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Deciding When to Have a Baby

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Balancing lifestyle demands with the idea of adding to your family can be tough, which can lead to stress, Conry says.

"You don’t ovulate regularly when you're under a lot of stress," says Andrea Zuckerman, MD, chief of women's care at Tufts Medical Center. "If you're going through something that's taking up a lot of time and energy, you can't concentrate on pregnancy by exercising and eating right."

Financial health. You don't have to be rich to have a baby, but it helps to have a job and some money in the bank. According to the USDA, you can spend roughly $12,000 on child-related expenses during the first year of your baby's life. Think diapers, car seat, high chair, child care, and doctor visits. And until that kid turns 18? You can expect to spend somewhere around $241,080 -- and that doesn't include college.

It's a good idea to make sure you and your baby will be covered by health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans have to cover maternity and newborn care before and after your baby is born. If you work, check with your boss to see if you'll get time off with pay when the baby is born.

Age and family planning. Your chances of getting pregnant fall you get older, so experts suggest you try before you turn 35 if you can. There's also a higher chance of having a baby with Down syndrome or other genetic problems when you're over 35.  

There are many exceptions, of course.

"I see a lot of patients who are older than in the past and are having their first child. Today it's not uncommon to see women have their first child in their late 30s or early 40s," says Shari Lawson, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "If you are healthy, you can have a healthy pregnancy."

If you want to have several children, plan on trying to space them at least 18 months apart, Lawson suggests. "That gives you the opportunity to bond with your first child, breastfeed, and also to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight and make sure you haven’t developed any medical conditions."

Don’t let the stress of deciding when to get pregnant get to you. "We plan so many things in our lives, but you can't necessarily plan when you get pregnant," Zuckerman says.

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Reviewed on December 31, 2013

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