chance to correct any problems and have any x-rays you need since they should be avoided during pregnancy. Many dentists also will not do certain procedures during pregnancy, so having them done now can prevent tooth pain and other issues during pregnancy.
- Know your risk with Zika virus. If you are planning a trip to a place that has had an outbreak of Zika virus or you have recently been infected, or even to a place where you could have contracted it, it is suggested that you wait a while to get pregnant. According the the CDC, once the virus has cleared your blood, they do not believe that it will affect future pregnancies, though there is not enough evidence to know for sure. If you were infected, you should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant. If your husband was infected, you should wait at least 6 months before trying to get pregnant. (March of Dimes)
There are also things you should do to prepare for a child that are not specifically related to your health, but will make the pregnancy, and raising your child, easier.
- Talk to your partner about parenting decisions. Parenting is hard, and having a partner who wants something opposite of what you want will make it even harder. You need to talk about big issues before becoming pregnant. For example, will you put your child in daycare, or will you both have to work full time? Are you religious? Will you celebrate certain holidays? Many times these are things that are discussed before you get married, but they should be covered before you get pregnant if possible. Knowing you both are on the same page about these things will make it easier when the issue comes up.
- Set up a safety net. Babies and kids are expensive and chances are that you are going to want some time off work once your little one is here. Now is the time to start saving up so you can afford to take time off. Pay off any bills that you can and try to have enough money to pay at least 3 months worth of bills.
- Set up a will. Something many people don’t want to talk about and a subject I have talked about before, but you need to plan for the “what ifs”. What would happen to your child or children should something happen to you and your partner?
- Buy a new house if you are looking for one. If you need a bigger space for baby, try to get that set up before you are pregnant. This will give you time to get the house set up and the nursery painted and decorated if you want. If you wait until you are pregnant you may not have the energy, and if you wait until too late in your pregnancy you may be pushing for time to get everything done before the baby gets here.
- Stay at your job for a year or more. If you hate your job and want to change jobs, you need to do so before you are pregnant. If you are not at your job for at least 12 months you do not qualify for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) which will give you 12 weeks of unpaid maternity and paternity leave, though this only affects businesses with 50 or more employees.
It may seem like there is a lot for you to do before trying to get pregnant, but remember that it does take some time to get pregnant and you will rarely get pregnant in the first month so you may have some time to do all this. Most of these are very simple things to do and will take you no time at all to get them done.
How did you prepare for your pregnancy? Did you do any of this?