We’ve all heard it before: 9 months of pregnancy is no joke! And that’s nothing compared to the early weeks of caring for a newborn! But the highs definitely outweigh the lows, and all the upheavals and struggles are all worth it once you meet your bundle of joy.
While it’s true that nothing can prepare you for the blindsiding of pregnancy and childbirth, it doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to try and make the experience a little easier on you.
The real work begins even before you see those lines on the pregnancy test. Here are some things you can do to better prepare yourself physically and psychologically as you embark on this life-changing journey.
Check in with your OB-GYN.
When was the last time you had a complete physical? It’s always a good call to check if the oven’s working fine before sticking the bun in it. Don’t be shy about taking up your doctor’s time–you have be thorough as this is your child you are talking about! Here are just a few things you should cover:
- Any recent illnesses you had and any maintenance medication you are currently taking
- Your and your partner’s medical history (please do ask about genetic carrier screening, or to be referred to a genetic counselor for further consultation)
- Lifestyle changes–smoking, drinking, or drug use problems that need to be addressed
- Any prescription medications that will have to be stopped
- A recommended prenatal multivitamin to begin taking
- Your immunization history, or if you will need to be vaccinated to ensure your and your fetus’ safety during pregnancy
- A new Pap smear if you haven’t gotten one in a while
- STD or STI testing, just to be absolutely sure
It’s integral to get a comprehensive picture of your current state of health before getting pregnant, so that you’re secure in the knowledge that you’re more than you’re physically capable to carry your child. It will also give you peace of mind–at least, before the hormones kick in!
Follow through with folic acid.
This is one of the most important vitamin supplements to take even before pregnancy, as the correct dosage of folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in babies up to 70 percent, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Your doctor will probably prescribe you a prenatal multivitamin containing at least 400mg of folic acid, or you can ask about taking a separate supplement. Just make sure to run the brand name by your doc–some multivitamins can contain the wrong form or dosage of Vitamin A, which undermines folic acid’s effects and can even cause birth defects.
Stay away from smoking (and all drugs).
Kick that habit cold turkey. Nicotine consumption in pregnancy has shown links to miscarriage and premature birth, or low birth weight despite carrying to term. Your partner should ditch his cancer sticks too–not just out of respect to you, but also because smoking affects his sperm count (and thus, your chances of conceiving).
Even secondhand smoke is a big no-no. It’s time for a big lifestyle change: Skip the nights out and opt for quieter pursuits at home. You’ll probably want to enjoy all those quiet, early nights bingeing Netflix while you still can, anyway.
Just say no to junk food.
Speaking of lifestyle changes, it’s high time to re-evaluate the contents of your fridge and pantry. A healthier diet is a must if you want to conceive a healthy baby, and you’re going to want to get a head start on eating clean, green, and lean the earliest you can (and before the food aversions and cravings hit).
Focus on incorporating more green leafy vegetables and lean proteins in your diet, as these are beneficial for building a stronger body capable of growing and birthing a beautiful baby.
Shed some excess pounds.
Not because you’re making room for the inevitable baby weight, but because it’s been found that women with higher BMI often struggle to get pregnant. It isn’t impossible to get pregnant if you aren’t at a healthy weight, but you’ll often be at risk for delivery complications or gestational diabetes, too.
Starting your pregnancy with a healthy number on the scale just sets the stage for a healthy weight gain throughout the trimesters and (hopefully) a complication-free birthing experience.
Take a trip to the dentist.
Yes, pregnancy affects even your mouth! Hormones can cause gum and tooth problems, and might exacerbate any conditions you may already have. You can try to avoid this by checking in your with dentist and getting a clean bill of (oral) health. Also, don’t put off any procedures that need to get done–you won’t be cleared for dental surgery while pregnant, and you won’t have the time or inclination postpartum, either.
Get smart about your money.
Babies cost a bundle–it’s just a fact of life. It’s never too early to get your health insurance in order, consider the many birthing options available and their concurrent costs, and crunching the numbers to check your financial soundness considering you might have to go on maternity leave (and buy a ton of cute but pricey baby things). The last thing you want or need is money matters stressing you out while you’re pregnant, so do the dirty work now.
Embrace your inner germaphobe.
Avoiding infections is key when conceiving. You don’t want to put your little fetus at risk because of a bad bug. Disinfect your car and home, and consider commutes that don’t expose you to too much environmental hazards (if possible).
Try to veer away from unpasteurized foods that might harbor bacteria. You might also want to wear gloves while handling your kitty litter–exposure to cat poop can lead to toxoplasmosis, an infection that could lead to miscarriage.
At the end of the day, we don’t live in a perfect world, and there is no perfect pregnancy immune to any and all dangers and risks. Don’t sweat it if you discover you’re already pregnant and haven’t ticked off everything on this list–as long as you listen to both your doctor and your body, and keep trying your hardest to stay healthy by making smart moves, you’re already well on your way to being the best mom you can be!