Making that decision to “start a family” is a huge one. Congratulations! But there is more to planning and preparing for pregnancy than just making a decision. You now need to find out if your body is fit and ready for pregnancy first.
Pay a visit to gynecologist or obstetrician
Ask most young parents and they’d tell you, mostly in hindsight, that one of the first things to do before deciding to get pregnant is to visit a gynecologist or obstetrician. Just because you are mentally prepared to have a baby, it doesn’t mean that your body is prepared for it too. Especially, if you have a family history of late or complicated pregnancies or you have been / are on medication. Some kinds of medication needs to be stopped and you need to sit out a waiting period for the residual medicine to leave your body before you can start your baby-making. That’s why it is important to meet a medical professional beforehand and take pre pregnancy tests and checkup that are recommended. And it’s better you do this together – take your spouse along too. This is the first step in preparing your body for pregnancy, especially if you are past 30.
Visit your dentist too
This might sound odd, but to effectively prepare your body for pregnancy, it is important that you visit a dentist, especially if you have a history of dental problems. But do this even otherwise. More and more research links oral health to a healthy pregnancy. If you have gum disease then you would be more prone to miscarriage and premature birth.Having your teeth examined right away gives you time to heal and avoid unnecessary and risky medication or dental procedures during pregnancy. Hormonal shifts during pregnancy can also make you more prone to gum disease. So visit a dentist without fail.
Eat healthy and quit partying
This is the time you need to make healthy food choices. The food you eat now is what will fortify your body with nutrients and prim you for pregnancy. Eat fruits and vegetables, actually more of vegetables, every day. Concentrate on greens. Whole grains are a must too as well as dairy like milk and curds from where you’d get your supply of calcium. You need to also get a good serving of protein every day. Opt for beans, nuts, seeds, soy products, chicken, and lean meat. If you are a non-vegetarian, remember not to over dose on chicken, especially of the broiler variety. If possible keep off broiler chicken, opting for mutton from organic sources instead. And don’t binge on liver either. A small serving a month is ok. If you are the partying type, watch what you eat. Choose your restaurants well. Go for wholesome places that serve fresh food and go easy on all the fried, cheesy, oily foods as well as all poultry and meets served there. (As an aside, how bad do you want your baby to be healthy? Really bad? Then go easy on the partying and restaurant food, quitalcohol and cigarettes too.)
Stick to the folic acid intake recommended
Folic acid is one of the key supplements you need to take from the time you decide to have a baby right through your pregnancy. The recommended dosage is 400 micrograms. But you’ll have to check with your doctor first. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Folic acid may also protect your baby against premature birth, low birth weight and miscarriage.You need to start taking folic acid every day for at least a month before you become pregnant but always go by a prescription from your gynecologist or obstetrician because dosages may vary from case to case. As a matter of fact, if you follow the first pointer mentioned in this blog – that of visiting a gynecologist or obstetrician – this should be addressed effectively.
Go easy on caffeine
Some studies point to the fact that too much caffeine can lead to miscarriage. But there has been no authoritative take on how much caffeine is too much. So to be on the safer side, limit your intake to about 2 cups of coffee a day. That doesn’t mean you can load up on the caffeine content in those 2 cups. Remember that there’s caffeine in sodas too. So if you have an affinity for both of these, that’s possibly a whole load of caffeine – something you don’t want too much of now. Curbing the habit of coffee could be a little difficult, so you could start with shifting to decaffeinated coffee. Decaffeinated beverages contain caffeine in much lesser amounts. What you can also do is increase the amount of milk in your coffee and bring down the bean.
Maintain a healthy weight
A healthy weight and maintaining it is important for an easy conception. It’s easier for you to become pregnant if you are of the right weight. Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is lesser or more than the ideal could make it more difficult for some women to become pregnant. Women with a higher BMI tend to have complications during pregnancy (hypertension and diabetes) or at the time of delivery while those with lower BMI have underweight babies. Being overweight also leads to abnormal menstrual cycles and subsequent infertility. Your doctor would recommend what’s good for you – but it’s fairly simple: look out for what you eat and be active so that you can get to and maintain a healthy weight before getting pregnant.
