Go off antidepressants, if possible- Women with mild to moderate depression should speak with their doctors three to six months before trying to conceive about possibly weaning themselves from these drugs. For women with severe depression, it may be better to stay on antidepressants because depression can be harmful to the mother and baby, according to Lee Cohen, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard. Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, Zoloft and the older tricyclic antidepressants have not been found to cause birth defects or complications during pregnancy.
Get vaccinated- If you haven’t been immunized against such diseases as German measles, Rubella and hepatitis B, you risk harming your baby if you get the disease while pregnant. You also risk passing the disease on to the baby. Since live viruses may injure a fetus, get these shots at least three months before trying to conceive.
Go for genetic counseling- If your family has a history of an inheritable disease, a genetic counselor may advise you and your husband to get tested to see if you are carriers of those diseases. People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are often referred to a genetic counselor to discuss whether they should have a panel of tests for diseases that are more common in that population. Otherwise, you and your obstetrician can discuss tests to check for sickle cell anemia, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis and other conditions.
Avoid extreme stress- Extreme stress can affect fertility, says Richard J. Paulson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology and chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Southern California. Young women taking final exams, for instance, frequently miss a menstrual cycle. If you’re ready to get pregnant, try to avoid any situations that might cause high levels of anxiety.
Quit alcohol, coffee and cigarettes- Women who avoided this triple threat conceived at a rate of 27 pregnancies per 100 menstrual cycles, according to a study of 124 women by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The conception rate of women who had one alcoholic drink a week was 11 percent, compared with 18 percent among women who did not drink at all. It was 12 percent among women who drank about one cup of coffee a day, compared with 20 percent among women who drank about a quarter cup of coffee. Women who drank alcohol and coffee had a conception rate of 11 percent. Smokers had a conception rate of 6 percent, compared with 17 percent among nonsmokers.
Aside from affecting fertility, cigarettes can cause miscarriage, bleeding complications, abnormal presentation and low birth weight.