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 nine 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:
- If you are married, you may be able to be covered by your partner's health insurance.
- If you are under the age of 26, you may be eligible for coverage on your parents' health insurance plan.
- 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.
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?