Have you decided you are ready to take the plunge into parenthood? If so, congratulations! There is so much to think about, including the fun stuff like: What should we name our little one?! How should we tell everyone the good news?! But, other super important things to think about include — Am I as healthy as I can be for pregnancy? — and the actual logistics of trying to conceive.
The majority of women do not know they are pregnant until several weeks into the pregnancy, but those first eight weeks are so important. Most of the baby’s major organs have already begun to form, so planning ahead for your pregnancy will benefit both you and your baby.
Preparing for Your Pregnancy
- Start your prenatal vitamin. These are available without a prescription, and they contain all the recommended daily vitamins and minerals you will need before and during your pregnancy. One of the most important components of the prenatal vitamin is folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, especially if taken four weeks prior to conception up through the twelfth week of pregnancy. Most of our diets are deficient in folic acid, so it is recommended that all women (even if they are not trying to conceive) take 0.4 milligrams of folic acid daily.
- Preconception care with your OB/GYN. This could mean just making sure you are staying up to date with your well woman exams, but it is a good idea to let your provider know that you are trying to conceive. That way, the two of you can work to maximize your chance of having a healthy pregnancy. Some medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorder, high blood pressure, seizure disorder, and depression are important to have under control prior to conceiving. This visit would also allow you to review your medication list and make sure everything is compatible with pregnancy. Some medications, including herbal supplements and over the counter medications, can be harmful to the developing baby. Be sure to continue prescription medications until you have spoken to your healthcare provider. Some medications may increase the risk of birth defects, but the benefits for your health may outweigh the risks to baby (and remember, healthy mom is important for healthy baby).
- Healthy diet and exercise. Trying to conceive and being pregnant are good motivating factors to work on healthy living. Remember to have lots of fruits and vegetables with each meal as well as grains and proteins. Try to reach a healthy weight prior to conception; this will go a long way in helping you to have a more comfortable pregnancy and a faster postpartum recovery.
- Stop substance abuse. This is a leading cause of problems during pregnancy. Smoking, drinking, and drug use can all have harmful effects on the baby’s health. Again, use this time of preparation as motivation to become healthier. And remember, most women don’t know they are pregnant until several weeks into the pregnancy. This first trimester is when the fetus is most vulnerable to these harmful substances. Also, encourage your partner to stop substance abuse if applicable. Quitting substance abuse takes dedication and support, so seek help through your OB/GYN or other support groups
- Get up to date on vaccinations. Some vaccines are not safe in pregnancy, so it is best to be up to date prior to conception. The following vaccines can be given a month or more prior to conception but are not safe in pregnancy: nasal spray flu vaccine, measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, and varicella vaccine. These vaccines are safe/recommended in pregnancy: intramuscular flu vaccine and tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine (usually given between 28-36 weeks of pregnancy).
Okay, so you’re ready to start trying to conceive. What should your expectations be? The monthly probability of conceiving is 20-25 percent, so for those trying to conceive, about 50 percent will be pregnant at three months, about 75 percent will be pregnant at six months, and more than 85 percent will be pregnant by one year.
Infertility is a common problem, however, and affects 10-15 percent of couples. Infertility is defined as not conceiving after one year of unprotected intercourse. Evaluation with an infertility specialist is usually recommended at this time. (Most recommend evaluation at six months if you’re 35 or older.) An infertility evaluation involves testing both partners for factors that can prevent conception, and treatment can help.
There are a lot of great apps to help track your period and ovulation days. There are also many ways to maximize your chance of conceiving that particular month. The first day of your menstrual cycle is considered day one. Normally, though, this can vary between people, ovulation occurs on Day 14. Ideally, sperm would already be present in the genital tract when ovulation occurs. So, in order to catch that time, I tell patients to have intercourse every other day between Day 10-20.
Other recommendations include daily intercourse starting five days before ovulation through the day of ovulation. If you want to time intercourse more closely to your ovulation, you can purchase an ovulation predictor kit. This will tell you when you are about to ovulate (and therefore when you should have intercourse.)
I hope this guide helps prepare you for this exciting and life changing process!
Originally published at Tips for Trying to Conceive: