Making the Decision to Try to Conceive

Congratulations, you’ve made one of the most incredible decisions of your life — becoming a parent! Before you and your partner rush off to the bedroom, consider the benefits of waiting a few months before you try to conceive. While we completely understand the eagerness to start a family, preparation across all aspects of your life — beginning with your health –can make quite the difference when it comes down to having a safe, healthy and happy pregnancy.

Get the Ball Rolling With a Preconception Visit

Once you’ve decided on starting a family, schedule a preconception appointment with your ob-gyn, family practice doctor or midwife. They’ll go over your personal and medical histories, assess your current health and review any and all medications you are currently taking. There is a likelihood that some of your current medications or supplements may be deemed unsafe for pregnancy. If this is the case, you will likely have to go off of them entirely before even trying to conceive.

Several relevant and informative discussions will also take place during this appointment. Topics regarding weight, diet, exercise, unhealthy behaviors (smoking, drug use and drinking), taking multivitamins and determining if you’ve received all necessary immunizations are common discussion points during your visit. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, there is a possibility your practitioner will encourage you to see a specialist. A handful of conditions — like diabetes and high blood pressure — need to be monitored prior to getting pregnant.

Haven’t had a checkup in the last year? This appointment will also be the time and place to take care of that. It’ll likely include a Pap smear, pelvic exam and STD testing.

Genetic carrier screening tests may be also recommended by your practitioner prior to conception. These simple blood or saliva tests are able to determine if you and/or your partner are carriers for any genetic illnesses (for example, cystic fibrosis). If results indicate you both are carriers of an inherited illness, the odds of your child having the condition are one in four. This outcome typically prompts an appointment with a genetic specialist — they’ll be better able to tell you more information about the condition and discuss what your reproductive options are given the circumstances.

Note: Don’t worry about figuring out who the doctor or midwife delivering your baby will be this early on. Focus instead on getting your health assessed and in tip-top shape.

Make Folic Acid A Part of Your Routine

Begin taking a folic acid (vitamin B9) supplement at least one month prior to attempting conception. This allows it to build up in your body so as to decrease the chances of your little one being born with any neural tube defects (like spina bifida). Once you do become pregnant, you’ll continue taking it during your first trimester as well.

The recommended daily dosage of folic acid is 400 micrograms and can be conveniently purchased at drug stores. If you’d prefer to get your source of folic acid via a pregnancy multivitamin, just be sure to check that the dosage is adequate. Asking care providers for some recommendations if you find yourself overwhelmed with options is always a smart move.

Note: Pay attention to the dosage of vitamin A when purchasing a multivitamin — over 770 mcg can cause birth defects unless it’s in a beta- carotene form.

Lifestyle and Dietary Modifications

Be sure to nip any bad habits in the bud prior to making any attempts at conceiving. Smoking and drug use have both been proven to cause miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth — none of which you want to risk for your little one. While a drink a day is considered ok during the time you’re trying to conceive, binge drinking is not recommended. Once you become pregnant, you’ll of course want to nix alcohol altogether.

After phasing out any undesirable habits, ease into making smarter, relevant dietary decisions. Begin by evaluating the contents of your fridge — you may not be eating for two yet, but filling your body with all the right nutrients beforehand will better ensure a safe pregnancy.

Including two cups of fruit, two and a half cups of veggies, foods high in calcium, lots of whole grains and a range of protein sources into your diet will definitely promote a strong start during the conception process.

If fish is a staple of your diet, now’s the time to keep an eye on your consumption. While fish is an excellent source of countless nutrients great for mom and baby, it also contains mercury — a major pregnancy no-no. Refrain from eating fish with high levels of mercury — like swordfish, king mackerel and shark. Instead, stick to their relatives with less amounts of mercury — like salmon, sardines and herring. No more than two servings (12 oz) a week are recommended.

What to immediately toss from your fridge: deli meats, unpasteurized soft cheese and undercooked fish and chicken contain bacteria that can cause listeriosis, a foodborne illness that has the capacity to cause stillbirth or miscarriage — so stay away!

Get the Blood Pumping

A healthy weight makes for an easier conception process. Too high or low of a BMI (body mass index) can make it more difficult for certain women to conceive. Women who begin a pregnancy with a high BMI are more likely to experience complications during pregnancy or delivery while women with a low BMI are more likely to deliver underweight babies.

Regardless of where you’re at weight-wise, establishing and actually sticking to an exercise regimen is a great way to prep your body for pregnancy. That means at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise — walking and biking are great options. Working on your overall flexibility via yoga or stretching are also recommended prior to pregnancy.

Determine When You Ovulate

When you’re ready to get pregnant, take the time to record any and all details of your period. This will help you establish your most fertile days each month. Tracking changes in cervical mucus and logging your basal body temperature (BBT) over a few months can also aid in determining when you’re ovulating.

Bye-Bye Birth Control

If you’ve been using condoms or a diaphragm as methods of birth control, not much thought has to go into abandoning them. However, if you’ve been on the pill, a little more planning is required. Stopping the pill — whether mid-pack or completing it in its entirety — reverses its effects. While many women become fertile again the moment they discontinue birth control, for others it isn’t as simple. Some women need roughly a month to become fertile again (fertility returns when your period returns on a regular basis).

If you’re getting off the pill, it’s often recommended by medical professionals to go through a few cycles before attempting to conceive — this will help better pinpoint your due date. But don’t worry mamas, it’s totally safe to begin immediately if that’s what you prefer.

Regardless of if you made the decision to conceive yesterday or have been fantasizing about having a child for as long as you can recall, we understand your urgency to begin the process. While we wish there was an effortless way to go zero to pregnant in no time, taking the recommended steps to prepare your body for pregnancy is an excellent way to begin.