Got babies on the brain? While you can never totally predict how your pregnancy will go, a little planning can go a long way to help set you up for a successful nine months…and beyond. Here, experts share the physical, emotional, and logistical things to consider.
The doctor says…
Meet with your gynecologist at least six months prior to when you want to start trying to have a baby, advises OBGYN Sherry A. Ross, MD. “You and your partner want to be your healthiest selves before embarking on the most life changing journey of your lives,” she says. (So, yes, that means he should go in for a physical as well.) This appointment is the time to walk through your medical history to make sure you don’t have any underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, that might cause problems during pregnancy. “Good control of medical conditions prior to pregnancy is the key to avoiding problems that can escalate during pregnancy and the postpartum period,” says Dr. Ross. Discuss your family and genetic history, too, as certain inherited disorders can put you and your partner at risk of having a child with an unexpected inherited medical condition, she adds.
Reassess your meds
Certain medications can be harmful to the embryo during the early stages of conception, says Dr. Ross, so now’s a good time to start weaning off them. Common ones include oral acne treatments such as spironolactone and Accutane, as well as minoxidil (aka Rogaine). Talk to your doc about what you’re taking, and the best way to come off of these medications.
Keep your BMI in check
“An abnormally high or low body mass index can affect your chance of getting pregnant,” says Dr. Ross. “A BMI under 18 or over 30 can cause hormonal disruption that can disrupt ovulation,” she adds. Keep in mind that maintaining a healthy weight increases your chance of regular ovulation and gives you a better chance of becoming pregnant.
Take your vitamins
Dr. Ross suggests women start taking folic acid three months prior to conception; it’s an essential vitamin that, among other things, reduces the likelihood of spinal defects. She recommends looking for a prenatal or multi-vitamin that contains at least 400mcg-1mg of folic acid. Omega-3 fish oil is a good pick, too — it promotes healthy development of the fetal brain and visual system — and you may also need vitamin D supplementation if you’re deficient, she adds.
The relationship expert says…
Now is the time to have a seriously candid convo with your partner. Step one: Make sure he or she shares the same desire and is ready to start trying, advises New York-based relationship expert Dr. Jane Greer, author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. The whole ‘pushing them into it’ thing? Not the best idea. “Sometimes it works out. Once they are in it, they may feel happy being a parent,” says Dr. Greer. “But pushing someone can also backfire, and they can end up harboring tremendous resentment against you and even the child.” If you’re not on the same page, be open to the reasons why your partner is reluctant to start a family. Listen to their fears and concerns, then suggest leaving the conversation open and revisiting it again in a few months, advises Dr. Greer. “If at that point he or she is still dead-ending you, pose the question, ‘What needs to change in order for you to be ready?’ This will encourage self-reflection on his part.”
Be realistic about timing
Keep in mind and consider how long it will take you to get pregnant, says Dr. Greer. It may happen right away, it may take months, and unfortunately, there’s just no way of knowing. But in thinking about timelines, remember that it may not always happen the way you intend. And consider major life stuff, too: jobs, living situations, planned travel. Assess all of the outside factors and plans that could impact your life and may affect the timing of your pregnancy, she adds.
The financial planner says…
Take a closer look at your healthcare coverage when preparing for pregnancy. “Make sure the doctor you want is in-network and contact your insurance carrier to understand what your plan covers,” advises financial expert Doug Eaton. “You’ll avoid any unwanted surprises and be in a position to pay for any out-of-pocket costs well in advance.”
Plan for maternity leave
Not all maternity leave is created equal, so do a deep dive into all of the options your company offers and all of the nuances and details. “You want to ensure that you’re financially prepared for time off to bond with your new child,” says Eaton. (Have your husband look into paternity leave policies, too, as more and more companies now offer some time off for men.)
Work out a baby budget
Even if your current cost of living is all squared away and budgeted for, be aware that babies are not cheap, cautions Eaton. That means factoring in everything from daily expenses such as diapers and food, to more major costs such as medical care and an education fund.
Start an emergency fund
If you don’t yet have one, now’s the time to start saving for that proverbial rainy day. “Having at least four to six months of household living expenses saved is a good start,” says Eaton, and will give you a bit of a cushion for any unexpected emergencies or life changes.
The new mom says….
Be patient with yourself and your partner. It may take longer than you think to get pregnant, says Emmy Mercurio, who had a baby earlier this year. And while it’s easier said than done, relax as much as you can during the entire process, no matter what happens. The calmer you are, ultimately, the better everything will be for you and baby once it does happen, she says.
Don’t go overboard with research
“Keep outside reference materials to a minimum because it often leads to confusion and anxiety,” advises Mercurio. To that point, while it’s tempting to grill every pregnant person you know, remember that each person’s experience is totally unique, just as yours will be, she adds.
Find an OBGYN you love and trust
“It makes all the difference,” says Mercurio. Not happy with your current one? If you're preparing for pregnancy, switch to someone whom you feel completely comfortable with, as you’ll be seeing them way more often once you do get pregnant. Establishing a good relationship with your doctor pre-pregnancy is key and can go a long way towards helping make the pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum stages smoother and more comfortable.