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Becoming a mother is one of the most transformational experiences of your life. It can also feel like one of the most overwhelming, but making a baby doesn't have to be so complicated.
We've got your 10-step guide to take you from baby dreams to baby reality. 🍼Here's how to get there.
1. Start the baby talk
The decision to get pregnant often starts as a conversation between two partners who decide they're just wild in love enough to become parents.
How do you know you're ready to become parents? Here are the 10 questions to ask your partner before you make a baby.
You'll also want to...
Have a lot of sex
No, really. New research shows that getting in a lot of sex before conception can prime the immune system for a healthy pregnancy. (Yes, please!) Go ahead, get your practice!
Make sure he's healthy
Dad's fertility matters too, so he'll want to make sure he's as healthy as can be. Read more on how your partner can boost his fertility.
Be in it together
There's also a lot of evidence to show that partners who enter parenthood intentionally have better outcomes for their relationship and for their child.
2. Take a prenatal vitamin and eat a nutritionally-dense diet
Start taking a prenatal 3 months before you start trying to conceive
Take a prenatal vitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid "every day for at least three months before getting pregnant to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine," experts say. Care/Of customizes a vitamin pack plan if you're not sure where to start, but always consult your doctor first.
Pro tip: Some health insurance companies even cover the cost of prenatal vitamins, so ask your doctor if she can write you a prescription.
Eat well even before you conceive
A growing body of research also indicates it's also important for hopeful mamas-to-be to eat a nutritionally dense diet in advance of conception.
Choose organic when possible
As you boost your intake of healthy foods and produce, make an extra effort to eat organic, especially avoiding produce on Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list.
Keep away from the Dirty Dozen
As mentioned above, you should try to avoid the "Dirty Dozen"—fruits and vegetables that have the highest rates of pesticides when grown conventionally. Make sure to choose organic for the following foods:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
- Snap peas
- Bell peppers
P.S. It's a good idea to always wash produce thoroughly before eating.
Limit coffee ☕ + alcohol 🍷
Heavy alcohol and caffeine consumption is shown to decrease female fertility. However, our trusted OB-GYNs promise that your one cup of coffee a day is just fine.
3. Stop popping that pill
Before you start actively trying to conceive, you'll need to stop using birth control. You may want to use a condom in the meantime if you're not ready to try for baby quite yet.
Here's when to stop, depending on what type of contraceptive you use:
The pill, patch or ring
Timeline: 3 months before you try to conceive
Dr. Michelle Collins, director of the Nurse-Midwifery Program at Vanderbilt University, explains that after stopping the birth control pill, patch or ring, "a woman may ovulate as soon as two weeks after stopping the contraception, or it may take longer, but generally most women will have a period return by six weeks after stopping the contraception."
Good to know: Studies have shown that "women who had switched from oral contraceptives to a barrier method within three months before attempting to conceive were more likely to become pregnant within 12 months (54 percent) than were those who attempted to conceive immediately after discontinuing oral contraceptives (32 percent)."
Timeline: 1-3 months before you try to conceive
Collins notes: "After having an IUD (intrauterine device) removed, fertility returns quickly, and conception can occur shortly after removal. The same is true for the progestin implant contraceptive Nexplanon."
Good to know: Studies have shown that women who have used an IUD for an extended period of time may face slightly decreased fertility in the first few months, but fertility rates generally return to normal within 18 months after removal.
Timeline: 3 months or more before you try to conceive
"Some women who have ceased using the progestin injection Depo-Provera have noticed that it may take some months for the return of menses, during which time they are not ovulating. For women using that particular method of contraception, they may want to discontinue use a few months prior to when they actually want to target conception," Collins explains.
Good to know: It can take up to 12 weeks for injected progestogen to leave the body, so consider this timing in your fertility plans.
What to remember:
When you stop using hormonal contraception or the IUD, your body's natural fertility returns. The sooner fertility returns, the sooner you can track your cycle, pinpoint ovulation and get pregnant.
