So you’ve decided to try and have a baby. Congratulations! We wish you a smooth road and plenty of baby dust.
The moment you decide you’re ready to start preparing for pregnancy can be incredibly overwhelming. You’re scared, excited, nervous, maybe even terrified–and your emotions yo-yo between these feelings without much warning.
If you’re like us, planning and prepping can really help you feel a bit of calm in the midst of a situation you can’t control, which is why we’ve compiled tons of information for you about preparing for pregnancy.
In this article, I will walk you through:
- Preparing your body and mind,
- Preparing your relationship,
- And preparing your career for pregnancy.
Let’s do this!
Pre-Pregnancy Planning: What to do Before You Get Pregnant
We’re mostly familiar with the process of preparing for a baby once you become pregnant–see your doctor, take prenatal vitamins, stop habits like smoking and drinking . . .
But there’s actually a lot to do before you start trying to conceive (TTC).
We’re huge proponents of mental and physical health for mamas, so let’s start there.
(1) Understand the Realities of the Reproductive World
If we’ve learned anything about preparing for pregnancy, it’s that you can’t always expect a smooth ride.
We don’t say this to scare you; we mention it because we want you to be in a good place mentally and emotionally before you become pregnant.
Here’s the hard-to-hear fact of the matter:
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends trying for one year before seeking help if you’re under 35; 6 months if you’re over 35
- 1 in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and miscarriage is fairly common in the first twelve weeks (first trimester).
We want you to hear this for a few reasons:
- Many of us go into pregnancy expecting to get pregnant easily, and then we break down emotionally when our period arrives 3 months into trying. These emotions are valid, but for many people, getting pregnant is just not that easy.
- Miscarriage is more common than we’d like and can be extremely difficult to manage emotionally.
Knowing about these potential struggles ahead of time can help you prepare emotionally to deal with them.
(2) Check in With Your Mental Health
Understanding where you are in terms of your mental health is imperative when you are planning for pregnancy.
If you feel mentally and emotionally stable and you have support from a partner and/or friends or family, that’s wonderful! Your journey might still be difficult, but being in a good place with good support will help tremendously.
Many of us, however, live with various mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression, which can negatively affect our respective mental health journeys.
If you are planning a pregnancy with a pre-existing mental health condition, we highly recommend that you speak with both your therapist/psychiatrist and your OB/GYN first, especially if you are taking medication.
Tommy’s has tons of well-researched information about planning a pregnancy with pre-existing mental health problems.
As a mom who went through pregnancy with a history of anxiety, I can tell you that having good mental health care was essential throughout my TTC, recurrent miscarriage, and pregnancy journeys.
(3) Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy
It might sound surprising to you, but preconception health is actually a thing. It’s meant to help improve your chances of carrying a healthy pregnancy.
Preparing for pregnancy is a great way to keep yourself active and engaged in the planning process before you become pregnant (being proactive can help with stress and anxiety levels, too!).
Here are 4 active ways to take charge of pre-pregnancy planning for your physical health:
- Schedule a visit with your OB/GYN for a preconception checkup. You’ll want to talk to your provider about medical conditions that run in your family and any issues that you think might affect your fertility. You’ll likely get questions about your medical history and family history with conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, fertility problems, and birth defects.
- Take a prenatal vitamin with methylated folate. Why methylated folate instead of folic acid? Well, it’s a long story, but the basics are as follows: nearly 50% of people actually have a genetic variant called MTHFR, and some variations of MTHFR inhibit the body’s ability to process folic acid. Methylated folate takes the guesswork out as all bodies can process folate in its methylated state. Folic acid is integral for lessening baby’s risk of having neural tube defects, so why not consume it in a way we know our bodies can handle? Our favorite prenatal vitamin is the prenatal and DHA combination by Natalist.
- Make sure you’re up-to-date on important vaccinations. The CDC has a specific list of guidelines for vaccinating pregnant women, including recommendations for preconception and post-conception vaccines. Talk to your medical care provider to ensure you’re where you need to be.
- Go to the dentist. You weren’t expecting this one, I know. But hear me out. Pregnancy is often accompanied by weakened teeth and gums, so you want your mouth in optimal health before going into it. Also, if you need dental work done during pregnancy, you’ll be limited on the medications you can use, so we recommend getting it all out of the way first.
