A Handy Guide To Pre-Pregnancy Planning

There are many things to consider before deciding to get pregnant. If you have considered the many ways in which a new baby will affect your life and are now planning to get pregnant, then you are emotionally ready for this wonderful undertaking. Once you have made the conscious choice to try to conceive, it is important to prepare your body for pregnancy and the changes that lie ahead.

In addition, you will need to organize your finances to factor in the cost of raising the new bundle of joy.  All women want to ensure that they have a healthy pregnancy. Pre-planning is a great way to get the ball rolling and start making any necessary lifestyle changes.

Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is beneficial to everyone, especially women who are trying to get pregnant.

  • For women who smoke, getting pregnant may take longer and may also put you at a higher risk for miscarriage.
  • Even a few cigarettes during pregnancy can be harmful.
  • Smoking is associated with low birth weight, which can cause a host of other health problems.
  • If you are a smoker, get motivated to quit immediately and remember that secondhand smoke is just as harmful during pregnancy and pre-pregnancy.
  • If your partner is a smoker ask him to quit or at the very least smoke outside of the home.

Limit Alcohol

Drinking alcohol in any amount can be extremely harmful to a developing fetus. It is not known how much alcohol can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a serious and devastating birth defect. If you drink alcohol and are planning to become pregnant, stop drinking right away. You may become pregnant at any time. By avoiding alcohol during the preconception period, you can ensure that your baby does not suffer any alcohol-related effects.

Schedule A Physical Examination

It is beneficial to make an appointment with your doctor before getting pregnant; this is sometimes called a pre-conception or a pre-pregnancy planning visit.  During the visit:

  • You can consult with your doctor about any medical tests you may want or need
  • Discuss ways to improve your health and lifestyle. 
  • Your doctor will need to know your medical history. It is important to review your own medical history, gynecological history and family history because there may be indications of genetic diseases, medical conditions or other factors that can make pregnancy more difficult.
  • Your doctor may also be able to determine if you have any fertility problems which can interfere with conception. There are a variety of fertility treatments available to both women and men. If you are older than age 35 your doctor will counsel you on the risks associated with becoming pregnant later in life and may refer you to a genetic counselor for genetic testing.  Gathering this information and performing some routine tests will start you on the road to more efficient pre-pregnancy planning.

Consult With Your Doctor About Current Medications

Make a list of any current medications you are taking including any prescriptions, herbal supplements or over the counter drugs. Review the list closely with your health care provider before getting pregnant.

  • Certain medications can affect your ability to get pregnant or may not be healthy for a developing fetus.
  • It is important to determine if your current medications are safe to use during pre-pregnancy and pregnancy.
  • If you need to be weaned off any medications it is best to do so before you conceive.
  • Have your partner make a list of current medications as well; there are certain medicines that can have an ill effect on sperm count which can decrease your chances of getting pregnant.

Get Current Medical Conditions Under Control

If you have a current, chronic medical condition such as: diabetes, asthma, epilepsy or high blood pressure, it is imperative that you get these conditions under control. Consult your health care provider to discuss any changes you may need to make in your current maintenance of the condition or any special care you may require during pregnancy as a result of the condition. Some medical conditions may become exacerbated during pregnancy or put your health and the health of your baby at risk.

Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins

Taking folic acid for three months prior to conception can reduce the risks of neural tube defects. Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, beans and oranges. You can also find folic acid in a supplement form at your local pharmacy.

  • Many doctors recommend that women trying to conceive begin taking prenatal vitamins. This will ensure you are getting the proper dosages of the vitamins that are essential to a healthy pregnancy.
  • It is best to consult your doctor for a prescription or any over the counter recommendations he may have, taking too much of certain vitamins can have a damaging effect on you and your unborn baby.

Improve Your Diet

A healthy diet coupled with exercise can have a positive effect on your ability to get pregnant.Before becoming pregnant it is a good idea to begin to make small changes in your eating habits.

  • A balanced diet will ensure that you are as healthy as you can be prior to conception and will help prepare your body for the task of carrying a baby. 
  • It’s best to begin by adding more healthy foods to your diet, like fruits and vegetables.
  • Your goal will be to follow a well-balanced diet consisting of complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fiber. 
  • It is beneficial for your partner to follow a healthy diet as well, as sperm takes 75 days to develop. By following a healthy, balanced diet and taking a multivitamin for a period of at least three months prior to conception, he can boost your chances of conceiving.

Avoid Contact With Chemicals And Toxins

It is important to be aware of your surroundings while you are trying to conceive, be it at work or at home.

  • When planning to get pregnant, take notice of any substances that can affect fertility and those around you that can be harmful to your unborn baby.
  • It is advantageous to educate yourself on the potential risks while planning a pregnancy such as toxic chemicals, lead, mercury or radiation from x-ray machines or nuclear medicine.
  • Additionally, be aware of excessive secondhand smoke and any childhood illnesses that pregnant women should not be exposed to, such as Fifth’s Disease or Chicken Pox.
  • While at home, be aware of household cleaners or paints with strong odors and steer clear of cat litter boxes.

Get Your Finances In Order

Explore your current budget while in the pre-pregnancy stage.  With your partner, decide together what things are absolute necessities and which things are simply nice to have.

  • Consider ways to cut down your expenses now, so that the modifications won’t seem so sudden later on.
  • It’s no secret that adding a new member to the family costs money. Discuss everything from whether one of you will have a modified work schedule to possible day care options.
  • Look into compensation at work, such as maternity leave and any government tax credit you may be entitled to once the child is born.
  • Consider sitting down with an accountant or financial planner for ideas on how to manage your growing family.

Deciding to have a child is one of the most important decisions in a woman’s life.  Having a pre-pregnancy plan is a good way to ensure you are healthy and have begun making all of the necessary life changes that come with having a child. Of course, it is possible to have a normal pregnancy without planning, but if you take the necessary steps, the odds of achieving a stress-free pregnancy will be in your favor. The overall goal is to create a healthy environment in which you and your baby will flourish.

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