You're thinking about starting your journey toward becoming a mom. You've subscribed to the baby and parent magazines or checked out the websites. Maybe you've thumbed through a couple of baby name books, too. You're mentally ready to welcome a little one. Now it's time to get your body as healthy as possible, too.
But it's not enough to put together a to-do list. There are things to avoid, too. If you want to get pregnant, make sure you DON'T do any of these:
1. Lose or Gain a Lot of Weight
Weighing too much or too little lowers your chances of becoming pregnant. Either can cause irregular menstrual cycles. When you don't have a period every month, your ovaries won't release an egg, or ovulate. When this doesn't happen, you can't make a baby.
Sometimes, weight changes cause swings in hormone levels that lead to infertility. Also, obesity makes you more likely to have:
- Gestational diabetes, a type that only happens during pregnancy
- A baby with a high birth weight and certain birth defects
Your goal is to have a healthy weight before and during pregnancy. Experts suggest moms-to-be aim for a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 27.
2. Overdo the Exercise
It's never healthy to be a couch potato. But if you're thinking of getting pregnant, this isn't the time to train for a triathlon. Vigorous exercise might bring on hormone changes that make it hard for your ovaries to make or release eggs.
Intense running, aerobics, swimming, or biking makes it harder to get pregnant even if you're at a healthy weight. But if you're overweight, exercise can help you shed pounds and improve your odds for pregnancy.
3. Put Off Starting a Family Too Long
If you're in your late 30s, you are a little less than half as fertile as you were in your early 20s. Talk to your doctor about your age and your baby-making odds so you aren't caught off guard. Men should keep this in mind, too. While the mom's age plays the biggest role, guys over 50 are less fertile, too.
4. Wait Until You Miss Your Period to Stop Drinking
If the thought of getting pregnant has passed through your mind, even for just a second, experts say you should give up happy hour now.
Consider this: Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. So you could be enjoying a night out on the town with a few cocktails and not know you're already pregnant.
If you're drinking, your baby is, too. The alcohol that's making you feel relaxed could interfere with your baby's brain and nervous system growth. Alcohol affects your baby at every stage of pregnancy, especially in the early weeks.
Need more reasons why you and your partner should back away from the bar?
- There's no safe level of prepregnancy alcohol drinking. Also, there's no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.
- If you're getting fertility treatments, like IVF, having four or more drinks a week lowers your chances of having a baby.
- Your guy should put down the glass, too. Alcohol can lower levels of the sex hormone testosterone and cause erectile dysfunction. You probably won't get pregnant if that happens.
Tobacco is unhealthy, period. If you smoke, you should quit even if you aren't trying to get pregnant. If you do want to make a baby, kicking the habit is a must. Keep these risks of smoking in mind:
- More than 10 cigarettes a day greatly lowers your odds of getting pregnant.
- Smoking causes changes in your fallopian tubes and cervix that can lead to a miscarriage. It can also cause a pregnancy outside of the womb, called an ectopic (or tubal) pregnancy, which doesn't lead to a baby.
- Smoking may damage your ovaries so you make fewer eggs. The fewer eggs you make, the less likely you'll get pregnant.
Tell your man to stop smoking, too. Lighting up may lower his sperm count and make them swim slower.
Also, if you're having trouble getting pregnant and need in vitro fertilization (IVF), smoking can make it much less successful.
If you're already pregnant, smoking may cause changes in your baby's reproductive organs that could make it hard for him or her to make a baby later in life.
6. Double Up on Your Vitamins
If you're thinking about getting pregnant, take a prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. It helps prevent birth defects called neural tube defects.
But don't take handfuls of megavitamins or supplements. Too much vitamin A, for example, is linked to problems in a growing baby.
7. Amp Up on Energy Drinks or Espresso Shots
Rest and relax. Remember, you'll be awake many long nights once the baby arrives. When it comes to caffeine, the message is moderation. A couple of cups of coffee a day shouldn't affect your chances of getting pregnant. But if you have a double shot of espresso, 3 diet sodas, and a chocolate bar during the day, it's time to cut back.
8. Skimp on Sex
Seems like a no-brainer, right? But it's worth repeating. If you want to get pregnant, you need to have lots of sex. Couples who get busy every couple of days are more likely to get pregnant.
9. Stop Taking Your Meds
You might think you need to stop all your medications before you get pregnant. But they aren't always unsafe for a baby. Stopping some of them could be dangerous for both of you. Never stop any treatments without talking to your doctor.
This is especially important if you're being treated for conditions like seizures, depression, or high blood pressure. For example, if you stop seizure medicine and have one while you're pregnant, you could starve the baby of oxygen.
Work with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that's safe for both of you. He may need to change your medicine or dose. If you're taking an antidepressant that's working, you may be able to safely stay on it during pregnancy.
10. Use Illegal Drugs
Street drugs can harm you and your growing baby. It's not good enough to stop taking them when you find out you're pregnant. Your baby's organs are forming, and the drugs in your body will affect his growth. So stop using illicit drugs the moment you start thinking about getting pregnant. It can take a while for the substances to clear your bloodstream. Encourage your partner to kick his habits, too. Smoking pot, for example, can affect his ability to make a baby.
11. Skip Your Vaccines
The minute motherhood enters your mind, call your doctor and make sure your vaccines are up to date. If you need any, you'll want to get them more than a month before you conceive. The especially important ones are:
- Rubella (German measles)
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
These diseases can cause problems or birth defects in the baby if you get them while you're pregnant.