Getting pregnant isn’t as easy as movies and TV shows make it out. While around 38% of couples will get pregnant after a month, it can take 6-12 months for the majority of people to conceive. There’s nothing wrong if it doesn’t happen right away.
But that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be one of the 38% to conceive after the first try. You want to be ready for when you conceive and that means following some preconception care.
This is more than just being at a healthy weight and quitting smoking. You want to improve your whole lifestyle to make sure you’re ready to grow a tiny human in your uterus. Here are all the steps to take to make sure you have good preconception care to make the most of your body for a baby.
Talk to Your Doctor and Cover Medical Conditions
Before you try to get pregnant, it’s worth talking to your doctor about it. Your doctor will help to ensure your body is at the right time to get pregnant, discuss the vitamins and minerals you should be taking, and talk about any medical conditions that you currently have.
Your current medical conditions can affect your ability to conceive. Medications you take may disrupt your hormonal and menstrual cycles. Some medications can even disrupt the development of your baby. Your doctor will want to make sure your body is rid of all traces of medicines that are most dangerous to a growing baby.
By discussing this with your doctor, it’s also possible to track the exact length of time you’ve been attempting to conceive for. Should you find after a year you haven’t conceived, your doctor will already know and have an idea of the tests to run to find out why. It can reduce the stress and embarrassment.
If you’ve had previous pregnancies or miscarriages you will still want to talk about them to your doctor. One or two miscarriages shouldn’t affect your chances of getting pregnant again in the future, but they can. Your doctor will also discuss the chances of getting pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy or the risks of secondary infertility (where you have one baby but struggle to have another).
Doctors will run through prenatal vitamins and other tips to help improve the chances of fertility. Your doctor will also be able to go through common reasons for lack of fertility and also things you do that can lead to certain birth defects.
You’ll also want to discuss places you’re visiting. A vacation in a zika-known area could have dangerous consequences if you’re planning on pregnancy. You may find your doctor recommends you wait a little longer before attempting to conceive.
Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins Now
While many people start taking folic acid and vitamin D supplements when they find out they’re pregnant, taking them now is best. Your baby starts developing long before you know that you’re pregnant. You want to give your baby the best support possible from the very beginning.
Folic acid is the most important of all vitamins for the early development of your baby, and one that we tend to be deficient in. It’s a B vitamin that helps with the development of the brain and the central nervous system. It’s also a supplement your doctor will likely recommend you add to your daily routine when you talk about trying to conceive.
You’ll want to take folic acid for a month before conception. Then you need to take it during pregnancy, at least in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It’s good to take it after that 12-week stage, but the first 12 weeks are the most crucial. Getting enough folic acid in the diet can help to prevent birth defects in both the spine and brain.
Supplements should have at least 400mg of folic acid. You’ll also need to make sure they’re suitable for pregnancy.
Vitamin D supplements are also important, especially if you live in the northern hemisphere. We have a tendency not to get enough of this crucial vitamin for the bones, although certain places will fortify their cow’s milk and some orange juices and other milk products with vitamin D supplements. The vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, which helps with the formation of bones, teeth, and even tissues in the body.
This is a supplement to take throughout pregnancy unless you know you’re getting your vitamin D intake daily in other ways. Your doctor will discuss the risks of being deficient if you’re not certain.
Changing Your Drinking, Smoking, and Drug Habits
You shouldn’t be using illegal drugs anyway, but if you are now is definitely the time to stop. By taking drugs, you’re running the risk of a number of health problems for your baby. You increase the chance of birth defects, premature births, and even death. There are also serious risks of your baby developing an addiction to the drugs before birth, making it extremely difficult for your baby going through withdrawal symptoms.
It’s also worth quitting smoking before you try to conceive. Smoking makes it much harder to conceive and there are risks of birth defects and developmental delays later in life. You run the risk of causing multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders in your baby.
Alcohol is one of those debated subjects. You’ll find that most doctors will tell you to abstain completely. However, there are some who say moderation is key. You can have a glass or two of wine a day, but you want to keep it to a minimum. Some women will choose to have one or two glasses of wine a week or while others will stick to just special occasions.
Drinking alcohol can affect your chances of getting pregnant. It slows down the sperm in men and can disrupt your hormonal balance. You can find it harder to ovulate on time and your body may not be the most hospitable environment to support the growth of a baby. Studies have also shown that birth defects and premature births are also possible from alcohol consumption.
