ARTICLE: Twenty things you should do before you try to get pregnant

I just came across this when searching online about TTC...

You and your partner have decided to take the plunge into parenthood. But wait just one second — or a month or two, at least. To give yourself the best chance for a healthy pregnancy and a healthier baby, there are a few important things you need to do before you head down the road to conception. Our list will help you get your life and body into baby-making shape.

Fuel up on folic acid

Even if you do manage to eat a balanced diet, it can be difficult to get all of the nutrients you need from food alone — and there's one in particular you don't want to skimp on at this point. By taking 400 micrograms of folic acid a day for at least one month before you start trying and during your first trimester, you can cut your chances of having a baby with neural-tube defects such as spina bifida by up to 70 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

You can buy folic acid supplements in the drugstore or you can take a prenatal or regular multivitamin. If you do take a multivitamin, make sure it doesn't contain more than the recommended daily allowance of 770 mcg RAE (2,565 IU) of vitamin A, unless it's all in a form called beta-carotene. Getting too much of a certain kind of vitamin A can cause birth defects.

If you're unsure about what to take, ask your healthcare provider to recommend a supplement.

Just say no to partying

If you smoke or take drugs, now's the time to stop, because some drugs can stay in your system even after their effects have worn off. Numerous studies have shown that smoking and taking drugs can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, and low-birthweight babies.

Plus, research suggests that any tobacco use can affect your fertility and lower your partner's sperm count. In fact, studies have shown that even secondhand smoke may affect your chances of getting pregnant.

Alcohol also can get in the way of getting pregnant, so it's a good idea to cut back when you start trying and to abstain during the last two weeks of your cycle in case you've conceived.



Give that cup of joe the heave-ho

Research shows that too much caffeine can reduce your ability to absorb iron, which you'll need plenty of for pregnancy, and increase your risk for stillbirth — so start weaning yourself off of coffee, tea, and colas or switch to decaf.

You might want to start by switching to a half-decaf, half-caffeinated drink, because going cold turkey may cause nasty headaches. If you're a real java junkie, try cutting back to a cup a day — most experts think that amount is safe. Once you've acclimated to life with little or no caffeine, you may find that steamed milk with a shot of flavored syrup is a nice coffee substitute — and the calcium will do your body good.

Get your weight in check

If you're a healthy weight, you'll probably have an easier time conceiving. Studies show that women whose body mass index (BMI) is below 20 or above 30 have a harder time getting pregnant, so it's a good idea to try to get yourself into the 20 to 30 range before you start trying. Click here to figure out your BMI.

If you're not in a healthy range, losing or gaining weight may give you the boost you need to conceive. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to achieve your weight goals.

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 9:22 am
MrsWagner2b
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10/03/2009
MrsWagner2b

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MrsWagner2b
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MrsWagner2b

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Stock your fridge with healthy foods

You're not eating for two yet, but you should start making nutritious food choices now so that your body will be stocked up with the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy. Try to get at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day as well as plenty of whole grains and foods that are high in calcium, like milk, calcium-fortified orange juice, and yogurt.

If you're a big fan of fish, start watching your intake. Although fish is an excellent source of protein, certain kinds, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, tend to contain too much methyl mercury, which can be harmful to your baby's growing brain in high doses. Because mercury can accumulate in your body and linger there for more than a year, it's best to avoid high-mercury fish while you're trying to conceive. Instead, eat about two servings (12 ounces) of lower-mercury fish such as salmon and canned light tuna a week.

Create and follow an exercise program

Start and stick to a fitness plan now, and you'll be rewarded with a healthy body that's fit for pregnancy. Plus, working up a little sweat is a great way to relieve the stress that can get in the way of getting pregnant.

A healthy exercise program includes 60 minutes of activity, such as walking or cycling and weight training, on most days of the week. To increase flexibility, add exercise such as daily stretching or yoga, and you'll have a really well-rounded fitness program. Once you're pregnant, remember that it's okay — even recommended — to continue exercising.

If your idea of working out is clicking the buttons on the TV remote, you'll need to ease into an exercise routine. Start with something tame, like walking ten to 20 minutes a day. Add more activity into your daily routine by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking your car a few blocks away from work.

See your dentist

When you're getting yourself into baby-making shape, don't forget about your oral health. Hormonal shifts during pregnancy can make you more susceptible to gum disease. Increased progesterone and estrogen levels can cause the gums to react differently to the bacteria in plaque, resulting in swollen, bleeding, tender gums.

The good news is that women who take care of their periodontal health before they get pregnant cut down on their chances of experiencing gum complications in pregnancy. See your dentist for a checkup and a cleaning now if you haven't done so in the last six months.

