Women health

Well, you're considering trying to conceive? Congrats! To improve your health, lifestyle, finances, and more, check out our pre-pregnancy to help speed up the process.

Have a Parenting Talk Before You Get Pregnant

Before you start trying to conceive, talk to your partner about some of the most important parenting issues, such as how you'll share childcare, working vs. staying at home, and religious traditions.

"But before you freak out about differing opinions on circumcision, public or private schools, or other issues that are far down the road," say Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris, authors of From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent. "It's critical for couples to begin talking about their priorities, expectations, and fears early on in the relationship."

Don't take birth control pills any longer.

According to Robert A. Greene, M.D., co-author of Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility, you should stop taking birth control a few months before you plan to start trying for a baby. This gives you some time to assess your natural menstrual cycle and determine when you're ovulating, or when you're most fertile during the month. If you've been on the pill for a while, your cycle might be different than it was before. Hormone levels can take a while to normalize after you stop taking the pill, but if your period is still missing after three months, you should see your doctor.

Lower you’re partying

Do you drink and smoke while you're pregnant? We don't have to tell you that these are major no-nos. If you indulge in either, Jennifer Wider, M.D., author of The New Mom's Survival Guide and medical advisor to the Society for Women's Health Research, recommends starting to cut back now. "As long as you're not pregnant yet," she says, "you probably don't need to change anything if you're a moderate drinker—you have a couple of drinks on a Thursday night or over the weekend." "However, drinking every night of the week or downing five cocktails in one sitting can be problematic." The same is true for your partner. Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to interfere with fertility and can also lower testosterone levels.

Even social smoking can affect the quality of your egg and your partner's sperm, as well as increase your risk of birth defects, miscarriage, preterm labor, and other complications after you become pregnant. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, tobacco use may be the cause of up to 13% of fertility problems, and no level of smoking or exposure to smoke is safe. According to studies, even women who aren't exposed to secondhand smoke have more difficulty conceiving than those who aren't. Bottom line: There's never been a better time to quit smoking, and you should insist that your partner do the same.

Caffeine should be avoided at all costs.

"Do yourself a favor and cut back your caffeine intake now," says Dr. Wider, if the Starbucks barista knows your order as soon as you walk up to the counter, or if you can't get through the day without four cups of French roast. "Not only because studies have shown that too much caffeine can cause miscarriage, but also because you don't want to go through withdrawal while pregnant."

Doctors disagree on how much caffeine is safe to consume while pregnant. Most experts agree that up to 200 mg is safe, but some experts advise against taking it at all, especially during the first trimester. Don't forget to add in other common caffeine sources like soda, tea, energy drinks, and even some pain relievers. Caffeine levels in a 12-ounce can of soda or an 8-ounce cup of green or black tea range from 30 to 60 milligrams; two extra-strength Excedrin tablets contain 130 milligrams. Start reading labels to see how much caffeine is in your diet if you're concerned.

Place your foot on the scale.

Now is the time to go for it if you can stand to lose a few pounds. "Not only will losing 10 to 15 pounds help you have a healthier pregnancy and delivery with fewer risks and complications," says Dr. Greene, "but it will also help you have a healthier pregnancy and delivery with fewer risks and complications."

If you incorporate an exercise routine into your daily routine now, whether it's walking a few times a week or scheduling a Pilates class, you'll be more likely to stick with it during and after your

pregnancy. Also, if you're on the thin side, consult your doctor to see if you should bulk up. Being too thin, especially if it affects your periods, is a well-known problem.

Before You Get Pregnant, Start Saving

Soon, you'll be putting money aside for college, diapers, and other baby-related expenses. "However, even pregnancy can be more expensive than you think," says Katina Z. Jones, author of The Everything Get Ready for Baby Book (think doctor's co-pays, new maternity clothes, prenatal vitamins, and so on). "You'll feel better knowing you have some sort of nest egg set up before you start trying to conceive, even if it's just $20 a paycheck. If you have any spare cash, you can put it towards nursery furniture or other baby expenses."

Prenatal vitamins are a good idea.

"Any woman planning to become pregnant in the next three to six months should begin taking a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid," Dr. Wider advises. The March of Dimes claims that getting enough of this B vitamin during pregnancy can reduce brain and spine birth defects by up to 70%. In addition, the multivitamin contains other nutrients that are important for a healthy pregnancy, such as iron to prevent anemia and calcium to maintain strong teeth and bones. Put the pill in a jar at work and set an e-mail reminder to take it after you brush your teeth in the morning. Chewable pills are available if you don't like swallowing pills. To begin,

Sleep is a good investment.

