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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).

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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?

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When I think about the Super Bowl, two things come to mind: funny commercials and tasty snacks. If you're hosting the Super Bowl and have kiddos around, the name of the game (pun intended) is to offer a spread of snacks loaded with proteins and vitamins that will keep everyone's energy levels up the entire game, and won't make your friends rely on greasy items.

Try these healthy go-to treats for your viewing party that even your toddler will love:

Skinny baked mozzarella sticks

Skinny baked mozzarella sticks

Serves: 16 pieces

Time to cook: 1 hour and 18 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tbsp Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp parmesan cheese optional
  • olive oil cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Cut the string cheese in half and place it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. Beat egg in a small and set aside. In a separate bowl mix the parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and set aside.
  2. Dip one string cheese in breadcrumb mixture than in egg mixture and then back in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat this for all the pieces. Place sticks on a greased foil or pan. Return the cheese stick back to the freezer for at least 30-45 minutes. Note: do not skip this step because the cheese will melt if they are not frozen.
  3. After the cheese is finished freezing, heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray the cheese lightly with cooking spray and place in the oven. After four minutes flip the cheese sticks and continue baking for another three minutes or until they are golden. Do not overbake because the cheese will melt. Serve hot with your favorite marinara sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Broccoli cheese balls

Broccoli cheese balls

Serves: 20 balls

Time to cook: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour or panko or Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup shredded cheese mozzarella, cheddar, or favorite melting cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced onion or shallots optional
  • 2 tbsp cilantro chopped optional
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon cajun or taco seasoning or favorite seasoning blend!
  • Pinch of salt and pepper black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Steam broccoli in boiling water or microwave until tender. Chop broccoli using a knife or food processor until finely minced.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped broccoli, eggs, almond flour, cheese, parsley and spices. Mix until well incorporated.
  4. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of mixture and form into a ball. Place on a lined baking sheet and spray or drizzle lightly with oil. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through.
  5. Serve on a salad, in a sandwich, with rice, or as an appetizer or snack with your favorite dipping sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Chicken taco lettuce wraps

Chicken taco lettuce wraps

Serves: 4

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Grilled taco chicken

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

To assemble

  • 8 leaves romaine lettuce rinsed
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1/4 cup onion diced

Cilantro sauce

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour-cream or mayo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno optional
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions:

To cook chicken

  1. Add the chicken, garlic, olive oil, and spices in a large bowl or zip-seal bag. Place in fridge and let marinate for at least 15-30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
  2. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Place chicken on a grill or pan heated to medium-high heat. Let chicken cook until it is no longer pink on the inside, about 9-10 minutes per side (or until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees).

To make cilantro sauce

1. Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blend for one minute or until creamy.

To assemble

  1. Layer lettuce wraps with chicken, tomatoes, onion and avocado. Drizzle with cilantro sauce or your favorite taco sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Eggplant pizza bites

Eggplant pizza bites

Serves: 4

Time to cook: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella shredded

Instructions:

  1. Sprinkle the eggplant with the coarse salt, let sit on paper towels for 10-15 minutes and wipe dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bow, combine the crushed garlic, olive oil and Italian seasoning. Brush the mixture onto both sides of the eggplant slices and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove eggplant from oven and flip eggplant slices, top each slice with a tablespoon of marinara sauce, and a sprinkle of cheese. Return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is fully melted.

Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Rice krispie chicken tenders

Rice krispie chicken tenders

Servings: 4

Time to cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb raw chicken, cut into long thin slices
  • 2 cups brown rice krispies (or regular if you desire)
  • 1/3 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Sea salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place egg whites in a shallow bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, add rice krispies and smash with the bottom of a cup until it is a crumb like texture (some will be almost a flour consistency, but don't smash long enough for all of the krispies to be completely crushed). Add seasonings in bowl.
  4. Dip each slice of chicken into egg whites, then coat completely on both sides, and place on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.
  5. When all are on a baking tray, lightly sprinkle a little more sea salt onto tenders and place them in the oven.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and flip and bake for 10 more minutes.
  7. Combine yogurt, mustard, bbq sauce, honey and seasonings in a small bowl.
  8. Serve with chicken tenders for dipping.
Recipe from TheLeanGreenbean.
Life

I have a love-hate relationship with maternity clothes. On one hand, I love them because they make me feel comfortable as my bump grows, without anything getting in the way of my breathing or baby's movement. On the other hand, I've really struggled finding items that are my style—which I admit is very particular—or don't cost a ton of money.