But it’s not all about smoking, alcohol and street drugs. You’ll also want to consider the environmental chemicals and contaminants around you. If you work in an environment with chemicals and toxic substances, you’ll need to talk to your workplace. It’s important to get an area that is safe from the chemicals to avoid birth defects in your baby.
You’ll also want to manage the amount of the chemicals and contaminants you have in your home. Some of the most common that you won’t think about include bug sprays, fertilizers, and even some metals. If you have a cat, you can find the feces and urine lead to toxoplasmosis, which can be harmful to your baby. Many doctors will recommend leaving the cleaning the litter tray to your partner during pregnancy.
Even if you’re not trying to get pregnant, avoiding the toxic substances is important. They can also lead to various diseases throughout life.
Work on Managing Your Weight Right Now
Before you try to get pregnant, you want to have a serious thought about your weight. Being at a healthy weight is important for a number of reasons. Not only will you put your health at risk by being obese, but you’re putting your child’s health at risk. Being overweight can lead to heart problems, pregnancy complications, and some cancers.
And it’s not just about being overweight. Being underweight can also be a major problem for your health and for the chances of getting pregnant. When you’re underweight, there’s a chance that you won’t release the right amount of eggs throughout the year. Your hormones are disrupted and you can find you go months without a period. At the same time, there’s a chance your baby won’t get the right nutrients and that can lead to the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth or birth defects.
When you decide you want a baby, look at your weight and take steps to get to a healthy weight range. Your doctor will be able to help find ways to do this, whether you’re under or overweight. The management can involve dietary and lifestyle changes, including adding more exercise on a regular basis.
Pregnancy isn’t the time to lose weight. Even if you’re overweight, your doctor will recommend that you gain a little weight during pregnancy to support your baby. However, your doctor will expect a little less than if you were at a healthy weight or if you were underweight.
Discuss Family Health and Fertility Problems
This isn’t possible for everyone, but if you can you will want to talk to your family about any fertility problems and health issues. This isn’t just important for your chances of conceiving but also for your child’s health.
You won’t know everything about your family. In fact, your family may not know everything there is to know about genetics and medical illnesses. Some of the commonly ignored or non-discussed optics include your parents’ previous miscarriages, sickle cell disease in distant relatives, or heart defects that were corrected at birth.
Many ailments have a genetic link. Some of them may have been undiagnosed in your family, which makes it even harder to have this conversation. Your parents may not want to talk about fertility issues, stillbirths, and other heartbreaking topics. You’ll know if your parents are open to discussing this based on the relationship you have with them.
Where you don’t have contact with your biological parents, consider getting a genetic test. This will give you an idea of whether you have certain genes for health problems. Your doctor will be able to look at the results and determine if there’s a chance your child could develop health problems.
This isn’t just important for the mother. The father will also need to discuss genetic issues and health conditions. The father can pass a number of conditions on to their sons that mothers don’t, for example.
Get Yourself in the Mental State for a Pregnancy
Mental health is something that’s often avoided. People don’t want to discuss it because it’s viewed as one of those taboo subjects. It doesn’t help that mental health issues are among the least understood when it comes to medical conditions and some people don’t even view mental health problems as a medical condition!
Regardless, you need to make sure you’re in the mental state of pregnancy and having a baby. It’s perfectly normal to be anxious and scared. You may be worried that you’ll never get pregnant or that you’ll suffer miscarriages or stillbirths. If you have a family history of a health condition, you can be scared about passing that on. Getting support for these fears and anxieties is essential.
Mental health problems can affect your daily life. You can find yourself worrying every day of your pregnancy, so you don’t even get to enjoy the time carrying your baby to term. The fears can also disrupt your hormones, so you find it much harder to get pregnant in the first place.
Prenatal depression is possible and it’s dangerous. You’ll want to keep the communication open between yourself and your partner, as well as your medical support. Postnatal depression is more discussed, but still, something overlooked. The more the conversation is open during pregnancy, the more it will be open afterward.
It’s Time to Have a Healthy Pregnancy
You can’t avoid everything. It’s not possible to know whether a certain chemical is used by some companies or manage all the pollution in the air. You may never find out what health problems your close family members have. There’s no point stressing about the things that you can’t control.
The steps above are all ones that you can control. Talk to your doctor and your family. Discuss your plans to conceive and do as much digging into family history and your own medical health as much as possible. You’ll increase the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and enjoying the time before your baby arrives.