Get in touch with your medical roots

It's a good idea for you and your partner to investigate your family health history, so call your parents, siblings, or other relatives to get the medical scoop. If they get suspicious and you're not ready to share your news, tell them you're trying out a new healthcare provider.

The most important thing to ask about is whether anyone in your family has any genetic or chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, or bleeding disorders. You'll also want to find out if any relatives have mental retardation or other developmental delays or were born with an anatomical birth defect, like a cardiac or neural-tube defect.

Your practitioner will ask you a series of questions at your preconception visit or first prenatal checkup, and your answers will help determine whether specific prenatal tests should be recommended, or if you or your partner should consider genetic testing before you even start trying.

Schedule a preconception visit

You don't have to have a doctor or midwife lined up yet to deliver your baby, but you should set up an appointment now with your regular healthcare provider for a preconception checkup. Your practitioner probably will ask you about your personal and family medical history, your present health, and any medications you're taking. Some drugs, such as Accutane, a commonly prescribed acne medication, are stored in your body's fat and can linger there for months.

Your doctor should also discuss diet, weight, and exercise with you; recommend a prenatal vitamin; make sure you're up to date on your immunizations; test you for immunity to childhood diseases such as chicken pox and rubella; and answer any questions you have. If it's been a year since you had a checkup, you can also expect to have a pelvic exam and a pap smear, and to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases if you're at risk.

Many couples may also want to pursue genetic testing for sickle cell disease, Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis, or other disease based on their ethnic background or family history.

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 9:22 am
MrsWagner2b
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10/03/2009
MrsWagner2b

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Figure out when you ovulate

Some women simply stop using birth control when they're ready to get pregnant and let fate decide when they'll conceive. Others take a more calculated approach by pinpointing their ovulation day.

Use our ovulation calculator to get a rough estimate. If you want to be more exact, start charting your basal body temperature (BBT) and the changes in your cervical mucus. Tracking these symptoms over several months can help you figure out when you're ovulating during each cycle. To get a precise temperature reading, you'll need to check yours the first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed, using a special basal thermometer that's available at drugstores.

Ovulation predictor kits can also help you figure out when you're ovulating by detecting hormones in your urine, or changes in chloride in the saliva or on the skin, that signal ovulation is about to occur. These kits can be pretty pricey, $20 to $50 per cycle, and are available at drugstores.

Call your health insurance company

It may be more than nine months before you have to think about a hospital bill, but you should consider the cost of having a baby now. The best place to start is with a phone call to your health insurance company.

Take a close look at what kind of prenatal coverage they offer and think about switching now if you aren't satisfied. If you have a particular doctor or midwife in mind, find out if she's in your plan or how much it would cost to go out of network.

Find out what your deductibles are for prenatal visits and delivery, and ask what tests and procedures your insurance covers. If you have a high deductible, you may want to put a little aside now so you won't be slammed with exorbitant bills when the baby arrives.

Keep in mind that without insurance, a typical vaginal delivery can cost more than $7,000 and a cesarean section can cost more than $11,000. And don't forget to check on coverage for your baby — neonatal intensive care can cost $2,000 to $3,000 per day.

If you're one of the millions of women without health insurance, contact your local health department to see if it offers programs to help pregnant women get the coverage they need.

Make an appointment with a financial adviser

Shelling out $20 for cute designer baby booties is just the start of what you'll be spending on your little one in years to come. According to a 2005 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, families making $43,200 to $72,600 a year will spend $190,980 to raise a child from birth through age 17.

Find out how much you're likely to spend with our Cost of Raising a Child Calculator. But never fear: By investing just $50 or $100 a month now, you can have a nice nest egg by the time your child heads off to college. Talk to a financial adviser about how to start saving.

Get in touch with your mental health

Women who suffer from depression are twice as likely to have problems with fertility as women who don't, according to Alice Domar, a psychologist and founder and director of the Domar Center for Complementary Healthcare and an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. As she points out, "If someone is clinically depressed, she can barely take care of herself, much less a baby. From an evolutionary point of view, it makes sense that it's hard to get pregnant when you're depressed."

Domar suggests that all women, but especially those with a personal or family history of depression, do a mental health check before they get pregnant. If you notice signs of depression, such as a loss of interest and pleasure in things that you used to enjoy, a change in appetite, a change in sleep pattern, a loss of energy, or feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, ask your practitioner for a referral to a therapist or psychiatrist for a consultation.

If medication becomes necessary, a psychiatrist can help you find an antidepressant that's safe to take while you're trying to conceive and during your pregnancy. You also may want to try stress management techniques, such as yoga and meditation, which research suggests can help depressed women conceive.

