Am I ready for a baby? What to consider before you get pregnant
If you’re starting to ask yourself, “Am I ready to have a baby?”, chances are you’re beginning to seriously think about pursuing parenthood. Remember—there’s no way to fully prepare for parenthood, but there are several key factors to consider when you’re ready to prepare for pregnancy.
Of course, keep in mind that preparing for pregnancy is a different journey for everyone, and that’s OK! There are resources and people out there who want to help you. That’s why I’m honored to be the medical director at Frame, a virtual family building clinic that supports you with everything from 1:1 coaching and planning guidance to connecting you with care, either through their platform or an in-person provider.
Here’s what I’d recommend if you’re just starting out on your path to parenthood.
Related: 10 questions to discuss with your partner before getting pregnant
Take a moment to reflect
If you’re thinking about when may be the right time for a baby, it may be helpful to take a step back and think about how a baby fits into where you are in your life. If you have a partner, involving them in this dialogue is really important too.
For instance, you might ask how having a baby will or won’t change your lifestyle and/or professional pathways. This could prompt questions about your living situation, finances, as well as your health. It could also help you think through some questions to dig into related to your professional situation. For instance, does your employer offer parental leave for you and/or your partner?
Additionally, considering how many kids you may want could also help you think through the sequencing and the right timing of it all. For big picture questions like these, you might first dialogue with a friend who has been through it to be a good sounding board, or a coach or counselor.
Schedule a pre-pregnancy checkup
Now onto making sure your health is in order as that is a key consideration—having a baby is a lot of work for your body. Women’s health experts as well as the CDC and World Health Organization recommend having a thorough checkup with an OB-GYN before trying to conceive as a first step in the process.
This preconception checkup will go through all the things you need to consider as you embark on trying to conceive. You’ll learn about vaccinations that are important to receive before and during pregnancy, whether the medications you are taking are safe for pregnancy, how to optimize any health conditions you may have, and your clinician can help you decide when the right time may be to go off of your birth control, if applicable.
These visits can often even be done virtually, so ask your OB-GYN about this or you can leverage virtual care and support services such as Frame that can help you do this type of visit on your own time.
This is also a great time to schedule a visit with a dentist to make sure you are up-to-date on your dental health, which can have an impact on your pregnancy. Also relevant? If you have a male partner, now’s a good time for him check in with their primary care provider too, as male health plays a role in fertility as well.
Related: This little device is clutch if you’re trying to get pregnant
Consider some key lifestyle factors
Before trying to conceive, it’s important to evaluate your diet and other habits such as drinking or smoking. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains is key to getting all the necessary nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.
Related: Eating a Mediterranean diet could increase your chances of becoming pregnant, studies show
Additionally, now is a great time to start taking a prenatal vitamin. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends taking a vitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (like spina bifida) in babies. Ideally, your prenatal vitamin also contains other key nutrients like DHA, choline, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium.
A nutrient-dense diet along with moderate exercise (~30 minutes/5 days per week) will also help avoid complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. Of course, in every situation, moderation is key, as being underweight carries risks as well like fertility issues, preterm labor and low birth weight.
If you smoke, or your partner does, now is the time to quit. Smoking carries a variety of risks, including fertility problems, issues with the baby’s growth while you’re pregnant, preterm labor and birth, and birth defects. It also increases the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) after the baby is born. If your partner smokes, and you or the baby are exposed to secondhand smoke, many of these risks are still present.
Finally, the current recommendation from ACOG is to stop alcohol consumption when you are trying to conceive until the end of pregnancy. The risks include possible decreased fertility, miscarriage, preterm delivery, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, stillbirth and low birth weight.
A note on considering “Am I ready for a baby?”
Of course, it’s impossible to control everything that will happen on your journey, and pregnancy can have many unpredictable twists and turns. However, starting with this list and trying to do these things before you become pregnant can help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.