For women who are ready to start a new chapter by bringing a life into the world, there are quite a few things to do before conception.
Ideally, women want to allow themselves as much as six months to go through a pre-planning checklist before actually getting pregnant. The more prepared you are, the easier the pregnancy can be.
Here are ten things, from lifestyle changes to doctor checkups, to consider before getting pregnant.
Schedule a check-up
Touch base with your general practitioner for a health and wellness check-up. The visit should include a blood pressure check, weight measurements, and a pap smear to ensure there are no underlying medical conditions.
Change some habits
Do away with the unhealthy habits and behaviors like smoking, drinking, and drugs. Get help if you need it. Remember, some drugs can stay in your system for a while, so give yourself time before conceiving.
Stopping unhealthy habits can be very difficult. Don’t hesitate to talk with your healthcare provider for assistance, advice, or to connect you with a counselor or group program.
Change your diet
It’s time to start eating healthy. Making healthy choices now will make it easier to stick to them during pregnancy. Try to get at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day, as well as plenty of whole grains and foods that are high in calcium – like milk, orange juice, and yogurt. Also, get your protein from multiple sources than just traditional meat, like beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
Cut caffeine intake
You don’t have to completely cut-out caffeine while you’re pregnant, but it does need to be limited.
The March of Dimes advises pregnant women to limit their caffeine consumption to 200 milligrams per day, about the amount in one cup of coffee, depending on the brew. Like your diet, doing this now will make it easier to stick with while pregnant.
Make a fitness plan
Start and stick to an exercise plan that includes walking or cycling, moderate weight training, stretching, and even yoga if you are interested, for 20 to 30 minutes a day. If you haven’t been exercising, start out easy and work your way up.
Visit your dentist
You might be surprised to know that a dentist visit is important before getting pregnant. Hormonal shifts during pregnancy can make you more susceptible to gum disease. Higher progesterone and estrogen levels can cause the gums to react differently to the bacteria in plaque, resulting in swollen, red, tendergums that bleedwhen you floss or brush.
Schedule a visit with your dentist for a cleaning if you haven’t in the past 6 months.
Think about your bank account
According to a 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, middle-income families will spend $286,050 to raise a child from birth through age 17.
The point is, kids aren’t cheap. Start putting aside money into an emergency account to handle things that come up like hospital bills and medical procedures. Also, consider getting a college savings account started now with a financial advisor.
Get health insurance
Without insurance, a typical vaginal delivery can cost about $9,000 and a cesarean section about $15,000. Neonatal intensive care can cost $2,000 to $3,000 a day.
If you have insurance, give the company a call and find out what prenatal coverage they offer.
If you don’t have health insurance, contact your local health department to see what programs and resources are available in your area to help pregnant women and babies get the medical care and other services they need. Call 800-311-BABY (800-311-2229) for information on prenatal services in your area.
Talk to your workplace about Maternity Leave
It’s important to know your company’s policy before getting pregnant so you can know if they offer paid maternity leave, and if so, for how long. Only 58% of companies pay a salary or wage during some or all of maternity leave, according a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
If your job doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, look into getting short-term disability or maternity leave coverage. Many supplemental plans require you to enroll before you become pregnant.
Take Folic Acid
Every year, one in 20 children are born with a birth defect. The most effective way to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs), like spina bifida and anencephaly, is with folic acid. It’s been found to reduce the likelihood of these defects by as much as 70%.
Every woman should take 400 mcg of the B vitamin daily and begin taking it at least one month before conception to get the full benefits.
Most NTDs form in the first 28 days of pregnancy, so waiting until after you’ve learned you are pregnant can be too late.