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Are You Ready for Pregnancy

Prenatal experts offer advice to parents-to-be on emotionally preparing for a baby.

What to Do Before the Stick Turns Blue continued...

Nancy Karabaic, a personal trainer from Wheaton, Md., who just gave birth to a baby boy less than a month ago, says that taking a preconception class with her husband Chris LaChat was beneficial since neither one had spent much time around children and weren't sure what to expect.

"We walked out of that class, and I remember thinking, 'Boy, if they wanted to prevent you from having a baby, this is really the way to do it.' The message was 'Really think about this before you do it because it will change your life.' "

But it was good because we could say to ourselves, "We know all of those things and we still feel like this is what we want to do."

While the evidence is still inconclusive, working through potential anxieties and trouble spots early on may even contribute to a healthier pregnancy, says Dr. Ezra Davidson Jr., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. "Unwanted pregnancies have a higher incidence of complications and poorer outcomes, while women in a supportive, unstressful environment where the pregnancy is eagerly anticipated by both partners are in general going to do better."

Not as Easy as It Looks

The transition to parenthood will be tough, so whatever you can work out ahead of time could be one fewer thing to resolve amid the relentless demands of a newborn.

"The realities of being responsible for another human being 24 hours a day are something that most people have not experienced before, so they're in a very challenged place emotionally and physically, and that doesn't make for good decision-making," says Barbara Schofield, a childbirth educator and education coordinator of the Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center in New York City.

New parents struggle with huge financial, emotional, physical and sexual strains, but those with more realistic expectations at the outset will endure the transition better, says Jay Belsky, author of "The Transition to Parenthood: How a First Child Changes a Marriage." In a study of 250 couples from their last trimester to their baby's third year, Belsky found that half the couples grew further apart -- 12% to 13% were so divided by differences that they started losing faith in each other and their marriages. Thirty percent kept their relationships at about the same levels, and only 19% grew closer together.

"There's this perception that a baby brings a couple closer together, and that's rarely the case," says Belsky, distinguished professor of human development at Penn State University. "It's more likely to amplify differences than to create common ground. It's like having new dance steps and the music's speeded up."

So often, unless couples consciously examine their motivations for becoming parents, their own differences and how gender and society affect the way they respond, there's more room for misunderstanding and stress.

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