During my first pregnancy I bought a bunch of basic pregnancy outfits and tried to include some of my non-maternity favorites in the mix. Sometimes it worked, sometimes in the middle of a work day I had to run to the bathroom to unzip my high waisted skirt because it was too much to handle. By the time baby came, I realized I had spent a ton of money on clothing that I barely wore, and passed them on to other pregnant friends (some items still with tags on.)

With my second pregnancy, I decided I needed to be comfortable above all, but also not spend a ton of money on fast pregnancy fashion because these months go super fast and I'm trying to be more environmentally conscious. I had tried clothing subscription services before (hello wedding season!) and loved being able to wear different outfits I otherwise wouldn't have been able to. After doing some research, I found three subscriptions that offer maternity clothes. I tried them out in an attempt to dress better while sporting a huge bump and to save money and keep my closet decluttered. The best part was that if I really loved something, I had the chance to purchase it at a super discounted price.

Here are the three maternity clothing subscription services I tried:

Amoire

Amoire Style

About the service: This is a fairly new service and it's currently priced at $149 a month. Once you sign up, you take a style quiz by picking from a group of eight photos of the looks you like the most. Once you are done defining your style, you give your current sizing and then tell your stylist what you are looking for. You get four pieces at a time that you can wear as many times as you want, then return and get new items to wear.

More to know: Unlike other clothing services, you cannot pick from an endless list of clothes what you'd like to receive in your shipment. Instead, you have to go through a stylist who sends picks for you. To be honest, I found this a little annoying since I kept asking for rompers and pants, but kept getting blouses and dresses in my orders. So it did take some back and forth until my stylist sent me things I actually wanted to wear.

My thoughts: I received a mix of maternity and non-maternity clothes that were all bump friendly. The quality of all of them was great and some came with tags, which meant I was the first one ever wearing that piece of clothing.

$149

NUULY

Nuuly

About the service: This subscription is priced at $88 per month for six pieces at a time. The difference between Nuuly and other services is that you cannot return items to get new ones during the month—you return all of them at the same time and get six new ones the next month. This was a bit of a learning curve for me as I was used to sending back things that didn't fit or I didn't like to maximize my month of rental.

More to know: This service provides clothes from more edgy brands, like Urban Outfitters, Reebok and DL1961, which actually made it my favorite service because it was super aligned with my style. They offer both maternity and non-maternity clothes, so I was able to get super cool dresses (like the one pictured above) in a bigger size than my regular size to wear with my growing bump.

My thoughts: Their maternity catalog is pretty limited, however they have super unique items. One of the pieces I requested was already rented by the time my order was placed and they sent me something totally different to what I wanted. I understand the effort to make sure I was getting the full six items in my order but it was a non-maternity summer dress that didn't work with my bump.

$88

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway

About the service: I went with their Unlimited Plan which is priced at $159 for four pieces at a time (you can exchange over and over again during the month). Their return service is super fast so if you are organized and return pieces you don't love quickly, you can get so many new things to wear in a month.

More to know: They have the biggest catalogue of maternity clothes and brands, including Hatch. Like Nuuly, you get to pick what you want from their options. It can be a little overwhelming since you scroll through pages and pages of really good quality stuff so I recommend going into it with something in mind (do you need jeans or a party dress?).

My thoughts: Because the service is so popular, I got some clothes that were super worn already and even damaged. I returned those immediately and got new items, but you really never know in what condition they are going to be in, despite the service trying to keep super worn clothes out of their rental catalogue.

