Planning a Pregnancy: Steps to Prepare Yourself

Posted on July 31, 2021

When it comes to planning a pregnancy, there's no such thing as planning too early. It's important to make sure your body is prepared for the rigorous and beautiful process of making a baby. 

Long before you're ready to conceive, you'll need to know what to do before getting pregnant to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby. A bit of planning ahead will improve your chances of success.

From proper diet to stress management, here are the steps you can take to have a happy and healthy pregnancy. 

Stop Birth Control

The first step when planning for a baby is to stop using any form of birth control. Once you've stopped taking birth control you can start to try to conceive right away. You may choose to wait a few months to track your cycle, but otherwise, you don't need to be off birth control for any length of time in order to try. 

How Easy is it to Get Pregnant After Birth Control? 

How soon you can get pregnant after you stop using birth control depends on the type you use. 

Barrier methods like diaphragms and condoms don't introduce hormones into your system, so you can get pregnant right away after getting rid of those methods. 

Once you stop taking combination hormones like those usually found in pills, skin patches and rings you can get pregnant as soon as 1 to 2 months afterward. Roughly half of women get pregnant within three months and most within a year. 

Results with progestin-only methods of birth control can vary. After you stop taking progestin-only pills, also known as the "mini-pill," you can get pregnant right away and most do within about 6 months. For progestin-only shots like Depo-Provera, it can be anywhere between 3 to 18 months before you are able to get pregnant. 

With IUDs, ovulation can return right away and most women using this method get pregnant within 6 months to a year. 

Taking the Right Vitamins

Even if your diet is well-balanced and rich in nutrients, it's important for a healthy pregnancy that you add a prenatal or multivitamin to your daily regimen. The work of making a baby takes a lot out of your body. You will need an extra boost in some areas.

Your doctor may suggest you start taking these vitamins as soon as 3 to 6 months prior to trying to conceive. Some women take them as soon as they are of child-bearing age. 

What Vitamins Do You Need?

When it comes to prenatal vitamins, one of the most important ingredients is folic acid. Folic acid is crucial in neural tube development and preventing neural disorders like spina bifida. The neural tube, which becomes the brain and spinal cord, begins to develop within the first month of pregnancy before many women even know they're pregnant. 

Your body produces one and a half times more blood during pregnancy. For some women the volume doubles. Iron is essential to producing healthy red blood cells which oxygenate your blood and carry oxygen to your baby.

A wide range of prenatal vitamins is available over the counter at your local pharmacy. Your health care provider can discuss with you which brand vitamins are best for you.

Some of the best brands include One A Day Prenatal Vitamins and Nature Made (which adds DHA). There are also vegan options made by Garden of Life. Whichever brand you choose, make sure it has at least 400 mcg of folic acid, 17 mg of iron, 400 IU of vitamin D, 200 mg of calcium, 70 mg of Vitamin C, and 150 mcg of iodine (helps with thyroid issues). 

Avoid taking extra doses or more than one prenatal or multivitamin at a time. Too much of some vitamins, like vitamin A, can cause harm to your baby. Since your baby will be going through various stages of growth and development for your entire pregnancy, it's important to take your prenatal vitamin daily all nine months. 

Once you become pregnant, persistent morning sickness may interfere with your ability to take pills. In this case, there are chewable options on the market that you can take instead. 

Eat Right

It's important to have a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein even when you're not pregnant. Proper nutrition is even more important while you're pregnant to ensure the development of your baby. 

Your body goes through a great deal during pregnancy, so you'll need the right amount of fuel for you and your growing baby. Consuming a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods will help make sure you're getting everything your body needs. Try to avoid processed foods that are heavy in sugar and salt. 

Protein helps the fetal tissues and organs develop, so you'll need to aim for between 70-100 grams per day. Calcium is necessary for the growth of strong bones and teeth. Good sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, and leafy greens.

Speaking of leafy greens, these superfoods are also rich in iron which your body needs for the production and flow of blood. It's a good idea to aim for around 27 mg of iron a day. 

When you don't eat a healthy diet it can lead to improper development of your baby. Overeating or consuming a lot of junk food can result in obesity, which can cause preeclampsia, preterm labour, and high birth weight. 

How Much Should You Eat?

You're not technically eating for two, so eating just a few more calories than usual will suffice. You can add an extra snack or a small meal to your diet.

While you don't want to overdo the calories, you definitely want to make sure you're eating enough. You can do harm to your baby and yourself if you're not consuming enough calories. 

Insufficient nutrients are linked to birth defects and a lack of calcium can affect the development of your baby's bones and teeth.  Significant undereating can also lead to premature birth or miscarriage. 

