Notice that the title of this blog post is “preparing” for pregnancy – NOT “planning” a pregnancy.
You can plan a wedding, plan a party, plan your summer vacation – you can’t plan a pregnancy. You can be prepared for a pregnancy. By preparing you will optimize your chances. Depending on your medical history, you will also be able to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
When you plan for a trip – what do you do? Well, some of us make a “to do list.” You check things off on your to do list – to make sure your trip is as uneventful as possible and you don’t forget anything that can put your trip in jeopardy.
For example, you are going on Safari to Africa. What do you do beforehand? You get all the recommended vaccinations for each of the countries you are visiting. If you have this mentality when preparing for a pregnancy, you will hopefully increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
I am starting your “To Do List” for planning your pregnancy:
Start taking folic acid.
If a prenatal vitamin is too much to swallow right now – just take folic acid. You can buy folic acid all by itself from a pharmacy or from your local grocery in their vitamin section.
Know your medical history.
Do you have any medical problems?
I’ll give you an example: You have hypothyroidism and haven’t had your thyroid levels checked in over a year.
Did you know that you ovulate better if your TSH level is less than 2.5? Studies have also shown that babies born to mothers with untreated thyroid disease have lower IQ levels.
How about diabetes? If your hemoglobin A1C is over a certain level you are at a very high risk of birth defects. Managing your diabetes and getting it under control is very important pre-pregnancy.
Have you had any surgeries?
Did you know that if you have had any abdominal surgery – like an appendectomy, especially if your appendix was ruptured at the time that scar tissue can form around your fallopian tubes?
This means that your tubes could be scarred and the egg and sperm won’t be able to get together naturally. If you know you’ve had this surgery – you may want to get your tubes checked out as part of your to do list.
What medications do you take?
Did you know that medications as simple as Motrin can affect your ability to get pregnant? Motrin and medications like Motrin (Aleve and Excedrin) can affect how you ovulate in a way that makes pregnancy a challenge. So around your ovulation – stay away from these medications.
By-products of these medications can also go into the semen. Believe it or not – the by-products can block fertilization from occurring! Who know? So tell your guy – around ovulation – take Tylenol for pain.
I’m not going to be able to go through the list of every single thing you should know here – so make an appointment with your ObGyn.
Let your doc know that you are preparing for a pregnancy and ask the question: Based on my medical and family history – what should I prepare for?
Your doc may ask you to see other specialists like a high risk OB specialist depending on what medical problems you may have. Ask your doc if you are a candidate for any further testing while you are preparing for a pregnancy.
Know your family history.
Did your mom go through Menopause early? Average age of menopause is around 51. If your mom went through menopause at age 40 – tell your doctor! You may be at risk for early menopause as well. If she went through menopause at 40 – chances are her ovaries started slowing down years before.
Do you have a relative with spina bifida? Do you have a relative with Cystic Fibrosis? Do you have a relative who has formed a blood clot in their lung or legs? Knowing the answers to these questions will prepare you for a pregnancy. If the answer is yes to any of the above – your doc will help guide you in terms of what to do.
You may benefit from doing genetic testing prior to pregnancy. You can buy an at home genetic testing kit now through http://www.counsyl.com.
Know your body.
What do I mean by this? Having intercourse every day would be fine – but not many people can maintain that level of sexual activity for that long.
Sperm lives for several days – so you want to time intercourse in a way that you are maximizing your chances for pregnancy.
If you get a period every few months – see your doctor now.
If you spot in between your periods this may be a sign of a fibroid or polyp in your uterus or a problem with your hormones – so see your doctor now.
You should know the answers to the following questions:
- What is the length of your menstrual cycle (start of one period to the start of the next)?
- Around what day do you ovulate? A simple over the counter ovulation predictor kit can help you answer this question – and don’t go over board. A simple kit will do – buy one online and you will save money. The fancy digital kits are just that – fancy. But no better than the litmus paper based tests that don’t have any fancy technology.
I hope this helps you prepare for your pregnancy. And as always, if you have any questions, just ask! And know that this blog post is not a substitute for seeing your doctor. Make your appointment now with your ObGyn. Call the office and ask for a preconception counseling appointment. Your insurance should cover this.