If you are planning to have baby or even just thinking about having one, you should start your preconception plan to make sure your body is as healthy as possible. You can never start preconception planning too early, so you may as well get a jump on things right away.Here are 20 tips to get you started:
1. Make A Detailed Preconception Plan:
A healthy pregnancy takes planning. You need to decide your timeline, your goals, and determine what lifestyle changes you need to make in order to get pregnant. A good plan can help you make sure that your body is fully prepare for a pregnancy and will reduce your chances of an pregnancy complications.
Take some time to draw up a plan, you can also use this time consult with your partner and your doctor about your goals. A great resource for preconception planning is this helpful “Healthier Baby and Me” worksheet provided by the American Center for Disease Control (CDC). This worksheet has all the information and steps you need to plan your pregnancy.
2. Get A Full Physical:
Make an appointment right away with your family doctor to get a full physical to detect any potential issues that may need to be addressed before you become pregnant. Your doctor will also give you advice on the steps you need to take to make sure that you are able to prevent any avoidable birth defects. According the World Health Organization, preconception care can dramatically reduce child and maternal mortality rates, birth defects, and complications during pregnancy. Seeing the doctor before you conceive is crucial to both the health of both you and your baby.
3. Get Current On Your Vaccines:
While you are at your doctor’s make sure to ask if you are current on all your vaccinations. If not, you will need to get whatever vaccines you are missing before you get pregnant. According to the CDC, preconception vaccines have a 95% efficacy rate of preventing perinatal transmission of disease. Here is a guide to preconception vaccinations to help you learn more about what vaccines you need and when the ideal time is to get them.
4. Learn How Any Chronic Illness May Impact Your Baby:
Talk to your doctor about any chronic illnesses that may impact your ability to get pregnant or the health of your baby. According to the CDC, illnesses such as sexually-transmitted disease including HIV/AIDS, diabetes, thyroid disease, seizure disorders, high blood pressure, and arthritis can have a serious impact on your pregnancy. So make sure you work with your doctor to manage these illnesses and learn how they can impact your pregnancy before you start trying to conceive.
5. Learn How Your Medications Can Impact Your Baby:
If you are taking any medications to manage an illness, you need to also consult with your doctor about how those medications may impact your pregnancy. However, the medical community knows very little about the impact of medications on pregnancy because pregnant women are not typically included in medical research studies. According to the CDC, less than 10% FDA-approved medications have been researched for their impact on pregnancy. So it is very important that you talk to your doctor so they can make a determination based on the type of medication, the dose, and use.
6. Have Any Necessary Dental Work Done:
Studies have shown that dental disease, especially periodontal disease can impact your pregnancy. Dental issues have been linked to birth prematurity and low birth weight. Before you get pregnant you will need to see the dentist and get any major work done. Also make sure that you schedule regular dental visits during your pregnancy to reduce the chance of birth issues.
7. Keep A Calendar Of Your Menstrual Cycle:
A calendar of your menstrual cycle can help you and your partner track the ideal times to conceive. You should start this calendar as soon as possible to monitor if there are any irregularities in your menstrual cycle. According to the American Department of Health and Human Services, keeping a menstrual cycle calendar increase your chances of pregnancy by 25%. There are tons of ways you can track your menstrual cycle. There are even some free ovulation tracker apps that can make it easy.
8. Stop Taking Birth Control:
When you talk to your doctor you should also talk about when you should cease taking your birth control. Fertility rates after stopping birth control range from person to person and depend on the method of birth control. You may be fertile immediately after stopping birth control or it may take up to three months to begin a normal ovulation cycle.
9. Take A Prenatal Vitamin High In Folic Acid:
Folic acid is the most important pregnancy nutrient. You should start taking a prenatal vitamin with 400 mg of folic acid a day. Folic acid prevents birth defects of the brain and spinal column. These birth defects develop in the first 3-4 weeks after conception. So you need to start supplementing your folic acid as soon as you decide to get pregnant. Prenatal vitamins typically have the right amount of folic acid, as well as other essential minerals. You can get a prenatal vitamin over the counter or ask your doctor for a prescription.
10. Check Your Iron Levels:
Another important nutrient for pregnancy is iron. When you are at the doctor’s you should have your blood screened for an iron deficiency. If you have low levels you will need to start supplementing your diet or eating foods that have a high iron content like red meats and leafy greens. Women are at high risk for anemia during pregnancy especially in their first two trimesters. Anemia can lead to a low birth weight and fetal stillborn. Balancing your iron levels before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy anemia, so it’s best to start an iron-rich diet during your preconception period.
