What do you do when you know you want to start trying for a baby but you don’t really know what that means? What vitamins do you take? What exactly does ovulation mean? When are you supposed to start taking pregnancy tests? When do you come off of birth control?
First of all, congratulations! This is a momentous change that you are embracing and it is certainly an exciting step! There are a million little steps that go into conception that most people are not aware of. Don’t worry, we have gathered all of the most important ones and curated a pre-baby list for you.
The activities listed below increase your likelihood of having a healthy baby and healthy pregnancy:
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol. Smoking affects fertility (the ability to get pregnant) in men and women. If you stop smoking now it will improve your chances of conceiving. During pregnancy smoking is the biggest risk factor for serious complications in pregnancy that you can change. Alcoholism while pregnant is equally as serious. You may find it hard if you go month after month without getting pregnant and you feel that you are missing out on alcohol, but try to think that it is only temporary and that when you do get pregnant you will have peace of mind knowing that you were alcohol free.
- Start taking folic acid now, it needs time to build up in your body. Many women conceive within one month of trying so it is ideal to start taking folic acid two months before you stop contraception. If you have already stopped contraception, start taking a 400mcg folic acid supplement daily until you are 12 weeks pregnant. It helps prevent serious birth defects that can happen before you know you’re pregnant. You’ll find this B vitamin in many foods, including leafy greens, citrus, and beans, but most women need a pill to get enough.
- Have a healthy balanced diet – it improves fertility as well as affecting your baby’s future health. You’ll need lots of protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid. Stock up on fruits, nuts, veggies, leafy greens, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Your diet before and during pregnancy will also affect your baby’s development in the womb and their health in the future. A healthy diet for pregnancy is the same as a healthy diet for life.
- Cut down on caffeine if you drink a lot. Research shows that consuming too much caffeine while you are trying to conceive can increase the risk of miscarriage. Some experts suggest you get no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day while you’re trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy. That’s about one 12-ounce cup of coffee or four 8-ounce cups of tea.
- Try to get closer to a healthy weight if you are overweight or underweight. Being on either extreme of the spectrum can hinder your fertility. Being too thin can make it harder to get pregnant. Being too heavy can also cause problems: It raises your chances of diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Become more active if you are not already – this has been shown to improve fertility and will make your pregnancy and baby healthier. Being active by doing regular, moderate exercise before and after you conceive will help your fertility as well as benefiting your pregnancy and baby in the long term. Women who are physically active are more likely to have children who are physically active too. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise that gets your heart pumping on most days. Walking, bicycling, and swimming are great ways to get a workout. Or join a prenatal exercise class.
- Have a cervical screening test if you haven’t had one in the last three years. If you are aged between 25 and 49 you should have a cervical screening test every three years. It’s best to get tested before you get pregnant because pregnancy can make the results of your test harder to interpret.
- Don’t take any new medication or stop taking existing medications without talking to your GP or healthcare professional.
- Get tested for STIs if you think there’s a possibility you or your partner may have an infection. Having an STI may affect your fertility.
- Try genetic counseling. Your doctor might recommend preconception tests if your family history or ethnicity puts you at high risk of having a baby with a genetic disorder. A simple blood or saliva test can see if you carry genes for cystic fibrosis, fragile X syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, or sickle cell disease.