Jackie Rose, co-author of The New fully Non-Drinking Girl's Guide to Pregnancy, advises getting those zzz's now. "Sleep in on weekends with your husband and nap whenever you can," she advises. Most of us expect sleepless nights once the baby arrives, but it can be difficult to get a good night's sleep during pregnancy, when things like heartburn, needing to get up to pee, and adjusting to side-snoozing can keep some expectant mothers

tossing and turning. Getting enough sleep may even help you get pregnant faster; studies show that women who get too little sleep have more trouble ovulating on a regular basis than those who don't.

Check Your Stress Levels

According to some research, having extremely high-stress levels can make it difficult to conceive (by disrupting ovulation or interfering with an embryo's ability to implant in the uterus). Furthermore, if you have a Type A personality, your stress levels may rise even higher while you're pregnant and planning for the baby.

"Do an emotional gut check now to make sure you're calm and ready for this next phase of your life," says Dr. Wider. "Perhaps it's drinking tea while watching old episodes of Sex and the City, going for a three-mile run, or simply dumping on your best friend." Whatever it is, if it is working for you now, keep it.

Analyze Your Living Situation

Do you need to relocate for a better location, more space, or any other reason? Our advice is to get started as soon as possible. Getting settled and feeling good about your home—ideally, somewhere you want to be for at least a couple of years—will help you feel more prepared for pregnancy. When you're pregnant, you won't want to deal with movers, renovations, lawyers, or closings (and no one wants to be packing at 8 months!).

However, if you're happy where you are, don't feel obligated to relocate now that you're planning a family; you don't need a large, multi-bedroom house in the suburbs to raise a child. Remember that many infants sleep in their parents' bedrooms for the first few months, and having your own nursery and playroom won't make your baby any happier. If you're happy with your current apartment, you'll have plenty of time to make the big move later.

Start examining Your Job

According to Cathy Stahl, co-author of Twin Set, it's critical to take a 10,000-foot view of your career and ask yourself the following questions: Are your working hours satisfactory? Is there enough childcare flexibility once the baby arrives? Do you think you'll be able to handle the commute? Do other new parents seem to enjoy their jobs at your firm? If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you should look for another job or see if your boss is willing to work with you to change your job description. If you have a particularly arduous commute, perhaps you can take on smaller clients to reduce your hours or clock in from home a couple of days a week.

Ask a few questions about your family members' pregnancies.

If possible, ask your mother, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers. Is it true that they took a long time to conceive? Were there any issues, such as preterm labor or a breech presentation? Certain illnesses run in families, so it's a good idea to review your medical history and share any relevant information with your doctor. But don't get too worked up about it. Just because your sister had trouble getting pregnant for a year doesn't mean you will. Although many common fertility issues, such as poor egg quality (due to age) or blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, are not hereditary, others, such as fibroids or ovarian cysts, can run in families. Your physician can assist you in comprehending the situation.

Seek medical advice.

According to Dr. Greene, many experts recommend scheduling a pre-pregnancy check-up at least three months before you plan to begin trying for a baby. Your doctor should check for STDs, test for heart problems like high blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep track of any chronic conditions you have (such as diabetes, asthma, or thyroid problems). Bring up any questions you have about getting pregnant during your appointment, and make sure you aren't taking any medications that could interfere with your fertility.

Use this appointment to evaluate your relationship with your doctor and ensure that you'll want to see them again once you're expecting. (Also make sure they take care of pregnant women.) It's possible that your gynecologist isn't an obstetrician, for example. Do they take the time to thoroughly answer your questions, or do you get brushed aside with eye rolls and phrases like "You don't have to worry about that"? Remember, you'll be seeing this person a lot while you're pregnant, and you'll need to be able to trust their advice at one of the most crucial times of your life.

Consider taking your partner to an internist as well; most men do not see doctors as frequently as women do.

Go Back to Your Roots

If you've been concealing your true hair color, now is the time to change your mind. "While you're pregnant, you don't want to be getting touch-ups every few weeks," says Dr. Wider. Though there isn't conclusive evidence that hair coloring is harmful to your baby during pregnancy, most experts advise limiting your exposure to the chemicals, especially during the first trimester, when your baby's major organs are developing. If you're worried, talk to your colorist about how to cut back—you might be able to phase into highlights, which require less upkeep and are potentially safer.


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