Preparing to become pregnant
So you think you want to be a parent - at least sometime in the near
future. How exciting! Having a child is a wonderful experience that will
enrich your life forever. But the decision to have a child shouldn’t be taken
lightly. Parenthood is a lot of work, and the best way to approach it is by
preparing yourself so that you’re as ready as possible for this big change.
Thinking ahead can give you and your baby the best possible beginning.
If you’re reading this book and are still in the planning stages before
becoming pregnant, you’re giving yourself a head start on the exhilarating,
sometimes bewildering path toward parenthood. Taking steps to be
healthy and informed now can help set you up to enjoy a healthy
This introductory chapter includes some key concepts and actions to
take that can help make your transition to pregnancy as smooth as
possible. If you already know you’re pregnant, congratulations! You may
want to page through this chapter and begin with Chapter 2.
Is the time right?
When your friends with children tell you to say
goodbye to lazy weekends and impromptu nights
out, and hello to nighttime feedings and loads of
baby laundry, they’re not kidding. Having a baby
is life-changing. In most ways it’s wonderful, but
life will never be the same. Although there’s
probably never a perfect time to have a baby,
some phases of your life may be more conducive
to pregnancy and new parenthood than others.
Questions to ask Here are some questions you
might ask yourself in determining whether the
time is right:
-Why do I want to have a baby?
-Does my partner feel the same way I do? Do
we share the same ideas about how to raise
a child? If not, have we discussed our
-How will having a baby affect my current
and future lifestyles or career? Am I ready
and willing to make those changes?
-Is there a lot of stress in my life right now
that could interfere with my ability to care
for myself and enjoy my pregnancy? What
about for my partner? Is stress an issue?
-Emotionally, are we ready to take on
-Financially, can we afford to raise a child? If
I’m single, do I have the necessary resources
to care for a child by myself?
-Does my health insurance plan cover
maternity and newborn care?
-If I decide to return to work, do I have
access to good child care?
If you haven’t thought about any of these
issues so far, it doesn’t mean you’ll have an
unhealthy pregnancy or be unable to care for a
child. But the sooner you set the stage for a
successful outcome, the better your odds. That’s
true whether you’re still in the planning stages,
are trying to conceive or already have a baby on
Is your body ready?
You don’t have to be exceptionally fit to have a
child, but if you’re healthy to begin with, you
have a better chance of enjoying a healthy
So how do you know if your body is ready for
pregnancy? Have your care provider give you the
green light. Make a preconception appointment
with your obstetrician-gynecologist, family
physician, nurse-midwife or other care provider
who will be guiding you through your pregnancy.
A preconception visit gives you and your care
provider a chance to identify any potential risks
to your pregnancy and establish ways to
minimize those risks, as well as discuss general
If possible, have your partner attend the
preconception visit with you. Your partner’s
health and lifestyle - including family medical
history and risk factors for infections or birth
defects - are important because they, too, can
affect you and your baby.
At your appointment, your care provider will
likely conduct a complete physical examination,
including a blood pressure check and possibly
updating your pap smear and pelvic exam. Some
of the subjects you might talk about include:
Contraception If you’ve been using birth
control pills, a vaginal ring, the patch, a
contraceptive implant or an intrauterine device
(IUD), you may be able to conceive shortly after
discontinuing use. Some women become
pregnant before their next period. (Not to
worry - an expected due date can still be
determined accurately without knowing the
timing of ovulation.) If a waiting time is desired
after stopping contraception, use condoms or
another barrier method until you’re ready to
become pregnant. For most women, a normal
menstrual cycle will return within three months
of stopping birth control.
If you’ve been using contraceptive injections
(Depo-Provera), you can try to conceive as soon
as you stop receiving regular injections - but it
could take up to 10 months or more for fertility
Immunizations Infections such as chickenpox
(varicella), German measles (rubella) and
hepatitis B can be dangerous in pregnancy. If
your immunizations aren’t complete or you’re
not sure if you’re immune to certain infections,
your preconception care may include testing for
immunity and receiving one or more vaccines,
preferably at least a month before you try to
Chronic medical conditions If you have a
chronic medical condition - such as diabetes,
asthma or high blood pressure - you’ll want to
make sure the condition is under control before
you conceive. In some cases, your care provider
may recommend adjusting your medication or
other treatments before pregnancy. He or she
may also discuss any special care you may need
during your pregnancy.