You've decided to have a baby, so we all know what you're going to do next, right? Put in a preconception call to your OB-GYN, of course!
That's because a well-planned pregnancy begins and ends with your doctor. You'll want to make an appointment to discuss anything that might prevent you from becoming pregnant or put you or your baby at risk. Topics may include family health histories, your current medical conditions or medications, vaccinations you may need, and any steps your doctor recommends to help prevent certain birth defects, such as taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.
Meanwhile, there are things you can do now to prepare for getting pregnant. Pregnancy places a great strain on your body. So aiming to be in the best shape you can be prior to conceiving increases your chances of getting pregnant and having a positive pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Here are five of the best ways to get in pre-pregnancy shape:
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Aim to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and managing stress. These healthy habits will be easier to sustain if you start now, before your body and your life are turned upside down by an infant. Plus, excess weight can make it harder to conceive, carry, and deliver a healthy baby.
- Kick the (bad) habits. While healthy habits can increase your chances of conceiving, bad habits can do just the opposite. Everything you put into your body, including alcohol, tobacco, prescription and illegal drugs—even dietary supplements and herbal remedies—may affect your ability to become pregnant or carry a baby to term. Ask your doctor if you're unsure about anything you might be taking.
- Breathe easy. It's amazing how often this topic appears on healthy tip lists, for everything from pregnancy to New Year's resolutions and more. That's because, according to the EPA, poor indoor air quality is becoming a huge health and safety issue. Cleaning up the air in your home and making sure your workplace is free of toxic substances and environmental hazards are among the best things you can do for yourself and your soon-to-be family. You may think it's a challenge—and it's definitely a case of “out of sight/out of mind” as most airborne contaminants are invisible and odorless—but it's easier than you think. For example, did you know you should run the vent in your bathroom ceiling after every bath and shower? (If you don't have one, you should get one installed.) Doing this helps prevent the formation of mold, which can cause upper respiratory tract symptoms. Same goes for using the fan over your stove when boiling water and other liquids.
- Get happy. The challenge of a nine-months-long pregnancy is often as mental as it is physical, so reducing stress and seeking help for depression or other mental health issues is a must. There are lots of ways to lift your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, serotonin and other natural antidepressants, so try spinning, yoga, or walking. Friendships and laughter also fuel our brains with feel-good chemicals, so give your besties a call when you're feeling blue. You can also widen your circle by joining service or crafting groups or taking classes.
- Get real. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to money, household responsibilities, baby care and all those little things that can seem big when a new baby enters the mix. Most importantly, firm up your finances. Babies can be expensive, and while they're worth every penny and sleepless night, even the best relationships can suffer when funds are tight.
Making lifestyle changes can seem overwhelming at times, so the best advice I can offer is just relax. Talk to your doctor, work your way through the five steps, and let nature (or science) take its course. Once you become pregnant check out our practical and mom-tested tips for taking care of yourself during pregnancy.
Summer Hughes BSN, RNC-Inpatient OB, former Director of Women's Services at Medical City Alliance.
Summer Hughes is happily married to her wonderful husband Russell and mother of two boys, Dawson and Gavin. In her free time, she loves scuba diving, reading, spending time with family and traveling.