Preparing for Pregnancy Emotionally
Melinda Miller-Thrasher, MD
Are you ready to have a baby? There's no specific time that's right for everyone, but there are several factors to consider:
Look at the Big Picture
Some people want to wait until just the right moment to start a family. You might worry that you haven't saved enough money or you haven't gotten the promotion you've been hoping for, so you should put it off for now.
It's a personal decision, and those are all worthy things to think about, but you can't wait for everything to be perfect.
“If you wait until you have enough money in the bank, you never will,” says Robert Atlas, MD, chair of the ob-gyn department at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. The same goes for your career, if you work outside the home.
The decision to pursue pregnancy is both about getting as prepared as possible, and about being ready to let your life change completely.
Be Realistic About Pregnancy and Parenthood
Think about the ways that your life will change while you're pregnant and after your baby is born. If you're not ready to give up your current lifestyle, you might not be ready. But if you're eager to devote yourself full-time to a baby, you're on the right track.
“It's a very big responsibility, in addition to being a great joy,” says Nancy Felipe Russo, PhD, regents' professor emeritus of psychology, women and gender studies at Arizona State University. “If you have an attitude of flexibility and understand that it's going to be a lot of work, perhaps you will handle the stress better.”
If You Have a Partner
Do you both want to become parents now? Are you getting along, and is your relationship solid?
If you begin your journey toward parenthood when your relationship is strong, the experience should bring you closer. If you're feeling distant, a baby won't improve your bond.
“While some women may mistakenly believe that starting a family will help smooth over marital problems,” says psychologist Lara Honos-Webb, PhD, of Walnut Creek, Calif., “pregnancy may increase tensions and highlight existing complaints women have about their spouses" or partners.
If You Already Have Children
Is it time to add another son or daughter to your family tree? That depends on many factors, including the age of your youngest child. If he's still breastfeeding, wearing diapers, and waking several times per night, you might be too overwhelmed and sleep-deprived for a newborn. On the other hand, you might feel up to the challenge.
“Each couple has to answer that question for themselves,” says Vicki Mendiratta, MD, professor in the division of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. “Some want to get all the diapers and sleepless nights out of the way.”
Take an honest look at your life. Can you handle your current responsibilities, plus a pregnancy and, later, a newborn? Do you have support?
Even if you're ready, you may want to wait a while, if your child is still very young.
“It's important that women are medically ready to carry another pregnancy,” Mendiratta says. “If you had a complicated pregnancy or C-section with complications in the past, ask your doctor first if it's safe to get pregnant again.”