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What to Do Before Getting Pregnant: Things to Know Before Trying to Conceive

Thinking of the future

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I’m a pretty Type-A individual who likes to feel in control of most areas of her life. That being said, when it was time to start considering children, I flew into a bit of panic.

When it came to figuring out what to do before getting pregnant, I was at a loss.

Whenever my husband and I began having conversations about taking the next step, my brain went into planning/hyperventilation mode. 

I began mulling over the fifty million things I hadn’t done:

My husband and I hadn’t traveled to Europe.

I hadn’t found my dream job.

I hadn’t written a NY Times bestselling book. 

Okay, okay, that last one is a stretch, but a girl can dream!

The moral of the story is, I continually found more items to add to my “pre-pregnancy planning” checklist.

What I often forgot to consider was how I really felt and how many of the items on my pre-baby list could wait. Bucket list items weren’t reasons to not try for a baby we wanted. 

What IS important is figuring out your goals and how a child will fit in with them. And whether you, your partner, your body, your relationship, and your financial situation are actually ready. 

Let’s talk about preparing for pregnancy–getting your mind, body, soul, and relationship for the life-changing process of trying to conceive.

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Pre-Pregnancy Planning: What to Do Before Getting Pregnant

While there’s no specific list of things to do before having a baby, many people have goals they’d like to accomplish.

We’re giving a list of common goals that may make having a child easier, but remember, these ideas aren’t for everyone.

It’s important to figure out the best goals for you

Some of the most common things people want to do before having a baby include:

  • Becoming financially stable
  • Buying a home
  • Getting a promotion
  • Traveling
  • Working on relationship

These are great goals, and we will talk about the importance of being financially stable and having a strong relationship (if you’re parenting with a partner). 

But just because you can’t travel or make the down payment on a house right now doesn’t mean you aren’t ready for a baby!

Remember, you know your life and family best. 

Biological Steps for Preparing for Pregnancy

Aside from personal and relationship goals, you can also take certain biological steps to prepare yourself for pregnancy physically. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many of these steps include:

  1. Get off birth control if you’re on it
  2. Schedule a physical, OB/GYN, and dentist appointments for yourself. Always talk to your doctor before trying to conceive
  3. Reach healthy weight goals if your OB/GYN feels this is necessary. (We have conflicting feelings about this, but research does suggest that being overweight or underweight may affect your ability to get pregnant). That said, so-called “fat shaming” is common in the fertility and pregnancy world. But we’re here to tell you that you have nothing to be ashamed of! People need to lay off women’s bodies already. 
  4. Talk to your family, especially your mom if possible, about the family history with pregnancy and any infertility issues; pregnancy complications; or other health conditions that might affect your fertility. You’ll want a good idea of your family’s health history before trying to conceive
  5. Break unhealthy habits, such as excessive drinking or smoking. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to stop drinking if you decide to try and get pregnant
  6. Check in with your own mental health, and schedule a therapy appointment if you feel overwhelmed

Is Your Relationship Ready for a Baby?

Sometimes, I fondly look back at the person I was before children and laugh.

I, for one, was one of those people who “wasn’t going to let a baby change my relationship.”

Little did I know, relationship changes are par for the course when kids come into the picture. 

Despite my best intentions, having children most certainly did throw our relationship for a loop.

Thankfully, my husband and I were in a pretty good place before our first daughter came around, and we were able to adjust relatively smoothly.

This isn’t always the case, though.

If you’re wondering whether your relationship is ready for a baby, there are a few things you should consider before jumping in the sack and getting the process started.

Two women consider what to do before getting pregnant
Having a strong, stable, and loving relationship is ideal for bringing a baby into your family.

1. Are You Having a Baby to Fix Your Relationship?

Repeat after me: a baby is NOT a band-aid. A BABY IS NOT A BAND-AID. 

Did you say it? Because I need you to hear yourself say it.

If you and your partner are already having relationship problems, getting pregnant and bringing a child into the situation will not make things easier.

Not only is the pregnancy itself going to be stressful, but your life will take on a whole new look once the baby arrives.

The combination of sleep deprivation, a crying baby, and minimal time to yourselves can take a significant toll.

For couples who are already on a rocky path, these challenges could be the breaking point.

If you and your partner are having issues, be sure to work on building a healthy relationship before getting pregnant, including considering couples counseling!

2. Are You On the Same “Parenting Page?”

Do you and your partner disagree on whether to use the “cry it out” method? Are you on the same page about chores for kids? What method of disciplining your children will you use? How about the number of little ones you plan on having? How will you split the household load between you so you can adjust healthily?

Basically, do you and your spouse agree on the fundamentals of parenting?

Before taking the leap into having kids, it’s crucial to have an idea regarding the type of parents you want to be. 

Part of your pre-pregnancy planning journey should include having conversations about various parenting topics. You’ll need to figure out where you agree, disagree, and whether or not you can reach compromises. 

While many things can be worked out as you go, it’s essential to share some common ground about having kids before they get here.

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Are You Having Kids to Satisfy Other People?

I know, I know – your parents aren’t getting any younger, and they’re desperate to become grandparents. Your mother (and/or your partner’s) probably tells you this every. time. you. see. her. 

Here’s the thing, though: having kids to make other people happy is a fundamentally bad idea.

You and your partner will be the ones raising your children. Neither one of you should be pushing the topic just because someone else thinks you need to.

We know it’s hard to ignore social and familial pressures, but the decision to have children should be yours and yours alone.

Are You Ready for a Change to Your Social Life?

As a mother, I’ve struggled with the idea that I don’t have to be with my kids 24/7.

I often get caught in this headspace where I believe that my husband and I need to be with our children all the time because we’re the ones who decided to have them in the first place.

