Menu

Trying to conceive? 9 most-asked questions, answered

Take some steps to prep your body—and mind—for this wild adventure you are about to embark on.

how to get ready to conceive

It's well known that being as healthy as possible is important during pregancy, but getting yourself pregnancy-ready before you start trying to conceive can be incredibly valuable, too. Take some steps to prep your body—and mind—for this wild adventure you are about to embark on.

Here are the questions you may have about getting yourself ready to try to conceive:

1. Which health insurance is best for pregnancy?

Unfortunately, there are so many variables here it's hard to say specifically which insurance plan is best for you—but one thing is for sure. Health insurance can make pregnancy way more affordable.

Pregnancy is amazing, but it can also be expensive. Prenatal care costs about $2000, not including the bill that will come after you give birth (which can be over $9,000 for a vaginal birth and over $15,000 for a Cesarean birth).

But don't worry, mama—health insurance cuts this down dramatically. If health insurance is not provided by your place of work, you have a few options:

  1. If you are married, you may be able to be covered by your partner's health insurance.
  2. If you are under the age of 26, you may be eligible for coverage on your parents' health insurance plan.
  3. The Affordable Care Act provides health insurance that is often quite inexpensive (or even free). To enroll, visit HeathCare.gov. Just remember that if you have a "qualifying life event" (like a job change, getting married or divorced, having a baby, and more) you will have to update your profile because your coverage could change.

When selecting your health insurance provider, consider what they cover for prenatal and birth care, as well as future pediatric care for your baby. Mental health care is also incredibly important (see number nine below). Lastly, if you will be using assisted reproductive technologies to conceive, don't forget to look into whether or not it is covered by your potential insurance company.

2. What is a preconception health visit?

Before you start trying to conceive, schedule a visit with your women's health provider. If you have one you love, that's great! Go with them. If not, this might be a good time to start thinking ahead about who you might like to receive your prenatal and birth care from—it can't hurt to form a relationship with them now.

Psst: To learn more about your options, check out this article.

At your preconception health visit, your provider will help you to make sure that you are as healthy to increase your chances of getting pregnant and can help your pregnancy to be healthier.

Preconception health also includes dental care! Good oral hygiene can have significant impacts on your future pregnancy, including decreasing your risk of preterm labor, and it can even lead to fewer cavities for your future baby.

3. What are prenatal vitamins and when should I start taking them?

It would be great if we could meet all of our nutritional needs with food, but the truth is that is next to impossible for most of us. That's why taking vitamins, especially when we are pregnant, is incredibly important.

There are a number of nutrients that prenatal vitamins provide, but the most famous is folic acid. Folic acid is vital during pregnancy because it helps to prevent neural tube defects (problems with the baby's spine).

Folic acid works best when it is already on board when you conceive so start now. Prenatal vitamins won't hurt you if you are not pregnant, so even if you are not planning to get pregnant for several months, it is a good idea to start taking them as soon as possible.

4. When should I stop taking birth control?

If you are using a form of birth control, you will need to stop in order to get pregnant. The timing of this decision depends on many factors (another item you can discuss at your preconception health visit).

For example, if you are using a non-hormonal method such as condoms or the Paraguard IUD, you can likely become fertile as soon as you stop using it. Hormonal methods, like the pill, the Mirena IUD, Depo-Provera injection, etc. may take time to wear off, meaning that you'll have a slight delay in your fertility (though not always).

Some women decide to discontinue their hormonal birth control and switch to condoms a few months before they starting trying to conceive to let the hormones fade away while also making other lifestyle changes to prepare for pregnancy.

And hey, a piece of good news! Research has found that using hormonal contraception does not decrease a woman's future fertility.

5. Can I drink alcohol while trying to conceive?

The jury is out on this one. While we know that most medical organizations in the United States do not recommend any amount of alcohol during pregnancy as safe, it can be harder to determine whether or not it's okay to imbibe when you trying to get pregnant.

Some studies say it's just fine, while others caution that alcohol use can harm a woman's fertility.

Here is my take:

First, talk with your provider about your specific scenario, because it can vary for everyone.

Beyond that, drinking in moderation is usually okay. Binge-drinking (when a woman drinks about four drinks in two hours) is not the best idea (for fertility and your well-being in general). The thoughts on whether a daily glass of wine is good or bad for you seem to vary depending on the results of the latest study—in general, most providers don't recommend more than a few glasses per week.

If you are wanting to pull out all the stops, you could give up alcohol completely. I do also think it's important to maintain a sense of normalcy during the potential stress of trying to get pregnant, so if an occasional glass of wine with dinner will feel enjoyable for you, it is okay to honor that. Remember that you can always re-assess and change your approach.

6. Can I drink coffee while trying to conceive?

Unfortunately, some studies (though not all) have found that our beloved caffeine may negatively impact the ability to get pregnant—for both men and women. It's also been found that women and men who have more than two caffeinated drinks per day pre-pregnancy have a higher risk of miscarriage.

Again, moderation is probably the key. We generally recommend that 200 mg of caffeine or less (about the amount in a regular cup of coffee) is safe during pregnancy, and probably before it too.

7. Can I exercise while trying to conceive?

Exercise is not only considered safe when trying to conceive but beneficial as well. Low to moderate intensity exercise can improve fertility in men and women, by helping to decrease stress, improving blood flow, getting to an ideal BMI, and more.

What is the best exercise for conception?

One study did find that walking seemed to be the best exercise for improving fertility. That said, I'd encourage you to move your body in the way that feels best for you—dancing, yoga, swimming… it's all awesome for you.

It is important to note that too much exercise may harm your fertility, though. Women who exercise more than an hour per day have an increased risk of not ovulating, and men who partake in strenuous exercise may have decreased sperm motility.

8. Can stress affect your chances of getting pregnant?

I never love sharing this one, because in and of itself, this piece of advice induces stress. But, to the extent that you can try to reduce your levels of stress, as it may impact your fertility.

Everyone gets stressed out—so try not to stress about your stress. But see if you can find ways to minimize it where possible. Have you been meaning to pick up meditation again? How about that daily walk after lunch you keep thinking about, but haven't gotten to yet? Now is a perfect time to carve out even a few minutes a day of zen and relaxation. It may help you get pregnant, and will definitely help once your baby arrives.

9. How does mental health affect trying to conceive?

Whether you have an existing mental health concern, or you are starting to think about the ways that conceiving, pregnancy and motherhood may impact your mental health, this is an awesome time to take care of your emotional well-being. If you are not already, consider reaching out to a therapist.

Psst: Check out this awesome guide for help on getting started.

Up to 25% of mothers experience mental health challenges after the baby arrives. Prenatal depression is also receiving increasing attention, as ar concerns related to the stress of fertility struggles. How wonderful would it be to already have a relationship with someone if any of these challenges become a part of your story?

Want everything (well, close to everything) you need for TTC? Check out this convenient bundle!

Natalist get pregnant bundle

Natalist get pregnant bundle

Packed with evidence-based basics like vitamins, lube and pregnancy and ovulation tests, this is the box of goodies you want delivered to your doorstep. Natalist's easy to use, doctor approved products are developed by moms, scientists and doctors to make your journey as healthy and happy as possible.

$78

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less
News