13 things to do before getting pregnant

Want to know what to do before getting pregnant? Here’s a list of 13 suggestions for you.

Deciding to try for a baby is a huge life milestone, and preparing for pregnancy can seem daunting.

Although many people fall pregnant without any real preparation for pregnancy, there are ways you can give yourself the best possible chance of falling pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.  

Here are 13 things to do before getting pregnant:

1. Check your health insurance

Whilst this may not be the first thing on your mind, if you want to give birth as a private patient at a private or public hospital, you will need to check that your health insurance policy includes pregnancy and that you have – or will have – served your 12-month waiting period to be covered for childbirth by the time your baby is due.

2. If you smoke, quit

Smoking cigarettes have been proven to be harmful to both you and your unborn baby so quitting smoking when preparing for pregnancy is strongly recommended.

“Smoking is associated with infertility in both men and women, and an increased chance of miscarriage. Smoking in pregnancy can also affect the size and the long-term health of babies. If you or your partner smoke, giving up before attempting to become pregnant is a good idea,” suggests obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility specialist Dr Sgroi.

For more information on how smoking can affect your fertility read our article here. 

3. Reduce your alcohol consumption

“It is strongly advised you limit your alcohol intake if you are planning to become pregnant. Large amounts of alcohol, particularly in the first few months of pregnancy, can lead to physical or mental abnormalities in babies as well as growth retardation. Alcohol intake can also affect sperm counts in men,” Dr Sgroi says.

The recommended daily allowance of alcohol for healthy men and women is no more than two standard drinks per day, however, if you are pregnant the safest option is to not drink at all.

4. Have a sexual health check up

Getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) checkup and Pap smear while preparing for pregnancy is important because you need to treat any sexually transmitted infection that you may have before you conceive. If you have concerns about STIs you should talk to your GP or obstetrician.

Other gynaecological conditions may also impact conception or cause issues during pregnancy, so it’s always important to talk to your doctor first before trying to fall pregnant. 

5. Get up to date with your recommended vaccinations

It’s important to protect yourself and your developing baby from infections including whooping cough (pertussis), flu (influenza), measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) and chickenpox (varicella). If you catch rubella or chicken pox while you are pregnant, it can result in birth defects, and measles or mumps infection in early pregnancy can increase the chance of a miscarriage. If you are immunised against these infections, it will help protect your baby too. Ask your doctor for advice before getting pregnant.

6. Stop taking the pill

When you stop taking the contraceptive pill or stop using other forms of hormonal contraception, it may take a few months for your cycle to return to normal and for you to fall pregnant. That’s why it’s a good idea to stop using all forms of hormonal contraceptives as soon as you decide you are preparing for pregnancy. 
A page of a diary open where woman can start charting her ovulation cycle

7. Start charting when you're ovulating

Take some of the guesswork out of falling pregnant by keeping an eye on the prime time for baby-making, which is around the time of ovulation. The two days before ovulation and the day of ovulation is when you are most likely to get pregnant. You can purchase ovulation kits at the chemist, or chart your cycle daily on phone apps, or why not use our ovulation calculator which you can find here.

For more information on ovulation and when you’re at your most fertile read our article on ‘O-day: How to know when you’re ovulating’.  

8. Dental check

A trip to the dentist is an important thing to do before getting pregnant as untreated dental problems may cause complications in pregnancy. Read our article here to find out more about how your dental health can affect your pregnancy. 

In addition, despite dental X-rays generally being safe for a pregnant woman under the right precautions, it’s suggested that you avoid them during the first trimester. So, it’s a good idea to get any dental work requiring X-rays done before you fall pregnant. Read our article here to find out more about how your dental health can affect your pregnancy. 

To find your nearest Bupa Dental clinic, which is open to everyone (not just members), click here. 

9. Achieve a healthy weight for you

It’s important to look at your weight and try to reach a healthy weight for you in preparation for pregnancy. To find out what your healthy weight is, try out our free online tool here. 

Eating a healthy balanced diet that includes fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes (e.g. beans), fish and lean meats can help with weight management, but it will also help ensure that your developing baby is getting the nutrients it needs.

“Women who are underweight may be at risk of pre-term delivery, whereas women who are overweight or obese may be at risk of pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage, fetal abnormalities, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia,” tells Dr Sgroi. 

For more information on how your weight might affect your pregnancy, read our article here, and if  you’re unsure if your weight may affect your pregnancy speak with a doctor, or dietitian for support and advice. 

10. Take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself is not just physical, mental wellbeing is really important too.

“Pregnancy and childbirth can be a very stressful time. Concerns about work, housing, and financial security are also common areas of stress at this life stage,” says Dr Sgroi.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, try and take some ‘me time’ where you do something you enjoy whether it is taking a warm bath, going for a walk, meditation or simply talking to a friend. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and speak to your obstetrician, doctor, a counsellor or psychiatrist. 

Why not download our mummatters app, to help you track how you are feeling when you are pregnant and after giving birth. 

11. Start taking recommended pregnancy supplements

Your doctor may recommend supplements when preparing your body for pregnancy, as well as during your pregnancy. This includes taking folic acid, a supplement containing the synthetic form of  folate (or vitamin B-9),  which helps to prevent neural tube defects in a growing baby. 

“It is recommended that women intending to become pregnant take 0.5mg of folic acid a day for one month before pregnancy and for the first three months after becoming pregnant. If you have a family history of spina bifida or cleft palate or are on anti-epilepsy [or any other] medication, it is important to talk to your doctor about this before you become pregnant as higher doses of folic acid may be recommended,” says Dr Sgroi.

Speak to your health professional about any other recommended vitamins or supplements you may need to take, and any medications you may already be taking, in case you need to stop taking these during pregnancy. 

Did you know Bupa members get a discount on Blackmore products? Find out more here.

12. Find out about maternity leave

Discuss maternity leave with your workplace and find out what your options are. Maternity leave policies can differ between workplaces, so finding out what your entitlements are early can help give you peace of mind. 

Also, check your government entitlements so you know where you stand financially once bub comes.

13. Figure out what kind of birth you would like to have

There are four main options when the time comes to have the baby; private hospital, public hospital, birth centre or home birth. Talk through these options with your doctor, and decide which option suits you the best and ensure you’re eligible and covered by your health insurance. 
 
To find out more about your options read our article on Birthing options here or watch the video below:

But the most important thing is to remember is to relax.  Take it one day at a time, seek the advice of your obstetrician/doctor if you have any worries or concerns and enjoy the journey of pregnancy.

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