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.
Nancy O'Dell, co-anchor of NBC's Access Hollywood, has had a busy year so far: Daughter Ashby (named after O'Dell's grandfather) turns 2 on June 11; O'Dell was scheduled to compete on Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) (and had to drop out due to a knee injury); and in April her first book - Full of Life: Mom to Mom Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Pregnant (Simon Spotlight Entertainment) comes out. She spoke with us one afternoon in March after taping Access.
It was a windy, rainy day. It wasn't the kind of rain you could venture out in for an afternoon puddle-jumping excursion with two little girls. And that sent my preschool daughter, Julia, on a tirade. First came the pleading and whining. "Please, please, please, please can't we go outside?" Then came the screeching demand. "I want to go outside!" Then she launched the mother-of-all-fits on the floor—arms flailing, legs kicking, and even a last minute head-butt thrown in for dramatic effect.
My husband is watching the first season of the cable show Mad Men on DVD. He tells me, "One of the characters went into labor and didn't know she was pregnant. I knew this was coming four episodes ago when they started mentioning how fat she was getting." That happens a lot on TV—women get a stomachache, rush to the ER and are told to push. Not so much in real life. Sure, I've had a couple patients over the years who really didn't know they were pregnant until they landed in labor and delivery.
Before my first pregnancy, I enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner and an occasional big, juicy chili dog. But even in those very first days after I conceived, the wine tasted flat and the hot dog repulsed me. Fast-forward a few weeks. With a positive pregnancy test in hand, I realized that my body knew I was pregnant before my mind did. Of course, the earliest symptoms of pregnancy wax and wane and are different for each woman; in fact, some women may experience (or notice) none of them. But several can crop up well before you even miss a period.
Trying to get pregnant? Sure, it can be fun. But, it can also be a trying time if you don't conceive right away. Our guide to getting pregnant tells you what you need to know to maximize your chances of conceiving. Here, you'll find information on everything from preparing your body for pregnancy, to calculating your most fertile days, to the best foods to aid ovulation.
6 Ways To Get Ready
"Many women don't know the most fertile time in their menstrual cycle," says Victoria Jennings, Ph.D., director of Georgetown University's Institute for Reproductive Health. "Most think it's day 14, but ovulation doesn't always occur on the same day. It moves around, even in the same woman." Jennings says a normal woman's potential fertile days are days 8 through 19 of her cycle. (For a glow-in-the-dark bracelet to help you track when you're most fertile, go to cyclebeads.com.)
It will likely take several months for your body to resume ovulation and a normal menstrual cycle after stopping your oral contraceptives, which means you probably wont get pregnant right away. But even if you do conceive immediately after discontinuing your pills, the hormones will not be present in your body at a level that would be a problem for your baby.
See your doctor several months before you want to conceive—and bring your partner. Doing so may help you prevent birth defects, pregnancy complications or prematurity, the March of Dimes reports.
Tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter drugs or herbal remedies that you are taking.
Begin taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid daily.
Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that women who adopted at least five healthy habits were 84 percent less likely to suffer infertility because of ovulation problems than women who followed none. Women were more likely to ovulate normally when they ate less trans fat and simple carbohydrates, such as white rice and white bread; got more protein from vegetables than from meat; ate more fiber and iron; took more multivitamins with folic acid; had a lower body mass index; and exercised daily. They also consumed more high-fat dairy products and fewer low-fat ones.
Hopeful news for some of the more than 6 million women in the United States who suffer from infertility: A recent large study found that unlike other factors that you cannot control—such as age and genetics—eating certain foods and avoiding others is something you can do yourself, without medical intervention.
According to the Harvard study of diet and fertility, the more of the following changes you make, the better your chances of improving your ovulatory function:
When my husband and I started trying to make a baby, we were halfway through a round-the-world trip and having plenty of sex. Yet, we returned home not pregnant. I began using ovulation-predictor kits, and our lovemaking became less spontaneous, more "we-need-to-do-it-today," especially since my 35th birthday was looming.