Before You Conceive

Before You Conceive

So, you are ready to get pregnant. You have your finances and medical insurance in order, your partner is supportive of the decision to have a child, and you feel ready to begin a new journey. Before you begin trying to conceive, there are some things to consider.

Healthy moms, healthy babies

Adopt a healthy life-style as soon as you begin trying to conceive. That means no smoking or being near smokers, no drinking alcohol, no unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals, avoiding or treating infections, consulting with your doctor before taking any medications, staying fit, and eating well.

Begin taking a multivitamin with folic acid, which is known to prevent birth defects. You reduce your chances of giving birth to a baby with a neural tube defect (for example, anencephaly or spina bifida) by 50% to 70% if you start taking at least 0.4 mg of folic acid each day two to three months before you start trying to conceive.

Make a doctorîs appointment at least three months before trying to conceive. This initial appointment is particularly important if you have ever had a miscarriage or pre-term delivery. The cause of the problem can often be diagnosed and treated, so that your next pregnancy has a better chance of being a healthy one. Get a physical and pap smear. It is easier to take care of health problems now than when pregnant.

Get any health problems such as diabetes or hypertension under control. If you cannot stop drug, tobacco or alcohol use, then get help before becoming pregnant. Limit caffeine intake. New research indicates even relatively small amounts (several cups of coffee a week, for example) can increase miscarriage risk.

Be honest with your physician about your personal history. If you have had abortions, miscarriages, sexually transmitted diseases or multiple partners, be upfront about it. It may be important information. If you have a family history of birth defects, or disease, talk to your physician. He or she may recommend a visit with a genetic counselor. If you take a blood test before you get pregnant, for example, your doctor can tell you if your body contains certain antibodies that guard against German measles.

If you lack the antibodies, you can get a German measles vaccination three months before you become pregnant to give the live virus time to leave your system before the virus is exposed to a pregnancy.

Try to rid your life of excessive stress and tension. Take care of yourself. There is some evidence that stress can reduce fertility, and high tension levels arenît good for pregnant moms, either. Exercise, read, begin a journal, meditate ò do what you need to do to be at your personal healthiest. In other words, act like you are already pregnant.

Healthy Dads

Even men need to prepare to get pregnant. Begin taking a multi-vitamin and try to eat a healthy diet. Stop illicit drug use, and, if possible stop alcohol and tobacco use. Get a physical and make sure everything is fine. If you have any health problems, try to get them under control. It is easier for your partner to eat well and take care of herself if you are too. Have dad ditch the briefs and opt for boxer shorts. It is thought that overheated sperm arenît very fruitful, so forgo the Jacuzzi, too.

In animal studies, certain chemicals have been identified as causing miscarriages or birth defects when males are exposed to them before impregnating females. Among these chemicals are alcohol, heroin, lead, solvents, and pesticides.

Insurance and Finances

Check your health insurance. Make sure you have maternity coverage. If you donît, you cannot get it after you get pregnant. If you do not have disability insurance, get it now. You may want to conserve some of your vacation/sick leave time for doctorîs appointments or maternity leave. If you would like to stay home with a baby, start saving or trying to live on one income now.

Timing is Everything

To get pregnant, you need to have unprotected sex around the time of ovulation. For most women, ovulation occurs about 14 days before your period is due. So, if you have regular 28-day cycles, you will probably ovulate around day 14 (the first day of your period is day 1). Sperm can live for a few days and the egg can live about a day, so many doctors suggest you try every other day or every day from about 5 or 6 days before you expect to ovulate, up through the day of ovulation or the next day. Sperm needs to be in the vicinity before you ovulate for the best chance of conception.

You can chart your cycle through a Basal Body Chart and/or use any variety of ovulation predictor kits. Some women are also able to tell they are ovulating due to changes in their cervical fluid or ovarian cramping.

Increasing the Odds

Make your vaginal environment as sperm-friendly as possible. Avoid vaginal sprays and scented tampons, artificial lubricants, vegetable oils, glycerin, and douching. Not only can they cause vaginal infections, they may wash away cervical mucus or create a hostile environment for the sperm. After intercourse, elevate your hips on a pillow for about fifteen minutes.

If at First, You Don't Succeed

Getting pregnant isn't always easy. Very few couples conceive on the first try. In fact, even if everything is absolutely in perfect working order, you only have a 20-25% chance of conception each month. For a healthy couple over 35, the odds are about 15%. If you are over 30 (some say 35), and you havenît conceived in six months, make an appointment with your physician. If you are younger than 30, and havenît conceived within a year, then go to the doctor. If you are over 40, then do not delay in getting medical help. Those are general guidelines, but if you feel strongly about it, make an appointment sooner, particularly if you have been charting your temperature and using other ovulation predictor methods.

Journal Articles:

A.J. Wilcox, C.R. Weinberg, D.D. Baird (1995) Timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation--Effects on the probability of conception, survival of the pregnancy, and sex of the baby. NEJM vol. 333 no. 23. Publ date 12/7/95


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) at (202) 638-5577 to find a physician
BBT Chart lin

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