Not long ago, when a woman wanted to become pregnant, she simply stopped taking her oral birth control and waited for her next period. However, women are now savvier, better informed, and more concerned about their health and that of their future pregnancy. And with thousands of mommy blogs out there, it can be hard to know where to begin.
What should you do before becoming pregnant?
Take a daily prenatal vitamin.
Folic acid deficiency has been shown to cause birth defects affecting the spine and brain, so you want to make sure sufficient folic acid is built up in your system before becoming pregnant. Take prenatal vitamins for 2-3 months before becoming pregnant. Look for a prenatal vitamin containing Folic Acid (at least 800mg), Iron (25 mg), and vitamin B6 (10 mg). And remember, more expensive prenatal vitamins are not always more effective. Your doctor can help you narrow down the choices.
Kick the habit for all your vices.
Smoking increases the risk of infertility and can lead to premature delivery as well as delivery complications. Alcohol consumption while pregnant can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, involving a range of lifelong physical, intellectual, and behavioral disabilities. Developmental problems are also common in children born to women who abused illegal drugs while pregnant or took over-the-counter medications harmful to the fetus. When informed of your plans to become pregnant, your doctor will advise you if you should stop taking any of your regular medications and inform you of any medications you should avoid to prevent harming the fetus. Your doctor can also provide additional strategies and support if you are having trouble kicking a habit.
Prioritize your physical health
A healthy diet and regular exercise are always important. During pregnancy, these habits help ensure the baby develops normally and that your body will handle the strain of pregnancy and delivery well. Good habits can be tough to implement, so be sure to give yourself time to make a long-term adjustment in your lifestyle. Also, if you have any chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, or thyroid disorders, meet with your doctor to make sure these are controlled to avoid unexpected difficulties during pregnancy. Your doctor can also share how your pregnancy might affect your illness, and if you should change your treatment plans after you become pregnant.
Prioritize your mental health
Many women are familiar with postpartum depression, but fewer know that depression and anxiety are normal during pregnancy. For most women, their symptoms are not severe enough to require treatment, however many should seek treatment but don’t. Also, people who have experienced mental health problems in the past such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, panic attacks, OCD, and eating disorders may find those problems reoccur during pregnancy. By meeting with a therapist or psychologist to treat any existing mental health concerns and learn coping strategies for anxiety and depression before becoming pregnant, you will be better prepared to recognize changes in your mental health and to seek treatment before your health and that of your child suffer.
Stop taking your oral contraceptive or have your IUD removed by your doctor.
When stopping use of a contraceptive, periods may become longer, more painful, and irregular. Spotting and intermittent ovulation is common at first. The resulting changes in hormone levels may affect weight, hair growth, acne, mood, even the frequency of your headaches. Your body may need between 6 months and a year to reach a new equilibrium, depending on the types of contraception used. If you are still not pregnant after a year, consider making an appointment with your OB/GYN to discuss your fertility.