We all know that there’s lots to do after you conceive. Doctor’s visits, house prep, more doctor’s visits, and final arrangements for things such as childcare are all important parts of a mother-to-be’s to do list. And naturally, since the things a woman does during her pregnancy can have an impact on her developing child, making a commitment to a pregnancy-friendly lifestyle is also a key part of a successful pregnancy. But did you know that your journey to getting healthy and “baby ready” should actually start before you even start trying for a baby?
Creating a “preconception checklist” that addresses what you should do before you even conceive is a sometimes forgotten but very important part of a healthy pregnancy. After all, you will provide a home and nourishment for your growing child for nine months – it’s important to get that home into shape before it’s in use! So if you’re planning on trying to conceive in the near future, don’t wait to get your body “baby ready.” Instead, start working on your own preconception checklist to ensure you’re healthy before you even conceive – and be sure that the list includes these six important things:
- Make sure your immunizations are up to date. There are a number of diseases out there that could harm your health and impact the development of your child if you contract them during your pregnancy. Fortunately, a simple trip to the doctor can help you determine whether or not your body is currently immune to any particularly nasty illnesses. It’s especially important to check with your doctor and to confirm that you are immune to chicken pox, MMR (or Measles, Mumps, and Rubella), hepatitis B, tetanus, and diphtheria.
- Review any pre-existing conditions, medications and your general medical history with a doctor. Even if you know that you’re up to date on your immunization needs, you should visit with your doctor before you try to get pregnant to review your medical history and current health needs in general. Remember, some pre-existing conditions could potentially impact your pregnancy if they are not managed properly. You may also need to swap out any medications you need for ones with ingredients that won’t affect a growing child. And a final important thing to consider is that since some medications and medical issues could also affect your fertility, a meeting with your doctor can help you prepare for any conception difficulties you may run into as you begin trying for a baby.
- Prepare to make some lifestyle changes. You’ve heard it before: you need to make lifestyle changes if you plan on getting pregnant. Cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and even exposure to hazardous substances at work can all affect a woman’s health and potentially have an impact on her developing child. And depending on which habit or substance you’re trying to kick, you may need more than a day’s notice to clear your body of what could be toxic to a developing child. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you’ve taken steps to eliminate as many of these negative influences as possible before getting pregnant. This means that you will need to quit smoking, remove alcohol from your diet, limit your caffeine intake, and – if necessary – talk to your employer about your needs and options as a future mother.
- Begin developing – and sticking to – a healthy diet. It’s not a secret that nutrition becomes even more important when you’re preparing to eat for two. Even before you conceive, however, your diet matters: what you eat can impact your fertility and can set the stage for a healthier pregnancy. So before you begin trying to get pregnant, start making an effort to regularly eat a healthy diet that includes:
- Talk to your dentist. You may not think that your teeth deserve that much attention when you’re trying to get pregnant, but you will actually need to visit with your dentist on a regular basis before and during a pregnancy. The increases in hormones that women experience during a pregnancy can actually increase their risk of gum disease – and may even increase the risk of delivering an underweight child prematurely. Fortunately, simply working with your dentist before you get pregnant can help save your gums, and your health and pregnancy, from potential pain and trouble later.
- Stop using birth control – a month or two before trying. Obviously you will need to ditch any birth control you’re on before you get pregnant. But rather than going off of your birth control and immediately trying for a baby, spend a couple months monitoring your menstrual cycle after you stop taking birth control. Doing this will help you get a better sense of what your natural fertility cycle looks like, and will help you narrow down your fertile window much more quickly.
As you can see, even before you get pregnant there are things you can do to set yourself up for a healthier pregnancy. In fact, it’s recommended that you take steps like the ones we’ve recommended here as much as 3 months before trying to conceive, so that your body is as healthy as possible when you do get pregnant. So if you’re ready to start a family, be sure to put these tips into action – after visiting with your doctor and getting their stamp of approval on your preconception to do list, of course!