Not allowing yourself to take a break from your children is the opposite of good self-care for moms, though!

Every now and then, you’ll WANT to use your community or a babysitter to have some time to yourself or to have some time to your partner.

But trust me: especially in those early days when your baby needs you and only you, it’s difficult to be away from them. 

So if you can’t adjust to the idea of giving up some personal time and decreasing the number of social outings you have in a week, this could be a clear indicator that it’s not the best time to be thinking about a baby.

Truthfully, though, this adjustment will likely be hard no matter when you make it. 

The “Before Pregnancy Diet”

So here’s the deal.

We’re including this information because a lot of women search for it before getting pregnant, and because, as we’ve already shown, a healthy body does have an impact on a healthy pregnancy. 

That said, we also want to be clear about one thing: we strongly disagree with the messaging moms with overweight BMIs often receive from their medical providers before, during, and after pregnancy.

We’re not here to tell you to lose weight. We’re here to tell you what the experts say, but also that you and your body are wonderful. 

It’s a widely known fact that the food we eat has a direct impact on our health. There are cardiovascular diets, cancer diets, and even a PCOS fertility diet.

So of course people talk about a “before pregnancy diet” too. We don’t advocate dieting unless under the care of a physician.

Our preferred method of clearing up your health is to work with your doctor and qualified nutritionist to create healthier long-term, sustainable habits. 

Pre-pregnancy Nutrition

So we’ll talk about pre-pregnancy nutrition. According to Stanford Children’s Hospital, you’ll want a good mix of the following foods:

  1. Protein: Be sure to incorporate plenty of lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, and fish, plus other protein sources, including beans and nuts
  2. Whole Grains: Include more whole grains in your diet instead of refined grains. Whole grains include whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice
  3. Vegetables (especially Dark, Leafy Greens): All vegetables are great for a pre-pregnancy diet, but dark, leafy greens, e.g., kale & spinach, are some of the best. Try to choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned, as canned goods are usually full of sodium and BPA
  4. Fruits: As with vegetables, pretty much any fruit is great before conception. In addition to fresh fruit, you can use 100% fruit juice, frozen fruit, and dried fruit
  5. Dairy: Calcium is an important addition to any fertility diet

Notice how this looks a lot like a basic, balanced diet for someone without food allergies, intolerances, or Celiac’s disease? That’s because it is. Trust us, you already know what to do. 

A Happy Heterosexual couple considers what to do before getting pregnant
If you are parenting with a partner, enlist their help with your pre-pregnancy health goals.

How Much Do Babies Cost? Planning for a Baby Financially

Planning for a baby financially is one of the most critical steps to take when it comes to figuring out what to do before getting pregnant.

An article in New York Life claims that the average middle-class family spends anywhere from $12,000 – $14,000 on their children per year. 

For newborns, the cost is even higher because there are so many baby registry must haves you’ll want/need before baby arrives.

This means that families with newborns can expect to spend between $20,000 and $50,000 during the child’s first year of life (New York Life).

These amounts are certainly not pocket change, but keep in mind that you can tailor your own expenses to your financial situation. You don’t have to go “luxury” all the way, or even buy a new house. It’s important to live within your means. The good news is that you’ll also receive a lot of baby items from friends and family, and hand-me-downs are never a bad thing!

Before you jump into having a baby, consider whether you have the means to take care of of your baby financially.

Start Taking Methylated Folate

We’ve all heard it—folic acid is a crucial nutrient for developing babies. It’s not just important to take the supplement while you’re pregnant, however.

Experts suggest that women hoping to conceive should begin taking folic acid two-to-three months before getting pregnant. We recommend 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 a baby’s risk of having neural tube defects, so why not consume it in a way we know our bodies can handle?

But don’t just see “folate” and assume it’s what you need. There are different types, and you need methylated folate, closest to folic acid, to hopefully avoid neural tube benefits for baby.

Our favorite prenatal vitamins are the prenatal and DHA combination by Natalist and the recently reformulated PeaPod Prenatal by Fairhaven Health

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What to Do Before Getting Pregnant: The Most Important Factor

Trying to decide whether you’re ready to have a baby and figuring out what to do before getting pregnant are no easy tasks.

Before you get wrapped up in diet plans and financial worries, however, there’s one more consideration that demands to be contemplated:

Do you FEEL emotionally ready to have a baby?

There are many things to do before having a baby, but if your gut is telling you the time isn’t right, you should take a moment and seriously consider what how you feel.

Rather than rushing into a decision you can’t undo, sit with your feelings, talk with your partner if you plan to conceive with someone, and consider how you really feel about taking the next step in becoming a parent.

Is Now the Time for You to Become a Parent?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the reasons you shouldn’t have a baby. If you feel in your heart that you’re ready, though, that’s the most important thing to consider.

Having a baby is not the end of your life. 

There is still plenty of time to make more money, take more trips, and get more promotions. If you and your partner are ready to start a family, you’ll figure out the other things along the way.

Trust your gut and go with the decision that feels right. 

If you don’t have kids yet, have you started thinking about what to do before getting pregnant?

When I first told my mom the title of this blog, she looked at me incredulously and said, “Why undefining? Why not redefining?”

“Because motherhood is a role that’s been defined for far too many centuries,” I say. “And often not even by mothers themselves. It’s been prescribed and defined and changed and redefined so much that I don’t understand how anyone can feel authentic in their experience of it anymore. Not to co-opt another movement that’s happening right now, but time’s up. It’s time to learn to do this authentically, not according to prescription. For years, I’ve studied the history and theory of how motherhood has been defined, prescribed, turned into an institution with a set of rules. And I’m sick of it. It’s time to put that knowledge into action.”

“It’s perfect,” she replied.

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