Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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If you're reading this, chances are good that you're thinking about having a baby soon. But before the serious baby-making begins, check out this get-ready-to-get-pregnant guide. Already started trying? No problem. It's never too late to make lifestyle changes that will improve your health ... and your child's.
Check yourselves out: Since it takes two to do the reproductive tango, you should schedule a pre-conception checkup for yourself and your partner. During this exam, your health care provider will go over issues such as your and your families' health histories. "Understanding patients' gynecological history and past pregnancy experiences can be very important in helping them plan healthy pregnancies," says John R. Sussman, M.D., associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Connecticut School of Medicine.
At this exam, your caregiver also should check that your immunizations are up-to-date. Chickenpox and rubella are the two main ones to concern yourself with now. If you're not immune to both diseases, you should ideally be vaccinated three months before trying to conceive. Both are "live" vaccines, so they're not recommended during pregnancy.
Special cases, special advice: Women with chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease or lupus will need to have them carefully managed. For women with diabetes, the odds of having a healthy pregnancy and baby increase if they are able to get their blood sugar under control before they become pregnant. A pre-conception checkup should include a test for diabetes if a physician suspects you may be at risk. Women who are being treated for depression or anxiety, or who've struggled with mood disorders in the past, also should get special care.
Clean out your cabinets: Your medicine chest is probably filled with over-the-counter medications you take for headaches, allergies or constipation, and perhaps a variety of herbal products, too. Now is the time to start thinking about what's in there. Some of these products contain ingredients that could affect fertility or harm your baby-to-be. Ask your doctor about what's safe once you start trying to conceive.
Pick a date: If you're using a barrier birth control method, such as condoms or a diaphragm, you can continue to use it until the day you start "trying." But if you're on the birth control pill, you might want to switch to another method of contraception now. Even though some women begin ovulating almost immediately after stopping oral contraceptives, for others it may take several months.