How cool. You want to get pregnant! Besides picking a name and painting the nursery, there are lots of things you can do to get ready for a healthy baby. Sounds funny because your waist will be gone for a while, but getting in shape can make pregnancy and delivery easier. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days. Walking, bicycling, and swimming are great ways to get a workout. Or join a prenatal exercise class.
Eating Right for One
Soon you'll crave ice cream and pickles. But now, one of the best things you can do is to eat healthy, before you’re pregnant. Ask your partner to join you. You'll need lots of protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid. So stock up on fruits, nuts, veggies, leafy greens, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Cut back on chips, baked goods, soda, and other junk foods with empty calories.
Take Folic Acid
You should start taking a daily vitamin. For pregnancy planning, you need 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, the amount in most multivitamins. This B vitamin comes in many foods, like leafy greens, citrus, and beans -- but most women need a pill to get enough. Folic acid helps prevent serious birth defects that can happen before you know you're pregnant.
Watch Your Weight
Soon you may not want to step on the scale. But right now, being too thin can make it harder to get pregnant. Being too heavy may also cause problems: It raises your chances of diabetes and high blood pressure. It can also make labor last longer. And you don't want that! Talk to your doctor about what weight is healthy for you.
Get a Checkup
Want to share your pregnancy planning news? Start with your doctor. Get a checkup a few months before you start trying to get pregnant. Ask about:
Tests or vaccines you need
Controlling any health conditions you have
Medicines you can and can’t take during pregnancy
See Your Dentist
If you're not a good flosser, now's a good time to make it a habit. Get your teeth and gums as healthy as you can before you get pregnant. That’s good for your baby as well as your smile. Pregnancy raises your chance of gum disease, and gum disease may increase your chance of early labor. So brush and floss regularly.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Can't get going without coffee? You may want to stop at just one cup. Some experts suggest you get no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day while trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy itself. That's about one 12-ounce cup of coffee or four 8-ounce cups of brewed tea. Decaf coffee or warm, spiced milk can be a soothing, healthier option.
It's common sense, but if you smoke, stop. Smoking can make it harder for you to get pregnant. And lighting up during pregnancy can up your chances of problems like premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage. It also puts your baby at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Ask your partner to quit, too. Secondhand smoke is dangerous. And it may hurt male fertility.
It's a good idea to give up drinking before you start trying for a baby. Alcohol can sometimes make it harder to conceive. And drinking during pregnancy raises the chances for birth defects and learning problems. Don't freak out if you had a drink before you knew you were expecting. One drink is probably OK. But since doctors don't know how much alcohol it takes to cause problems, it’s best to avoid it entirely.
Budget for Baby
Babies need a lot of stuff. They go through about 8,000 diapers before they're potty-trained! You'll also need clothes, a car seat, and a stroller, and maybe formula and bottles. Your budget will also include doctor visits and possibly child care. Make a list of what you'll need and start looking now. To stretch your dollar, consider gently used baby clothes, buying in bulk, and family day care.
Time Off After Baby
If you work, start thinking about what you want to do once you have your baby. Some companies give you paid time off after you give birth. Others will give you unpaid time. You may also be able to use sick days or vacation time. Check your health plan, too, to see which doctors and hospitals are covered.
Take a Pre-Baby Trip
Start planning your babymoon. Now's a good time for a grown-up getaway. Whether it's to a fancy restaurant or a relaxing beach, go somewhere solo or with your partner that you'd never take a baby. This is a good chance for some "me" or "we" time before all the fun starts.
Prepare Your Pet
Until now, your dog or cat has been your baby. But when a crying, cooing infant shows up, your pet may be upset. Help him adjust now. Have baby supplies, including lotion and diapers, around the house so he can get used to the smells. Start enforcing new rules now -- like staying off furniture or out of the nursery. Borrow baby clothes, and even practice with a doll so your pet gets used to sharing your attention.
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American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Frequently Asked Questions," "Tools for Patients: Before You Get Pregnant."
American Dental Association, Mouth Healthy: "Healthy Habits."
ASPCA: "Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby."
CDC: "Tobacco Use and Pregnancy."
Center for Science in the Public Interest: "Caffeine Content of Food & Drugs."
Childbirth Connection: "Planning Pregnancy."
EPA.gov: "10 Fast Facts on Recycling."
FamilyDoctor.org: "Things to Think About Before You're Pregnant."
Jensen, T. BMJ, August 1998.
March of Dimes: "Caffeine in Pregnancy," "Preterm Birth: Are You at Risk?"
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month, Women's Health Care Physicians, 2010.
United States Department of Agriculture: "Cost of Raising a Child Calculator."
Weng, X. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2008.
Womenshealth.gov: "Preconception Health."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.