Planning a Family
Many times in life when you have a plan, it’s a whole lot easier to be successful. Pregnancy and planning a family is a great example! Planning ahead for this momentous event is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your partner. It’s never too soon to begin. Working on your health in advance will significantly increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
There are two things you will want to focus on. First, seeing your doctor before you get pregnant. And second, tweaking your daily habits to point yourself in the right direction.
Jump Start Planning a Family
Seeing an OB/GYN should be the initial step in planning your pregnancy. You will discuss some important topics together. They will inquire on whether you are currently using birth control, your menstrual cycle, your diet and lifestyle habits, any medications you take, family history and any underlying health conditions you might have. The doctor may also want to do a Pap smear, mental health screening, blood tests and a nutrition evaluation. This visit will also allow your obstetrician to screen for genetic issues.
Start a prenatal multi-vitamin three months before you try to conceive. It is a vital step toward preparing your body for growing a child. Prenatal vitamins contain an extra-large dose of folic acid, usually 400 to 800 micrograms. Folic acid can help prevent birth defects. Your body will begin storing it so that you can have the optimum level for protecting your baby during pregnancy. These nutrient-dense pills should also contain calcium and vitamins B, C and D.
Focus on Your Body Mass Index
It’s important to make sure your body mass index (often called BMI) and weight are at the best possible level before getting pregnant. Women gain 30 pounds on average during pregnancy. Making sure that your body is geared up to accommodate that weight gain is very important for a healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery. Ideally, you’ll want to have a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.
Incorporating 30 minutes of daily exercise into your routine before becoming pregnant is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your future baby. Nine months is a long time, and during those nine months a lot will be asked of your body. By creating a routine that prioritizes exercise, you are preparing your body to carry added weight, prevent unnecessary weight gain, aid in the physical demands of delivery and help you bounce back faster after the baby is born. Exercise also improves mental health, which is important during pregnancy. Build up your strength and endurance now so you don’t have to worry about it later.
Track Your Cycle
Of course, a key part of starting a family is the actual act—planning plays a role here, too. Start tracking your cycle, so you can begin to understand when your body is ovulating. Whether you prefer to be high-tech or not, you have options. There are apps such as Clue and Kindara, as well as the regular ovulation test strips from the drugstore.
Get Dad-to-Be Involved
Future dads should also be doing their part to make conception more successful and less stressful. They should be focused on taking vitamins C and E to improve sperm motility. Just like mom-to-be, they should have a healthy diet and perform daily exercise. And, what you’ve heard is true—they need to avoid inadvertently heating the genital area. Laptops on the lap, Jacuzzis, long baths, tight underwear, even sitting for long periods of time can make it harder to make a baby.
Dr. Sherry Thomas is an OB/GYN specializing in urogynecology and laser/radiofrequency medicine. Her office is in Agoura Hills.