11. Quit Smoking And Drinking Alcohol:
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, alcohol and tobacco can cause a range of serious birth defects like fetal alcohol syndrome and miscarriage. They can also impact your ability to conceive because they disrupt your natural ovulation cycle. Plus, they flood the body was carcinogens and other harmful chemicals that weaken your immune system. During your preconception planning you should stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Your partner should also quit smoking and drinking too because smoking and drinking alcohol both reduce sperm count, making conception more difficult.
12. Cut Back On The Caffeine:
Caffeine is very bad for pregnant women. A study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development showed that caffeine can lead to the loss of pregnancy. Caffeine also makes conception more difficult because it interrupts your natural ovulation cycle and reduces the sperm count of your partner. Doctors say the most caffeine you should have during conception and pregnancy is 200 mg, essentially one cup of coffee. However, even that is risky, so it is better that both you and your partner cut caffeine out of your diet during your preconception planning period.
13. Start Working Out:
According to the Fertility Society of Australia, exercise can increase fertility 35%, and improve the overall health and well-being of both the mother and the baby. They also recommend working out for 60 minutes a day starting 3-4 months before conception for the best results. If are overweight or obese, you should try to reach a healthy weight before conceiving as well. Incorporating some light aerobic exercise like walking, biking, or swimming during your preconception planning phase can have a huge impact on the success and health of your pregnancy.
14. Eat A Healthy Diet:
A series of recent studies by the medical community suggest that eating a poor diet while pregnant not only jeopardizes the pregnancy and the health of the fetus, but can cause long-term health problems for your child. One the other hand a diet rich in whole grains, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables, will improve the health of both you and your child. Starting a healthy diet during your preconception period can help by strengthening your body for pregnancy and will get you into the habit of eating healthy without all the issues like sugar withdraw that can happen during a dietary change.
15. Drink More Water:
Drinking a lot of water is crucial for the healthy function of your body. It is especially important during your preconception period because it helps deliver oxygen to your cells. This is important for fertility, conception, and the healthy development of the baby. Doctors recommend drinking 2 liters of water per day to keep your body healthy and ready for conception.
16. Get A Good Night’s Sleep:
Doctors recommend seven hours of sleep a night to promote fertility. Women who get 7 hours of sleep a night are 25% more likely to become pregnant than those that get more or less sleep. Doctors also recommend that you get into a healthy sleep cycle where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to ensure that your biorhythms are healthy and you are getting the most restful night sleep possible. During your preconception period, try to get on a routine sleep schedule to increase your chances of conception.
17. Look For Ways To Reduce Your Stress:
A recent study showed that the stress hormone alpha-amylase interferes with fertility reducing your chances of conceiving by 12%. Even in cases of women who have had no prior history have higher chances of infertility if they are stressed out. When you are trying to conceive look for ways to reduce your stress like finding time to relax and meditate, cutting back on your stress-inducing responsibilities, and looking for healthy lifestyle changes that can help mitigate and manage any stressful situation you encounter.
18. Stay Away From Environmental Hazards And Toxins:
Environmental hazards and toxins like pollution, toxic personal care products, and also have a major impact on pregnancy. The CDC reports that environmental hazards and toxins can increase your risk of infertility and miscarriages, as well as increasing the chances of your fetus developing birth defects. You should also make sure to cut toxins like lead and mercury out of your diet that can come from eating fish or drinking contaminated tap water. Research ways you can reduce your exposure to hazards and toxins in your environment at home, work, and in your community.
19. Find Out About You And Your Partner’s Family Medical Histories:
Talk to both you and your partner’s immediate and extended families about your family medical histories to find out what chronic illnesses are in your genes. Understanding what illnesses are present in your genes can help you determine testing and treatment options before and during pregnancy. If you or your partner do not know your family’s history you can also consider genetic counseling and screening which can detect some of these issues and give you options during your pregnancy.
20. Learn About What Pregnancy Habits Are Good For Baby:
While you are in your preconception phase you should start researching what daily habits are good for the health of you and your baby and start planning to incorporate them into your routine. You should learn what foods to eat, what types of exercises to do, and learn about all the medical tests and procedures you will need.
A preconception plan can help you increase your chances of conceiving, help prepare your body for pregnancy, and increase the chances of a healthy fetus. So even if your baby is just a twinkle in your eye right now, you should consider starting your preconception plan. These 20 tips will help you get started. For more information and other recommendations, talk to your doctor about the lifestyle changes you can make to improve the success of your pregnancy.