Preparing for Pregnancy: Things You Should Know
Planning for pregnancy can be an exciting but also overwhelming experience. There are several things that you can do to prepare yourself and your body for the journey ahead. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the essential steps to take when planning for pregnancy.
Prepare Your Mind and Body for Pregnancy
Preparing for pregnancy is a lot like preparing for a marathon. It’s helpful to ready your body for this process early! Here are some tips to get you started.
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin. Prenatal vitamins contain essential nutrients like folic acid and iron that are critical for a healthy pregnancy. Start taking these vitamins at least three months before trying to conceive. There is little to no difference between a prescribed prenatal and an over-the-counter prenatal, however finding a prenatal vitamin with DHA in it is a plus!
- Get into a habit of eating a protein-rich, balanced diet. The myth of “eating for two” can lead pregnant people to feel they need to dramatically shift the quantity of what they are eating. Quality and balance are far more important. Read more about The best things you can eat in pregnancy.
- Explore exercise that feels good for your body. Continuing to exercise in pregnancy can keep you and your baby healthy but it can also help you feel physically good as your body stretches and changes in new ways. Finding a form of exercise that makes you feel satisfied now will allow you to keep up with this regimen throughout your pregnancy.
- Stop smoking (vaping), alcohol use, and recreational drug use. Smoking, drinking, and recreational drugs can harm your baby’s health, even before you know you are pregnant. Quitting these habits before trying to conceive can reduce the risk of birth defects, premature birth, and other complications.
- Track your menstrual cycle. For people who menstruate and have a 28-30 day cycle, there is only a 3-5 day window every month you can become pregnant. Knowing your menstrual cycle and patterns can help you identify your most fertile days and increase your chances of conceiving. Using ovulation predictor kits or fertility tracking apps can help you track your cycle accurately.
- Start setting healthy boundaries. Stress can affect your fertility and overall health. Trying to decrease or eliminate things that cause stress in your life can improve your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Easier said than done, right? Of course, most of the things in our lives that cause stress cannot be easily eliminated. Setting boundaries with things like work and family before conceiving might help set expectations for pregnancy. Exploring new outlets for stress relief such as meditation and mental health counseling can also be helpful.
Talk to Your Current Providers
Before trying to conceive, schedule a preconception checkup with your healthcare provider. This could be with your current gynecologist or with your primary care provider. Here are some things your provider might cover during this visit (or some things you can ask your provider to address!).
- Evaluate your overall health. This will likely entail a general physical and lab tests for anemia, STDs, and thyroid levels.
- Get vaccinated. Your provider should check for immunity against hepatitis, varicella (chicken pox), measles/mumps/rubella. If you are not immune, consider getting vaccinated before conceiving as these are not vaccinations you can get while pregnant. Your provider should also offer you your annual flu shot and applicable COVID booster, though these vaccines you can get while pregnant.
- Review any existing medical conditions or medications. If you have any chronic conditions or take any medications, your provider may adjust your dosing or change your prescription entirely in anticipation of pregnancy. Reviewing your current supplements, vitamins, herbal treatments is an often forgotten but important part of this conversation.
- Offer carrier screening. Your provider may offer you and your partner an expanded carrier screen to assess for recessive genetic disorder you may pass onto your newborn.
Checking in with your mental health provider is equally as important.
- Give your body time to adjust to new doses/prescriptions. Early adjustments on dosing or changing prescriptions for any mental health medications before conceiving may allow for an easier transition. Some medications may need to be discontinued completely; knowing how your body feels without its usual regimen before pregnancy may allow you and your provider to troubleshoot more effectively.
- Create a roadmap. Pregnancy can bring on new feelings, stressors, and can unearth traumas. Talking about it with a therapist or mental health provider can allow you to anticipate what these might be and even help create a plan of action.
- Establish care. If you do not currently have a mental health provider, it may be worth establishing care before conception. This way you will have already built a trusted and safe space to explore any new feelings in.
Babies are not cheap! Taking some time to evaluate the financial realities of having a baby can help you better prepare.
- What does my insurance cover? The average cost of a vaginal delivery in 2023 was $14,768 without insurance coverage and $2,655 with insurance coverage. Consider factors like your deductible, out-of-pocket medical costs, maternity leave, and childcare expenses when planning for pregnancy. It may be worth having a conversation with your HR representative to evaluate what, if any, resources your employer might offer.
- What do I need to buy? For such tiny humans, babies need a lot of things. This newborn checklist provides an exhaustive list of all of the things you may need to acquire before baby’s arrival. But before adding a bunch of stuff to your Amazon cart, consider joining your neighborhood parenting group on Facebook. Things babies “need” are often easily outgrown within a few months. Many families are happy to upcycle these items, saving you extra bucks. It’s also a good idea to start planning for childcare, since that is usually the biggest cost of all.
Research Local Hospitals & Birthing Centers
If you have found Oula, you are probably exploring your options for low-intervention and holistic birthing options. You might love your current OB/GYN, but not all prenatal care providers attend births. This can be particularly jarring for people going through pregnancy for the first time – working with one team for your whole pregnancy and then meeting a new team at the time of delivery can be disorienting. Start researching options for the right prenatal care team for you and your family before conceiving. Below are some helpful questions to help orient your search.
- Who do I want to be my provider? Pregnant patients at Oula are largely cared for by midwives but our team of doctors is available for high-risk consult and surgical needs. If you are considering working with Oula, some helpful clarifying content might include what a midwife actually is, how they differ from an OB/GYN, and how they differ from a doula.
- Do I want to deliver in a hospital? Or do I want to explore other options like a birth center or home birth? What does a hospital delivery look like with Oula?
- What practices does my insurance cover? Are the providers/hospitals I am considering in-network? Considering giving your insurance company a call. Many carriers are happy to walk you through the benefits of your particular coverage.
Learn About Pregnancy & Parenting
There is no shortage when it comes to content about pregnancy, labor, birth, and parenting! Parsing through this abundance of knowledge can be daunting and it can be difficult to discern which content is high-quality research and which is opinion presenting itself as evidence-based advice. Oula does regularly publish blog posts on topics that are important to our community, but here are a few helpful external resources to get your search started:
- Evidence-Based Birth; high-quality reviews of journal articles on pregnancy-specific topics. They also have an excellent podcast!
- Why Did No One Tell Me This: a refreshingly honest and comprehensive guide to navigating the blisses and complexities of being pregnant in the United States, written by two doulas.
- Peanut: pregnancy can at times feel isolating. Finding a community of folks going through similar experiences can help. Peanut is an app that allows you to talk to other people going through fertility challenges, pregnancy, and even menopause!
Not everyone walks into pregnancy feeling prepared. The reality is that preparation is not always necessary to have a healthy pregnancy, but it can certainly help you to be more confident as you navigate this joyful but at times overwhelming journey.