$159

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When infectious diseases make headlines parents naturally get a little worried, and this week coronavirus is in the news constantly. The coronavirus has infected more than 600 people worldwide, though mostly in China. As of Jan. 23, Chinese authorities have reported 17 deaths from the virus so far. Only two cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and officials are monitoring 63 suspected cases.

Here's what you need to know, mama.

1. Don't panic.

According to the World Health Organization the coronavirus outbreak is not an international public health emergency.

"CDC believes the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time, but the situation is evolving rapidly," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a conference call with media on Friday. "We have our best people working on this problem," Messonnier explained, adding that we will likely see more cases in the coming days.

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2. There have been no fatalities in children.

The youngest victim of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus is 36 years old. Most of the fatal cases in China have been in people over 60 and more men than women have been impacted.

3. The family of coronaviruses is a spectrum of severity.

According to the CDC, most people will be infected with a coronavirus at some point in their lives. The common strains of coronavirus cause "moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold" while more severe strains, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrom (MERS) can be fatal.

The strain that is making headlines is a severe and novel coronavirus. It's new and the similarities to influenza make it difficult for experts to distinguish it from all the other respiratory illnesses floating around this time of year.

4. There is a test for it.

When public health officials suspect someone may have coronavirus they can send respiratory and serum samples to the CDC and find out if it's coronavirus or just the flu within about 24 hours.

5. There are steps to take for prevention.

To prevent the spread of the virus the U.S. State Department has issued its most severe travel advisory for the area of China (the province of Hubei, where the city of Wuhan is) most impacted by the coronavirus.

The CDC offers the following tips for protecting your family from the coronavirus (as well as other respiratory illnesses):

  • "Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds."
  • "Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands."
  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick."
Bottom line: Don't panic, mama. The illness is likely to be in the headlines for months, but that doesn't mean we need to live in fear. We just need to be proactive and keep washing those little hands.
News

Every generation has its parenting trends. “The Greatest Generation" had the idealized “perfect family"—a “picture perfect" two-parent, gender-divided home in the suburbs, that was probably more trope than reality.

The Baby Boomers brought us parent-as-life coach/ friend/chauffeur and manager. At best, it's a nurturing style done out of love and wanting the best for your kids. At worst, it's called “helicopter parenting," the idea that parents try to protect their kids from all harm and difficulty, only to make their kids incapable of caring for themselves.

And our Millennial generation has a “free-range" parenting trend, a backlash against the overly-controlled childhood aimed at teaching kids to rise to life's challenges.

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All of this talk about gender roles, helicopter parenting, grit and independence has me wondering—what kind of parent do I want to be?

Do I want to give my kids a picture-perfect childhood? Do I want to control them and make sure every good thing is done to them and for them? Do I want to set them free to figure it all out on their own? Defining the parent I want to be—and deciding what values drive my day-to-day parenting decisions—can be complicated.

The truth is, “helicoptering" comes easy to me, even when I know it's good for my children to work hard, face obstacles, and experience the pride of genuine achievement.

I don't want to helicopter—but I want to make sure my kids have the best opportunities in life, especially in things that I may have missed out on in my own childhood. (Though I'm sure I'm pushing my own values on them and they will find their own way to rebel....)

I don't want to helicopter—but I want to make sure they always look both ways before they cross the street, have their carseat properly installed, and are aware of dangers in our world. (Though I teach them these things and do my best to keep them in safe situations...)

I don't want to helicopter—but having faith that they'll be safe when they're out of my sight is really hard for me. (Though I say a prayer and trust in the universe...)

I don't want to helicopter—but sometimes doing things for them can be so much easier/ faster/ better than letting them do it for themselves. (Though I try to be patient...)

I don't want to helicopter—but I set up play dates, schedule after-school activities, and encourage them socially so that my children can make new friends. (Though I'm sure they will find true friends in their own time...)

I don't want to helicopter—but watching my little ones struggle can be hard for my mama heart. (So I hope they know I'm doing this because I love them...)

I don't want to helicopter—but protecting my kids comes easy. Giving them space to struggle and grow is essential, but hard, for both of us.

Life
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