4. Book a prenatal checkup
It'll get you in the mood
We've never been so excited to go to the OB-GYN than when we headed in for our pre-conception checkup. And we asked a doctor for the 10 preconception questions you should ask your OB-GYN or midwife!
You can talk about your concerns
Your doctor can help you navigate how to adjust behaviors now to have the healthiest possible pregnancy. Our expert OB-GYN shared the 10 questions you should ask your doctor during your preconception checkup.
- Diet and lifestyle: Are you a vegetarian? Do you run ultra-marathons? Are you underweight or overweight? Do you ever smoke?
- Medical + family history: Is there a family history of miscarriage or genetic disease? Did any of your close relatives experience pregnancy complications?
- Medications you take: Do any of the medications you currently take need to be stopped before you try to conceive? Are you taking a prenatal vitamin?
- Environmental factors: Do you work or live near any dangerous chemicals that you need to limit your exposure to in advance of conception?
- Any past pregnancies: Have you had any previous pregnancies, miscarriages or abortions?
5. Start charting your cycle
We get it: You're a busy lady trying to get busy having a baby. The last thing you need is to waste your time on fertility aids that won't work. These five smart solutions use the most cutting-edge advancements in science and tech to get you pregnant faster.
Here are some we've used and loved:
Full disclosure: There are editors on our staff who call this the "secret miracle worker." Clearblue's monitor generates results personalized to your specific cycle, not based on general hormone data from other women. The monitor will also navigate changing hormones and cycles through urine tests completed each cycle, and it's the only noninvasive method that tracks both LH and estrogen hormones. After your cycle has begun, simple turn on the monitor every day at some point during your six-hour testing window to know your fertile status and whether you need to take another test.
Pro tip: Share the love! This fertility monitor can be reset and shared with a friend once you've gotten pregnant.
The Kindara App is designed to be useful when trying to get pregnant as well as when you're not trying. Based on the principles of the Fertility Awareness Method, it tracks basal body temperature and cervical fluid consistency to help determine your most fertile days. Whereas in the past, women tracking their cycles may have had to use homemade charts to log these fertility signs, the app makes it easy to collect your data and track your ovulation. There's even a smart oral thermometer called Wink that automatically syncs with the app, taking the guesswork out of recording your daily temperature.
Pro tip: To get the most out of this app, you do have to have some knowledge about the Fertility Awareness Method and how to properly log the information. Once you are comfortable with the method, the app will help you understand how your body works. The thermometer is a little on the expensive side, but it can also be used by multiple women—simply wipe the data and hand it on to another soon-to-be mama in need.
One of the newest innovations in wearable fertility tech is the Ava bracelet. The actual tracker is a round silver pod roughly the size of a silver dollar, which you wear on a soft rubber strap. The strap holds the pod snugly to your pulse overnight and tracks resting pulse rate, skin temperature, heart rate variability, quality and amount of sleep, breathing rate, movement, perfusion (of the process of supplying blood to the tissues of your body), bioimpedance (the resistance of body tissue to tiny amounts of electricity) and heat loss. Using these physiological parameters, Ava can track ovulation and indicate (in most cases) an average of five fertile days per month for you to try to conceive. All you have to do is strap on Ava right before bed, then plug it in to charge when you first wake up and sync with the Ava app on your phone using Bluetooth technology.
Pro tip: Start wearing it as soon as you think you might want to get pregnant. The more you wear Ava, the better it learns your cycles and can help identify fertile days. The information can also help your doctor identify common conception struggles early on.
If you want a less-invasive way of tracking your periods and symptoms, the Clue app is a great way to keep track of your cycle. Record symptoms like menstruation, mood, sex drive, energy levels, skin clarity and more every day, and then check your analysis monthly to see how patterns develop. The app can even let you know when your most fertile time of the month, or "fertile window," is opening and closing so you know when it's time to get busy. The more information you log, the easier it will be to spot patterns in your monthly cycle.
Pro tip: Personalize the app by selecting which symptoms you want to track, which can be especially helpful for predicting your period if you're not super regular. Skin is blowing up and you're craving chocolate chip cookies? Might be time to hop in bed.
