In the United States, 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. But if you’re entertaining the idea of becoming a parent, a bit of planning can go a long, long way.
Parenthood may possibly be the biggest decision of your life. It’s you (and a partner) agreeing that you can take care of someone other than yourselves for the rest of your life. If you feel ready to start thinking about getting pregnant, there are a few important things you need to do first before pulling the goalie.
List All Current Medications
Write down all medications you are currently taking, including prescriptions, vitamins, and birth control. Oftentimes when planning a pregnancy, your body needs at least two months off of birth control to reset to its natural menstrual/ovulation cycle. Additionally, some medications—for example certain depression, anxiety, acne, and antibiotics meant to fight infections—can pose a threat to a forming fetus and therefore are best discontinued during pregnancy.
Schedule a Preconception Visit
You’ve already made your list of medications, so make sure to bring that to your appointment as well as a list of any questions/concerns you might have. A preconception visit can be arranged with either your ob-gyn or general practitioner and will involve going over your medical history and your lifestyle. Also discuss with your doctor any concerns you may have about you (and your partner’s) familial medical history and whether or not you’d like to opt for genetic screenings. Your doctor will also clue you into which supplements to start (likely a prenatal, multivitamin, and folate) and perhaps warn you against taking more than the recommended dose of vitamin A.
Make Sure Immunizations Are Up-to-Date
While at your preconception visit, your physician will likely want to check the status of your immunizations, namely chicken pox, rubella, and other diseases common in childhood.
Kick the Bad Habits
Smoking, drinking, and or taking drugs during pregnancy can cause severe, long-term consequences such as miscarriage, birth defects, premature birth, and more. Substance abuse during pregnancy can also result in low-birth-weight babies. Stopping any smoking, drinking, or drug habits will help provide a more stable, healthy environment while reducing risk.
Limit Caffeine Intake
Once you’ve ingested coffee, the caffeine internally travels across the placenta, into amniotic fluid, and directly into your baby’s bloodstream. Since the fetus is still developing, it is much slower at processing the caffeine out of its system, potentially causing stunted growth. According to the American College of of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should limit their intake to only one cup of coffee per day.
Listen to Your Cycle
Whether you choose to monitor the symptoms of your menstrual cycle in a personal, hand-written diary or through the use of an app, recording your period will help make conceiving easier in the long run. Consider monitoring details like weight, mood, cramping, tender breasts, acne, bloating, vaginal discharge, nausea, and more for about two months before trying to get pregnant. This will hopefully create a more accurate prediction of ovulation.
Start at a Healthy Weight
The amount of weight a woman should put on while pregnant varies. Someone who was average weight before getting pregnant should gain anywhere from 25 to 35 pounds while pregnant, while someone who was overweight beforehand should only gain about 15 to 25.
Go to the Dentist
It’s no secret that hormones shift when you’re pregnant. Because of an increase in progesterone and estrogen levels while pregnant, a woman’s oral health can be at risk, specifically her gums. The gums may become more susceptible to disease, but preparing for this hormonal change by visiting your dentist first lessens the risk.
Consider Health Insurance
It costs a lot to have a baby—no, not just to care for a child and provide clothes, toys, and the necessities, but to physically give birth to a baby. The average vaginal delivery without insurance costs $9,000. The good news is you can call your insurance company and find out in advance which procedures they cover, which doctors are in-network, and what their prenatal deductibles are.
Clarify Your Routine
Do you get enough sleep? Do you exercise regularly? Are you nutrition conscious? Your diet, sleep, and fitness routines are crucial to both you and your baby remaining healthy during pregnancy. The healthier you are before getting pregnant, the more likely you are to stay healthy during pregnancy.
List Your Support System
“It takes a village,” etc. Are you and your partner on the same page? Maybe you don’t have a partner and are going through this process as a single parent. What does that mean for you and Baby—who will your main modicums of support be? What role will grandparents play? Do you need to sort any arrangements out legally before giving birth, such as custody, visitation, or child support? Having an outline of what’s going to have post-baby is not a guarantee, but it can clarify everyone’s expectations.
Reevaluate Travel Plans
The Zika Virus is no longer considered a global emergency, however the threat of birth defects caused by mosquitos infected with Zika is ever-present. If you are considering traveling, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website first for Zika travel information updates.