(4) Prepare Your Relationship
If you’re choosing to go at this as a single parent, good for you. In your case, prepare your support network because you’ll definitely need them.
If you’re trying to conceive through plain old sexual intercourse with your partner, it’s essential that you both be on the same page about having a baby.
Have very clear conversations about your plans for parenting, including talks about your respective professions and faiths. Be clear about how you want to raise your child together.
Make sure you’re equally prepared for the struggles that can come along with trying to conceive.
During pregnancy, you’ll want your partner to be supportive of what your body is going through and what you’re dealing with emotionally. But you’ll also want to be supportive of them.
It’s easy when trying to conceive to put a lot of pressure on your partner, especially if you’re using an ovulation tracker.
Many male partners complain that they feel stress when they know their partner is ovulating, and that it makes the process extremely stressful.
Finding a way to enjoy trying to conceive and spending extra time together in the bedroom can really lighten the mood and decrease everyone’s stress levels. This is super important since there can be a connection between stress and infertility.
Please also know that the Domestic Violence Hotline is a helpful resource if you’re experiencing any violence at home that might compromise your health or your future baby’s well-being. Services are confidential, and you can call 1-800-799-SAFE to speak with a trained advocate.
(5) Prepare Your Career
Understanding how you’ll manage doctors appointments, leave if you have a miscarriage, and maternity leave are all hugely important aspects of the pre-pregnancy planning process.
Worrying about work seems like something you can save for later, but it’s actually really important for planning.
Figure out the answers to questions like:
- Will you be able to take time off to attend necessary doctor’s appointments?
- Will you be granted any sort of leave if you miscarry?
- At what point will you be comfortable telling your superior or HR department if you are pregnant?
- Will you be comfortable telling your superior or HR department if you lose a pregnancy?
- How will you manage your workload if you’re plagued with morning sickness?
We don’t mention any of this to discourage you. Tons of women juggle careers and pregnancy. I juggled infertility, recurrent miscarriage, and a high risk pregnancy all while working, and it worked out wonderfully.
I was lucky to have an extremely supportive boss, which not everyone has. But stil, it can be done.
If you’re a US mama, there are a few other questions we encourage you to consider in relation to maternity leave and the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA):
- Does your job qualify for FMLA?
- Will your leave be paid or unpaid?
- If unpaid, do you have short-term disability insurance, which will likely pay you partially for your maternity leave?
If you don’t have paid maternity leave or short-term disability, I strongly encourage you to opt-in to it during open enrollment if at all possible.
If you have any reason for the company to deny your request, they will because they’ll know based on your age and sex that you might need maternity leave. But know that, if denied, you can appeal.
I was denied due to a history of anxiety, but I wrote an appeal letter in conjunction with my therapist and was approved for short-term disability.
Thank goodness since it supplemented 60% of my income while I was on maternity leave with Jack.
(6) Preparing Your Home for Pregnancy
You heard me. I recommend preparing your home for pregnancy.
And no, I don’t mean that you need to babyproof your house as soon as you start trying to conceive. I mean that there are products you might want to consider having on hand to help during the TTC process.
Talk to your doctor about your vitamin regimen to ensure it has all you need, but here’s what we recommend keeping stocked:
- Prenatal vitamin with methylated folate
- DHA supplement if it isn’t part of your prenatal vitamin
- Preseed lubricant – it sounds silly, I know, but sex-on-demand doesn’t always jibe with your body’s rhythm, so having a lubricant that supports sperm health isn’t a bad idea
- Extra-absorbent maxi pads – you’ll need them if you lose a pregnancy, and you’ll need them postpartum. So no matter how this process goes for you, eventually, you’ll need them.
- Download your favorite ovulation tracker app
- Learn about the best ways to track ovulation and choose the right one for you
- Buy a fertility monitor, if that’s the choice you make. I highly recommend either the OvaCue fertility monitor (it was a game-changer in my fertility tracking journey) or the Ava Bracelet (a slightly easier option, though I’ll always swear by OvaCue)
Did you do any pre-pregnancy planning? Tell us what you found most essential in the comments!
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.