Accurately predicting your fertility with continuous temperature readings? When you use YONO, the world's first in-ear ovulation predictor, you can do it with your eyes closed. Simply wear the YONO earbud while you sleep at night and the tiny device records your temperature every five minutes. Then you sync the data with YONO's app on your phone to plot a monthly fertility map to help you better identify when it's best to try to conceive.
Pro tip: Wear the YONO bud in the opposite ear than the one you typically sleep on, and charge it every morning for best results.
6. Align your weight
The average woman should aim to gain around 30 pounds during pregnancy, so it can seem counterintuitive to try to lose (or gain) weight before trying to conceive.
It's good for baby
Before conception, keeping your body mass index (BMI) in a healthy range (between 18.5 and 24.9) won't only help you get pregnant, but new research indicates that it may also help sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Check your BMI here
We know it's super hard to step away from the ice cream after a stressful day at work, but the thought of your healthy little one staring back at you just might be all the motivation you need. You can check your BMI here.
Before you even conceive, it's a good idea to think about what your work life will be like when your little one arrives.
Now is a great time to ask for a raise or take on extra responsibilities that will set you up you for leadership roles in the years to come.
Positioning yourself as a highly valued member of the team can make it easier for you to ask for more flexibility or pay after baby is born, or to find remote working alternatives if you'd rather spend more time at home.
We're big fans of what Lean In suggests for women trying to make their mark at the office: Shifting from a "What do I get?" to a "What can I offer?" mindset can help you get noticed.
Take on new challenges
This is the time to take on new challenges that can set you up for better options going forward.
Ask for a raise
We love this advice from the boss ladies at Lean In: "You won't get what you don't ask for, so make it a rule to negotiate." Get pumped for asking for more by watching Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Margaret Neale's strategies for making your case.
Now rock that negotiation.
8. File that paperwork
Write a will
Get life insurance
Life insurance is important for women too. With more mothers working (and millennial women actually out-earning their male counterparts in their 20s before kids) it's crucial that women protect their families should something happen to them.
To make things easy, check out rates from your car insurance provider, or ask about life insurance at work. It's likely that both offer policies and that might make it easier for you to sign up quickly.
9. Take a peek at the budget, but don't freak out
Budget for baby
Learn the basics of how much pregnancy will cost with our guide to budgeting for baby. Motherly's got you covered.
Think about childcare
You can also start to research the general cost of childcare in your area, but you have plenty of time to get your finances in order, so don't freak out. You're going to take this whole motherhood thing in small (baby) steps at a time. But start now so you won't be surprised by the costs.
What dad can do
Turns out, dads should be concerned about their health too. Our OB-GYN, Dr. Sarah Hartwick Bjorkman, suggests:—Work on fitness and nutrition goals together. Obesity in men is linked to impaired sperm production.—He can also up his vitamin intake. Vitamin C and vitamin E have been shown to slightly increase sperm motility.—Stop smoking ASAP. Smoking is associated with reduced sperm quality. So are anabolic steroids and marijuana, so be sure to curb those too.—Ditch the briefs. Some studies have found that wearing brief type underwear increases the temperature around the scrotum, leading to a decrease in sperm quality.
10. Go wild!
Rock that pre-baby bucket list
On behalf of all the pregnant women not noshing on blue cheese and the new mamas not sleeping in, find ways to cherish these last few months of freedom.
Go out with your girlfriends
Motherhood is going to transform you in ways you can't even imagine, and one day not so long from now you might even forget what it's like to go out with your girlfriends and not worry about heading home to your little one.
There are a lot of late nights and early mornings (What is time?) in new motherhood, so sleep all you can.
Live it up
While you're still free as a bird, we hope you live it up! Head off to Europe. Book a spur-of-the-moment getaway with no need to arrange childcare. Wear that bikini with absolute abandon. Go all-in at work. Amazing things are about to happen. And we're so excited for you. 🎉👭👶