Preparing for Pregnancy

prepared couple
photo by Fred Carvalho

This is it. You're ready. You're throwing out the birth control pills and circling prime-time sex dates on the calendar. What else do you need? Before you start painting the nursery there are a few things you should now do to start preparing for pregnancy.

Since the first few weeks of pregnancy are the most vital to the development of the baby, mom and dad need to be healthy and avoid harmful activities and substances.

Shake the Family Tree

When you are preparing for pregnancy, sit down with your partner and take notes on your family members. Don't worry about the skeletons in the closet; instead, focus on health issues. Going back as far as your grandparents and including your siblings and their children, if any, write down approximate birth and death dates and known health problems, including cancers, diabetes, psychological issues and heart disease. The March of Dimes has a great free online form.

Get Thee to a Doctor

You need a check up when preparing for pregnancy. Anything from elevated blood pressure to lingering infections need to be addressed before you start growing a baby. Many gynecologists also do basic preventative care for women, including blood pressure screening, diabetes screening, cholesterol screening, and even check vaccinations such as tetanus shots. Schedule your appointments today. That includes the dentist!

Update Your Shots

Catching a disease like chickenpox or rubella (German measles) during pregnancy can harm your baby. The March of Dimes recommends making sure that you're immune to these diseases to prepare for pregnancy. You're immune if:

  • You've had the disease.
  • You've had an immunization shot.

If you don't know if you're immune, you can have a blood test to find out. If you need a shot, wait at least one month after the shot before trying to get pregnant. If you plan to travel to another country, you may need other shots to help keep you safe from disease.

Eat Your Veggies

You know the drill–eat healthy food, maintain a healthy weight and get fit. Exercising for 30 minutes most days of the week is a good way to help maintain or lose weight, build fitness and reduce stress. If you're underweight or overweight, moving toward a healthy weight will be better for you and baby as you prepare for pregnancy.

Find Some Folate

Growing babies need folic acid. Studies have shown that 300-400mcg of folic acid a day can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects when taken before conception. Prenatal vitamins are $4 at most discount stores, so you've got no excuse not to stock up.

Toss the Toxins

Some chemicals can hurt a growing baby. Most studies suggest the greatest risk of exposure to pesticides is during the first three to eight weeks of the first trimester when the neural tube development is occurring, explains the American Pregnancy Association.

Quit Cleaning the Kitty Box

I know this will be heartbreaking, but as you are preparing for pregnancy you will need to find someone else to clean out kitty's litter box. There's a little parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and you can get it from handling cat feces in the litter box or outside. If you can't find anyone else to do it, at least wear protection – a pair of rubber gloves should do it.

Nix the No-Nos

If you smoke, drink or do illegal drugs, quit. (That means caffeine, too!). They'll keep you from getting pregnant and hurt the little one once you get pregnant.

Get Your House in Order

Your medical insurance covers pregnancy, right? Check to make sure. Working to be financially ready for a baby will relieve some stress so you can focus on staying healthy.

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