When you know you want to have kids, it can be so exciting to start the countdown to when you’re going to start trying to conceive. But when you’re not actively trying, it can feel like you’re twiddling your thumbs, just waiting for time to pass until you can try. But even if you’re not actively trying, there is plenty you can do to prepare yourself and your bod to make a home for a wee baby for nine months. We’ve compiled a preconception checklist — all of those things you should do to take care of you before trying to conceive!
10 Things to Do Before Trying to Conceive
1. Start taking prenatal vitamins. Even if you’re not big on taking vitamin supplements, prenatal vitamins are a good idea even before you conceive. They typically contain more folic acid and iron than other vitamins, which are both crucial to the baby. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, while additional iron supports the baby’s growth and development and helps prevent anemia. My doctors have always made sure I’m taking prenatals, and I’ve done both prescription and over-the-counter versions. I’ve just always thought of them as extra insurance that I’m getting what I need for the baby and myself. Find one you like and go!
2. Chart! It’s a good idea to start keeping track of your cycles. At the very least you want to write down the date of your last period so you know how long your cycles are and when to expect it. Plus, it helps you time intercourse better for conception. You can also go for the gusto and chart your cycles and cervical fluid with a service like Fertility Friend, which will help you further nail down when to do the deed. It also has the option to input your basal body temperature, which you take in the mornings so you can track when you ovulate. I also read Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which had tons of helpful information. All of these things helped me learned that I ovulated around day 20, rather than the standard midway point of my cycle. Had I been aiming earlier in my cycle, it might have taken much longer for me to get pregnant!
3. Check out your coverage. It’s a good idea to check out your insurance coverage and to see what is covered and where. Before you find a doctor or hospital you love — and then realize they’re not covered by your plan.
4. Find an OB/GYN. It’s also a smart idea to start getting ideas for doctors and midwives you might want to see for your pregnancy. Start by checking out who’s covered in your network. Location is also really important unless you have a lot of free time and daytime flexibility; you’ll see your doctor a lot for short visits, and you don’t want to have to drive too far to do it. Ask friends who they saw for their pregnancies or if they like their doctor to get more recommendations. I found both my OB/GYN and my pediatrician through my neighbor! And remember, it’s never too late to switch doctors, so if you meet with someone for several visits and change your mind, just do what’s best for you.
5. Drink less. I don’t drink a ton of alcohol — a glass of wine a week and a beer here and there — so giving up drinking during pregnancy isn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Still, beverages sound awfully good sometimes (like during Cocktail Week!), and I can see how it would be harder for women who really enjoy their bevvies to nix it. Try to cut down more gradually in the months leading up to go time. You certainly don’t have to give it up until you get that positive test, but tapering slowly in the months before might decrease the shock to your system!
6. Eat well. Eating well is so important to a good pregnancy, so it’s a good idea to get in the habit before the nausea sets in! Making fruits and veggies staples now will make it a lot easier to reach for them when you’re pregnant, instead of all of those sweet treats your body wants (which you can totally indulge in moderation!). From previous pregnancy experience, I know that my love of veggies and salads go to basically zero when I’m expecting, so I ate tons and tons of greens and salads until my body started turning up its nose at them when morning sickness set in. Even later in my pregnancy, I’m still not loving the greens.
7. Exercise. Exercise is great for mama and baby alike, so if you’re not already in the habit, get moving! Exercise can help keep pregnancy weight gain under control, make getting through labor and delivery easier, and make recovery easier, too. Plus, it’s amazing at how much more difficult life is with 25 to 35 extra pregnancy pounds on your body — make sure your body is strong so it can deal with it! You can begin an exercise program during pregnancy even if you haven’t been exercising — walking and prenatal DVDs are great options for that — but with so much change already going on, it’s better to just be in the habit beforehand!
8. Check yo’ lady parts. You probably know the uncomfortableness of a yeast infection or a UTI, but a lot of vaginal infections are actually asymptomatic. And — here’s where the TTC part comes in — some vaginal infections have been linked to preterm labor. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on what’s going on down there and even consider testing at-home with something like e.p.t.’s Preconception Health Test before you start trying.
9. Make sure your bedroom is TTC friendly. Did you know that a lot of lubricants actually harm sperm? True story. Of course, the best way around this is foreplay, but if you’re used to using lube in the bedroom (or, you know, wherever), swap it out for something that’s sperm-friendly like Pre-Seed. (Yep, they really do make everything for everything!)
10. Love yourself. It sounds silly, but truly, love yourself! Take good care of yourself by relaxing when you can, sleeping plenty and getting a handle on stress! Start up a meditation practice, even if it’s just a few minutes each day to get in the right state of mind, and enjoy your quiet time. (Your baby will steal much quiet time, so enjoy it while you can!)
What did you have on your to-do list before you were trying to conceive? What would you add? —Erin & Jenn