Proper nutrition during pregnancy is vital to breastfeeding as well. When you're not eating enough, your body can't store the fat that it takes to produce milk

Water Intake

Water helps your body absorb all those nutrients you consume in food and vitamins. It's also helpful in preventing constipation, hemorrhoids, and swelling in your feet and legs. Getting in 10 or so eight-ounce glasses of water per day will keep you hydrated, cool down your body, even help increase energy.

Are There Foods Not Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

The short answer is yes. Pregnant women and ten times more likely to be exposed to listeria due to contaminated foods.

These are some foods you should avoid:

  • Raw and unpasteurized dairy products
  • Raw and undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Uncooked hot dogs and deli meats

What you put in your body is very important while you're pregnant. Taking certain safety precautions when buying and handling food will help keep you and your baby safe. 

Schedule a Doctor Visit

When preparing for pregnancy, it's a good idea to visit your general practitioner perhaps as much as a year before you plan to conceive. It is important to get a thorough physical pre pregnancy to determine if you have any underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Both of these can cause serious complications during pregnancy. 

It's also a good time to make sure you are all caught up on your vaccines. Pertussis and flu vaccines in particular are highly recommended for pregnant women. The antibodies from the vaccines will actually help the infant after it is born.  Also, it is critical to ensure that if you are travelling while pregnant, to get all of the important vaccines for travel. Once again, your doctor will be able to guide you accordingly here.

Believe it or not, it's also important to see your dentist prior to becoming pregnant. Unchecked gum disease can be linked to preeclampsia, preterm birth, and miscarriage. It's also a great time to get updated x-rays since you will be unable to get them while pregnant. 

Once you're closer to the time you've decided to prepare to try, make an appointment to see your obstetrician. Prior to this visit, gather your family medical history so you can discuss any potential genetic issues. You can also discuss your expectations and concerns regarding pregnancy and delivery and how to prepare your body for pregnancy. 

If you've been trying to get pregnant for one year without success, it may be time to visit your doctor to make sure there are no issues with either you or your partner. 

Get Plenty of Sleep

The advice given most often to expectant mothers is to get your sleep while you can. After your baby is born, you will most likely not get much sleep. 

The quality of your eggs will determine how viable embryos are when implanting in your uterus. Your brain produces the hormone melatonin in response to darkness. Not only does melatonin help promote sleep but it also controls the rhythm of your reproductive hormones and acts as an antioxidant within the egg cell to improve the quality of the egg. 

A lack of sleep inhibits the production of melatonin, so it's important for fertility that you get plenty of rest. Since the quality of sleep is more important than quantity, getting 7 to 8 hours of solid rest per night is ideal. Sleeping for too long has an adverse effect as well because the quality of sleep tends to be poor when you snooze for more than 9 hours at a time.

Your sleeping position can also be a factor when considering how to get pregnant. There's really no right or wrong way to sleep, but there is evidence to suggest that lying on your back with your pelvis slightly propped up will aid in conception. Truthfully, you should sleep in whichever position is most comfortable for you. 

What do you do if you generally have trouble sleeping?

  • Avoid caffeine close to bedtime
  • Get regular exercise
  • Put your phone and other screens away at least an hour before bed
  • Make your bedroom as dark as possible
  • Go to bed at a regular time every night

Quality sleep is the key to overall health when planning pregnancy. It's your body's time to heal and repair, so take some steps to make sure you are getting adequate rest. 

Remedy Your Stress

Stress can wreak havoc on your body, namely your ability to sleep, which we've already discussed is crucial for fertility. The enzymes and hormones your body produces when stressed can also inhibit your ability to conceive.

Women who had high levels of the enzyme alpha-amylase take 29% longer to conceive. The stress hormone, cortisol, can cause a disruption in communication between the brain and the ovaries, delaying ovulation. When the human body senses excess stress levels, it determines that it might not be the best time to have a baby and will act accordingly.  

If you are under a great deal of stress, there are things you can do to help ease the strain. Things like moderate exercise and eating a healthy diet are already great things to be doing when trying to get pregnant. They also help reduce stress levels. 

Other things you can do include meditation and engaging in creative activities. Whatever it is that relaxes your body and mind, find time to do those things. If these self-care measures fail to relieve your stress, you can reach out to a counsellor for help.

Sometimes eliminating stressful situations or concerns can also help you relax. Preparing to have a baby is a big deal and there are lots of things to consider and planning ahead may relieve some stress. For instance, if you plan to work after the baby is born you'll also feel more at ease if you have a plan in place for your maternity leave

Final Thoughts on Preparing a Pregnancy

This is an exciting time in your life. Planning a pregnancy can be full of wonder and stress. Knowing the steps you can take to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy allows you to focus more on the joy of the journey. 

Healthy habits like a balanced diet, moderate exercise, and getting plenty of rest will help you have a safe and happy pregnancy. 

Starting a family also takes financial planning. For the best rates on insurance, mortgages, and other financial products, Insurdinary has the tools to save you money and time!

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