If you are non-vegetarian, check your fish intake
This is for all those of you who love your fish and must have it daily. Granted that fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are very important for your baby’s brain and eye development, along with other vitamins and minerals. But fish also bring with them mercury. Babies exposed to mercury in the womb can have brain damage as well as hearing and vision problems. Avoid mackerel, swordfish and shark and shift to white tuna or sardines. It would also be a good idea to limit your intake to about 2 servings of fish a week. Steer clear of sushi. Raw fish is an absolute no-no at this time.
Exercise – follow what the doctor recommends
Only a healthy body can lead to a fit pregnancy. So you need to start right away with getting your body in shape. Can you walk or cycle for about 30 minutes a day or more? Can you follow up with it till you gain your healthy body and maintain it beyond? The answer must be “yes”, if you are looking forward to a fit pregnancy. Flexibility is also important, so you can throw in a few stretching exercises as well or opt for yoga. But whatever you do, let your doctor know you are doing it. She might have other plans for you as far as the type of exercise is concerned. If you have never exercised before or have stopped exercising since a while, start with an easy walk for about 15 minutes a day and then increase your pace week by week. You can also give up the elevator for the stairs. But before you start any of these consult a doctor.
Stay clear of catching infections
Salmonella and other dangerous bacteria are the culprits you need to watch out for now. Salmonella comes through various foods that are kept in the refrigerator for long. Unpasteurized dairy products harbour pesky bacteria that cause illnesses leading to miscarriage even. It’s best that you choose your food from reliable sources and always read the label for the expiry date. Even better is making all your requirements of dairy products at home. If nothing else, you can be sure of being in control of the temperatures you subject milk to before storage and use. You can also make your own curds, paneer and cheeses, devoid of preservatives. You need to also avoid undercooked food like fish and meat. Keeping your hands clean and washing them every time you prepare food would also be a good hygiene precaution.
Find out when you ovulate
You can’t entirely leave it up to nature. So it’s necessary to know when you ovulate to up the chances of getting pregnant. You need to track your periods as well as certain symptoms to arrive at your fertile days. Two definite indicators that you are reaching your fertile period is the increase in your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) and the viscousness and flow of your cervical mucus. Some women can naturally read tell-tale signs of increase in BBT. If you don’t fall in this quadrant or want to be more certain, it would be a good idea to get hold of a BBT thermometer. Then check your BBT every day on waking up (and do this regularly without fail, at the same time). When you notice a significant increase from the normal, it means you are in your ovulation period. And that you need to be together with your spouse during this period.
Prepare yourself financially
It’s a good idea to take a look at your financial health just about now, viz-a-viz, the cost of pregnancy, delivery and the monies you’d need in the days immediately following delivery where most Indians have to honour traditional ceremonies that cost a lot more now than in earlier times. A natural pregnancy will cost you lesser than a cesarean, but if your baby develops minor complications – as most babies do now – you will have to be prepared for that as well. Costs would depend on the hospital you have chosen. You only have to ask them for details of possible expenses. It is also a good idea to take insurance that covers both the mother and baby, during pregnancy and after. If before or after delivery you intend to employ a domestic help trained in handling pregnancy related needs, you will have to factor that as well in your financial audit / plan. Factor in all other expenses you are likely to incur. Your parents, in-laws and friends will be able to throw light in this regard. Then prepare your nest egg.
And learn all you can about pregnancy
Finally, you’ll have to learn all you can about pregnancy. It helps you greatly along the way, without throwing you into pockets of unnecessary turbulence. However, this does not mean you have to do all the learning by just reading or watching videos. In fact, more than the reading and watching of videos, it is talking to people that will easy your anxiety and answer your questions – even the unasked ones. Then, there’s always your doctor. If you choose a doctor who is affable and the kind who educates her patients, you are already half way home.
Tips & Tricks
Dieting during pregnancy can cause abnormalities and a low birth weight in your baby; therefore your ideal weight should be reached before pregnancy.
Taking folic acid in its natural form before pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects. You can find them in fruits and vegetables, fortified cereals, and enriched bread products. If you’re planning to conceive, you should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day.
If you are on contraceptive pills, it could take a few months before your periods are regular and you begin ovulating again. It usually is best to stop the pills at the end of a cycle to avoid mid-cycle bleeding.
Before buying a home pregnancy test kit, be sure to check the expiry date. For accurate results, take the test after one week after the missed period; testing very early, can give you negative results.
Green tea and orange pekoe (popularly known as 'regular') are considered to be excellent fertility enhancers. Research has shown that women who regularly drink tea, increase their chance of conception.