Preparing for a Pregnancy
2023 Baby Plans? Here's What You Can Start Now.
With just over 2 months until we welcome the new year 2023, we put together a to-do list for women and men with a plan to start - or restart - trying for a baby in 2023. Read along to prepare your body and mind for the journey - being informed and having a plan can reduce the #ttc overwhelm a bit, too.
1. See your PCPs
Your overall health is the foundation of your reproductive and prenatal health. Now is the time to set up some appointments with your doctors. This should include:
- Annual physical for both you and your partner, if you are due for one. Let the doctor know that you are planning to get pregnant and ask if you need to update any vaccines, including a COVID-19 vaccine booster. Find out what implications preexisting conditions have on a pregnancy and vice versa. Go over prescription medications you are on and make sure they are safe to take during the preconception and prenatal periods. If you have any family history of genetic conditions, discuss those with the doctor, too.
- Preconception checkup at the OBGYN. If your primary care doctor is an OBGYN, this and the annual physical may be a combined visit. March of Dimes has an in-depth guide on what to look for during your preconception checkup.
2. Visit other doctors, too
- A dentist visit. It’s not well known, but dental health impacts pregnancy outcomes. Physiological changes during pregnancy also increases women’s risk toward periodontal disease and cavities. It’s a good idea to go into a pregnancy with a good dental foundation, with a cleaning and any necessary dental work squared away.
- A specialist visit. You may need to discuss your pregnancy plans if you have a preexisting condition you are managing with a specialist.
3. Check your insurance coverage
Speaking of medical care, this is a good time to check your insurance coverage. The unfortunate truth in the US is that care around reproductive health can be costly, even with health insurance. Find out what’s covered – from preconception tests, prenatal visits to delivery – and what your out-of-pocket expenses might be.
4. Stop birth control pills
If you’ve been using a barrier method like condoms as your birth control, you can just stop using it just when you are ready to start trying. If you’ve been using a hormonal birth control, however, plan on discontinuing it and switching to a barrier method a month or two before you want to start trying. Some women start ovulating right after they stop taking birth control pills; others take a couple of months to have their first ovulation.
5. Track your cycles and ovulation
If you don’t now, start tracking your menstrual cycles and ovulation. Knowing when ovulation is happening and when you are fertile will help you time your sex to maximize your chances of getting pregnant. A couple of months’ data will help you get a clearer sense of your cycle and ovulation. If you find out that you might not be ovulating, even after a few months off birth control, a visit with your OBGYN will be a good idea.
6. Update your lifestyle
- Eat healthy and incorporate movements in your daily life. Mediterranean diet has been suggested as one of the most pregnancy-friendly ways of eating. (Do you need recipes?) Focus on good fats (omega-3/DHA), antioxidants that can help protect eggs and sperm, and these nutrients that women are most likely to be low on. Light exercise will also help you stay healthy, physically and psychologically.
- Start taking prenatal vitamins. Start taking prenatal vitamins 3 months before you plan to get pregnant – that’s the common advice from OBGYN doctors. Start on one with enough choline and folate so that your body is topped up in the first few months of pregnancy, the crucial period for the baby’s growth, especially their central nervous system. This is when the baby need the brain-building choline and folate the most.
- Consider reproductive health supplements. If you are interested in using dietary supplements to support your reproductive health, now is the time to start on those, too. It can take a few months for supplements to influence egg and sperm health.
- Figure out if you need to gain or lose weight. Both being overweight and being underweight have been associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes like gestational diabetes, premature birth and so on. It can be a difficult process, but you can use the next month or two to move your weight in a healthier direction.
- Stop smoking and start tapering down the alcohol. This goes without saying! And the bit about smoking – that applies to men, too. Studies have shown that smoking negatively affects sperm health. So, men should also stop smoking when on a TTC journey.
- Consider limiting your exposure to endocrine disruptors. Some common chemicals have been known to interfere with production and regulation of reproductive hormones – in both men and women. The most common are bisphenol A (BPA), found in hard, clear plastic containers; phthalates, found in a wide range of items including plastic containers, scented shampoo and detergent; parabens, often found in cosmetics and hair care products; PFAS, often called "forever chemicals" and found in nonstick pots and pans, food packaging, cosmetics, DWR-treated clothing and more; and heavy metals. While it’s unrealistic to try to eliminate these endocrine disruptors entirely, reducing your exposure by choosing products without them may help your TTC journey.
7. Review your finances
Lots of families have a baby on a frugal budget, but having a baby can be expensive, even before we get into the medical costs. Having a little buffer gives you more options - and that can be such a relief on the TTC journey. So, if this isn't a routine for you, take some time to review your financial health now and make adjustments where needed.
8. Make a to-do list
Let's face it: Preparing for, trying for and maintaining a pregnancy – while preparing for the baby’s arrival – is a logistical challenge. That’s especially true if both partners have full-time jobs, have medical conditions to manage or have other kids or family members to take care of. Making a to-do list – and co-owning it with your partner – can help with the overwhelm.
Make sure, also, to include some fun things you want to do now before you are pregnant or have a newborn.
9. Talk to friends and family with experience
Feeling overwhelmed or lost is natural, especially for first-time parents-to-be. After all, deciding to try for your first baby is a big decision, and given the prevalence of the nuclear family in the US, many of us don’t have much personal exposure to what goes into the process.
So, talking to someone who has gone through the process can be helpful. That’s how you get the practical, specific tips that you may not get from internet searches or on social media.
And of course, reach out to us if you have any questions or need help navigating the start of the journey. We are with you.
Start putting pieces in place for your 2023 baby plan
If you are thinking about adding a baby to the family in 2023, now is the time to start putting pieces into place. Use the rest of this year to get ready physically, logistically and emotionally for your TTC journey next year – and your journey might start just a little less hectic and stressful.
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