Avoid infections

It's important to steer clear of infections when you're trying to get pregnant, especially those that could harm your baby-to-be.

You'll want to stay away from certain foods such as unpasteurized soft cheeses and other dairy products, packaged luncheon and deli meats, and raw and undercooked fish and poultry. These foods can harbor dangerous bacteria that cause listeriosis, a food-borne illness that can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. You should also avoid unpasteurized juices because they can contain bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli. Raw fish, especially shellfish, can contain harmful microorganisms.

Be sure to wash your hands frequently when preparing meals, and make sure your fridge is set between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (2 and 4 degrees Celsius) and your freezer is at or below 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) to keep cold foods from going bad.

Finally, it's a good idea to wear gloves when digging in the garden or sandbox, and to get someone else to change the litter box to avoid contracting toxoplasmosis, another infection that can be dangerous for a developing baby.

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 9:23 am
MrsWagner2b
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10/03/2009
MrsWagner2b

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Eliminate environmental dangers

Some jobs can be hazardous to you and your unborn children. If you're routinely exposed to chemicals or radiation, you'll need to make some changes before you conceive.

Also, keep in mind that some cleaning products, pesticides, solvents, and lead in drinking water from old pipes can be dangerous for a developing baby. Talk to your doctor or midwife about your daily routine, and see if you can come up with ways to avoid or eliminate hazards in your home and workplace.

Think your decision through

Having a child is a lifetime commitment. Before you decide to make a baby, it's important that you and your partner consider what you're in for and whether you're ready to take on this responsibility. Some key questions to consider:

    * Are you both equally committed to becoming parents?
    * If you have religious differences, have you discussed how they will affect your child?
    * Have you thought through how you'll handle childcare responsibilities and balancing work and family?
    * Are you prepared to parent a special-needs child if you have one?
    * Are you ready to give up sleeping in on Sundays? And to line up a babysitter every single time you want to go out without the baby?


Tell a friend

While this is an incredibly exciting time, it also can be stressful and emotional. Confide in a friend besides your partner about the leap you're about to make. It'll be great to have a support system in place once the morning sickness and wild hormones kick in. And it's always fun to have another person to daydream with about your baby-to-be.

If you're reluctant to tell someone you know personally about your decision, visit our Trying to Conceive forums, where you can share stories and advice, and receive support from other women who're trying to get pregnant.

Buy something sexy

Some experts say that if a woman is highly aroused while she's having sex, the sperm has a better chance of fertilizing her egg. Others say it makes absolutely no difference.

The jury may be out, but why not set the mood for baby-making with some sexy new lingerie? Or illuminate a room with soft candlelight. Or bring home some special scented massage oils. It certainly can't hurt, and it may help eliminate that clinical feeling couples sometimes complain about when they're having sex for the purpose of pregnancy.

Toss your birth control

Once you've gotten yourself into baby-making shape, you're ready to bid adieu to birth control. For some people, ditching contraception is as easy as moving the condoms or diaphragm to the back of the dresser drawer. But going off hormonal contraception can require a bit more planning.

If you've been using the Pill, for example, it's a good idea to finish your current pack to avoid irregular bleeding. It may take a few months for your cycle to return to normal, but many women are fertile the first month after they stop taking the Pill.

The same holds true for the contraceptive patch and ring. If you're using Depo-Provera, it can take up to a year after your last shot for you to start ovulating again, even if your period returns to normal sooner. Find out what you need to know about quitting other kinds of birth control, including birth control implants and IUDs.

When you do ditch the birth control, start a menstrual diary to help you keep track of your cycle. Use a regular calendar and mark when your period starts and ends, or simply circle each day you experience bleeding. This will help your practitioner determine your due date and schedule any tests you may have during your first trimester.

Take a (safe) ride on the wild side

This is it — your last "wahooo!" before pregnant-hood. Soak in the hot tub, although your partner should avoid taking a dip because the heat can affect sperm production. Take one last horseback riding lesson. Ride a roller coaster.

Now's your chance to throw your hands in the air and whoop it up. There's little chance you'll be doing it again anytime soon. And besides, a roller coaster is the perfect metaphor for parenthood!

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 9:24 am
HolyMolyMatrimony
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08/31/2008
HolyMolyMatrimony

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I agree with a few of those! Esp about your insurance lol since we just got a nice bill we weren't expecting! I also like that last one!  ohhh and I regret not seeing the dentist before- it has been wayyyyy to long!

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 12:05 pm
MizBiz
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07/17/2009
MizBiz

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great article.  Thanks so much for sharing.

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 12:46 pm

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