Are you thinking about whether now is the right time to start a family? Or maybe you are already trying for a baby? From how babies are made to calculating when you ovulate and finding out how long it may take you to get pregnant - I will share everything you need to know. We're with you right from the start of your journey into parenthood.
Is there anything you need to know before you begin? Is your husband ready to be a dad? Perhaps you've been trying for a baby for a while, but are still not pregnant. Do you need help to find out why you aren't conceiving? Or maybe you are ready to look into fertility treatment...
HOW TO GET YOUR LIFE READY FOR A BABY?
You've decided it's time to start your family. But are you ready? By making a few lifestyle changes now, you can give your baby the best start possible. Read this list (or print it out) and find out if this is the right time for you. (For information on the tests and check-ups you'll need, see our physical readiness checklist.)
Improve your diet
Now more than ever, proper nutrition is essential. Throw away every fad diet book you've ever bought, put aside old myths, and learn to eat real food. That means a balanced diet of at least three meals a day, including at least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day. Three of the most important nutrients for a healthy pregnancy are calcium, iron and folic acid. A good multivitamin tablet will ensure that you get enough of them, but be sure to drink plenty of milk and eat citrus fruits and juices, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fortified breads and cereals. For more information, see our articles on nutrition for a healthy mum-to-be and dad-to-be.
Women who are trying to conceive may also want to cut back on their caffeine consumption. Research linking a woman's caffeine consumption with a lower chances of conception has been contradictory, but, in general, low levels of caffeine consumption are recommended. By contrast, dads-to-be should feel free to drink an extra cup: caffeine may help men by stimulating sperm motility.
Think about your weight
Being either underweight or overweight can affect your fertility and pose significant risks to your pregnancy. The best time to try to hit a healthy weight band is before trying to conceive so that you increase your chances both of conception and a healthy pregnancy.
If you're overweight or obese, take it steady. Extreme weight loss from crash dieting can deplete your body's nutritional stores, which isn't a good way to start a pregnancy either. Nor is it a good idea to be on a diet while pregnant because you may limit your baby's access to important nutrients. Instead begin before you start trying for a baby by choosing low-fat, high-fibre foods. The best route to success is to combine a balanced diet with an exercise programme, and aim to lose 1-2lbs / 0.45-0.91Kg a week, which is a safe rate of weight loss. In other words, don't overdo it.
If you're underweight, get some meat on those bones! Your risk of miscarriage is significantly higher if you conceive while underweight. While skinny women can and do have healthy babies, studies have shown that underweight mothers tend to have low-birth-weight babies. Of course, gorging yourself on chocolate won't give you the important vitamins and minerals you need. Try to get your extra calories from all four of the basic food groups.
Start taking vitamin supplements
While it's no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet, taking an antenatal supplement (or an all-purpose multivitamin) ensures that you're getting enough of several important vitamins and minerals. At the top of that list is folic acid which is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects in developing babies. Ask your GP or midwife to recommend a vitamin supplement for you.
Create (and follow!) an exercise plan
A good, balanced exercise programme provides three important benefits: stamina, strength, and flexibility. You'll need all three to lift and carry a baby, run after a small child, and cope with the day-to-day stresses of motherhood. Plus, getting in shape at least three months before you conceive (ideally six to 12 months) may make it easier to maintain an active lifestyle during pregnancy and enjoy those nine months, not to mention helping you to get through labour. Strengthening your back muscles now, for example, can stave off low back pain later. And aerobic exercise can improve your mood and energy levels, not to mention help you to achieve a healthy pre-pregnancy weight. You'll also be less vulnerable to the hormonal shifts that can make pregnant women angry and irritable and send family and friends running for cover.
Great exercises to help get into shape for pregnancy include running and jogging, walking, swimming, bicycling and aerobics. However, some of these activities are fairly strenuous and should not be undertaken for the first time while pregnant, so be sure to begin well before you start trying to conceive. Then you can continue your routine when you are pregnant.
Note: for all of the above activities, start slowly and don't push yourself too hard. You should always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise programme.
Stop drinking, smoking, and taking drugs
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that smoking, taking drugs and drinking too much alcohol during pregnancy can harm your baby. Study after study has shown that all three of these bad habits are connected to miscarriage, low-birthweight babies, and premature birth. Smoking in pregnancy can increase your baby’s risk of cot death, and excessive drinking during pregnancy can seriously affect your baby’s development. Partying and pregnancy don't mix.
Eliminate environmental dangers
Some jobs can be hazardous to you and your unborn children. If you stand all day, fly a lot, or are exposed to chemicals or radiation on a regular basis, you may need to consider making some changes before you conceive. Talk to your doctor about what your daily routine involves and see if you can come up with ways to avoid or eliminate hazards in your workplace. The Health and Safety Executive has some useful information on how you could work with your employer to make your work environment safer.
Stop using contraception
For some people, stopping contraception is as easy as shoving the condoms or diaphragm to the back of a drawer. But if you've been using the Pill, some doctors think you should wait a few months after you've stopped taking it before trying to get pregnant, because your cycle may need some time to return to normal. However, the usual advice is to start trying once you’ve had one normal period after stopping the pill.
If you do get pregnant while you're still on the Pill, stop taking it immediately and talk to your doctor about it. In the past, when doses of hormones in the Pill were higher, there used to be worries that getting pregnant accidentally while taking it would be harmful to the embryo. But more recent research has found no evidence of an increased risk of abnormalities. (For some women, especially those who've been taking the Pill for a long time, it may take several months to a year for their menstrual cycle to get back on track.) If you've been using Depo-Provera, it may also take a while for the effect to wear off completely. The makers say it's no more than 12 weeks, but critics claim this kind of contraception can make it difficult to conceive for as much as a year or two after using it. While you're waiting, use a backup method, such as condoms.
You may never feel that you really have enough money to have a baby, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to save up a little before you get pregnant. After all, many studies have shown that having a baby is expensive, and the expense can go on for 18 years.
Some other financial issues to consider: life insurance and (gulp!) a will. And although it may seem early, this isn't a bad time to start thinking about saving for university.
Think your decision through
A child demands a lifetime commitment to provide love, nurturing, nourishment, shelter, education, attention, and so on. So before you decide to have a baby, it's important that you and your partner look realistically at what you're in for. This is, after all, a decision that will change your lives forever. Some of the key questions to consider are:
• Are you both equally committed to becoming parents?
• If you have religious differences, have you discussed how they will affect your child?
• Have you thought through how you'll handle childcare responsibilities and balancing work and family?
• Are you prepared for the possibility that your child may have special needs?
• Are you ready to give up sleeping in on Sundays or line up a babysitter every single time you want to go out without your baby?
• Have you thought about how becoming parents may change you, and your relationships with those closest to you?
Having a baby won’t just have a small impact on your life; it’s going to shift the entire centre of your universe. For some, this is the most natural thing in the world but for others it can be a real shock. Think about how you’ll feel, how you usually cope with change in your life, and how you can prepare yourselves for the highs (and lows) of family life.
Articles from Baby Center