The time has come. You and your partner are ready to have a baby. The anticipation is rising. A hundred thoughts and questions race through your mind: “Are we really ready?” “What will it feel like to have another human grow inside me?” This is an exciting and life changing time in your life, but also a time when you are stuck in limbo, so to speak. You are planning on falling pregnant which means you need to prepare yourself. The time between now and when you fall pregnant could be short or long; you don’t know how long exactly. What can you can do in the meantime to get physically and practically ready to have a baby?
1. Go see your gynaecologist and obstetrician
Now is the time to get up to date with your health. Visit your doctor for an overall assessment of your health, rule out any STDS, have a cervical smear, catch up on vaccines and find out if you need any medication to help you fall pregnant. This may also be the time to have a blood test done to learn if you have a natural immunity to Rubella as well as letting your doctor know if you have previously had Rubella.
While you are at the doctor find out if they are an obstetrician. Ask the questions you have around pregnancy, babies, and fertility. Gauge if your doctor is someone you feel comfortable with and trust to walk with you through your journey of becoming a parent. Remember that it is ok to change doctors if you are uncomfortable at any time or feel that your doctor will not fully support you or your decisions.
2. Understand your menstrual cycle
Most women do not have a regular menstrual cycle. Know how long your cycle is and its frequency. This will help you know whether or not you may be missing a cycle due to pregnancy
3. Increase your folic acid intake and prenatal vitamins
Increasing your folic acid intake to 400 micrograms a day will reduce the risk of your baby developing neural tube defects. Folic acid is responsible for helping your baby develop a healthy brain and spinal cord. You can purchase folic acid pills over the counter at your local pharmacy. If you have coeliac disease, diabetes or are on medication for epilepsy or obesity, you will need a higher dosage of folic acid which your doctor will prescribe to you.
Prenatal vitamins will ensure that your body is getting all the necessary nutrients to help create a healthy baby with strong bones and teeth.
4. Work on a healthy diet
If you need to lose weight, now is the time to do so. Being overweight can affect your fertility even preventing you from falling pregnant easily; if you are underweight you fertility will also be affected. Work towards a healthy weight.
A well balanced and nutritious diet is important for fertility and pregnancy. Cut out the simple carbs, sugars, and excess salt. Increase your water intake and eat vegetables, fruit, dairy, eggs, meat and fish. Foods to focus on are avocados, eggs, dark leafy green vegetables, salmon and tuna. These foods contain higher amounts of iron and omega 3s which are important for a healthy pregnancy.
5. Stop your contraception
Pretty self-explanatory isn’t it? If you want to fall pregnant, stop taking the pills that keep those little sperms at bay. Let them run wild and race against each other until one of them wins.
6. Spend time with your mom
Moms love to be with their daughters sharing experiences, wisdom, and knowledge. Talk to your mom about the time when she was pregnant. If you have sisters, find out how they experienced being pregnant. Become aware of any history of pregnancy complications in your family line. This does not mean that you will have the same complications; however, the information is helpful in preparing you for your pregnancy. Chat to your mom about the various old wives’ tales and myths surrounding pregnancy. This is a great time for you and your mom to bond. You will need the support from your mom throughout this journey of starting a family.
6. Reduce your caffeine intake
Large quantities of caffeine can affect your fertility and have side effects on your unborn child. If you drink a lot of caffeine, now is the time to begin experimenting with different teas and non-caffeinated beverages. If you are someone who needs their daily cup of coffee, look at decaffeinated coffee. During your pregnancy you can have one to three cups of coffee a day without harm to your fertility or unborn baby.
7. Stop alcohol and smoking
Alcohol and smoking cause long-term harm to your baby and increase your chances of miscarriage. This is not something any parent wants to experience. Now is the time to stop. It is best to avoid all illegal drugs, smoking and alcohol in order to keep yourself and your baby healthy and well. Your immune system will improve giving you a better pregnancy and healthier baby.
Men should also reduce alcohol to the recommend amount of fourteen units per week. Both alcohol and smoking affect a man’s semen count thus it is best for both of you to stop smoking and lay off the alcohol. Plus the added support will help both of you walk towards a healthier lifestyle.
8. Visit the dentist
Go for a dental check to make sure that your gums and teeth are healthy and strong. Gum disease and other dental problems are known to increase the chance of miscarriage as well as bringing on early labour. It is worthwhile to ensure that you are healthy from head to toe.
9. Go back to your natural hair colour
Although there is no concrete evidence that hair dye causes harm to a baby during pregnancy, the chemicals emitted by dye are not recommended for pregnant women, particularly in the first trimester. You could look into highlighting your hair before you fall pregnant. This way you get the best of both worlds and do not have to worry about hair maintenance. This is one of the grey areas of pregnancy so it’s a matter of personal preference.
10. Have fun
While you are excitedly anticipating the day when you will find out that you are pregnant, take every opportunity to have fun doing the activities and pursuing the interests that are not wise or safe for pregnant women. Sit down with your partner and make a list of all the fun things you can do now that you won’t be able to do when you are pregnant or have a baby. Until you have your baby, work your way through that list: watch movies, go to fancy restaurants, travel with your partner, and much more.
The reality is that when you are pregnant sitting down for long periods of time may be exhausting and sore. Similarly when you have a baby, you and your partner will be eating at home more frequently or dining at child-friendly restaurants. Now is the time to indulge yourself in those things that you might not be able to enjoy later.