15 Things All Couples Should Do Before Getting Pregnant

So you're thinking about trying to get pregnant? Congrats! Check out our prepregnancy planning guide to optimize your health, lifestyle, finances, and more.

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01 of 17

Have a Prepregnancy Parenting Talk

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Experts and real parents agree: It's important to chat with your partner about some of the biggest parenting issues—like how you'll share childcare, how you plan to raise your children, working vs. staying home, and religious traditions—before you start trying to conceive.

"But before you freak out over differing opinions on circumcision, public or private schools, or other things that are way down the road, remember that you can and may change your mind about a lot of these issues as you go along," say Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris, authors of From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent. "The important thing is for couples to start talking about their priorities, expectations, and fears throughout the entire process, especially before you get pregnant."

02 of 17

Stop Taking Birth Control Pills

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Stop taking your birth control a couple of months before you plan to start trying for a baby, says Robert A. Greene, M.D., co-author of Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility. This gives you some time to evaluate your natural menstrual cycle and figure out when you're ovulating, which is the time of the month when you're most fertile. If you've been taking the pill for a while, your cycle could be different from what it was before you started. Also, it can take a while for your hormone levels to get back on track after ditching the pill, but if your period's still MIA after three months, you should see your doctor.

03 of 17

Cut Back on Partying

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Drinking, smoking, and taking recreational drugs during pregnancy? We don't need to tell you they're major don'ts. If you indulge prepregnancy, start scaling back now, says Jennifer Wider, M.D., author of The New Mom's Survival Guide and medical advisor to the Society for Women's Health Research in Washington, D.C. "If you're a moderate drinker—you have a couple of drinks on a Thursday night or over the weekend—you probably don't need to change anything, as long as you're sure you're not pregnant yet," says Dr. Wider. "But drinking most nights of the week or downing five cocktails in a sitting can be more of a problem." The same goes for your partner, too. Excess alcohol intake has been shown to interfere with your fertility and can also lower sperm count.

Smoking cigarettes, even just occassionally or socially, can also affect your egg quality and your partner's sperm—not to mention increase your risk of birth defects, miscarriage, preterm labor, and other conditions after you become pregnant. In fact, it's estimated that up to 13% of fertility problems may be caused by tobacco use, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and no level of smoking or exposure to smoke is safe. Research shows that even people exposed to secondhand smoke have more problems getting pregnant than those who aren't. Bottom line: There's never been a better time to kick the habit, and insist your partner does, too.

What's more, quitting smoking or drinking cold turkey after you become pregnant can be a shock to your system, say authors Odes and Morris. "Psychologically speaking, if you feel that pregnancy made you 'give up' all these things you loved, you can pile on some resentment right out of the gate," they say. "Quitting smoking or your multiple margarita habit is a great achievement, so start now and let it be something you're proud of, rather than pushed into."

04 of 17

Limit Caffeine

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If the Starbucks barista knows your order as soon as you step up the counter, or if you can't get through the workday without four cups of French roast, "Do yourself a favor and cut back your caffeine intake now," says Dr. Wider. "Not only because studies show that too much caffeine can trigger miscarriage, but because you want to avoid withdrawal after you're pregnant."

FYI: Doctors are mixed about how much caffeine is safe once you're expecting. Most say you can safely consume up to 200 mg, but some recommend forgoing it entirely, especially in the first trimester. And don't forget to tally other common sources of caffeine, like soda, tea, energy drinks, and even certain pain medications. A 12-ounce can of soda or 8-ounce cup of green or black tea can pack anywhere from 30 to 60 milligrams of caffeine; two tablets of extra-strength Excedrin have 130 milligrams. If you're worried, start reading labels to see how much caffeine is in your diet.

05 of 17

8 Things To Do Now if You're Thinking About Getting Pregnant

Watch this video to learn about some important things to do before getting pregnant.

06 of 17

Step on the Scale

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If you and your doctor feel you could benefit from losing a few pounds, now is the time to go for it. "Not only can trimming 10 to 15 pounds from your frame make it easier for overweight women to get pregnant," says Dr. Greene, "but it will help you have a healthier pregnancy and delivery with fewer risks and complications."

Working an exercise regimen into your routine now, such as walking a few times a week or penciling in a Pilates class, whether or not you lose weight is beneficial to your health and increases the likelihood you'll stick with it during and after pregnancy.

If you're underweight, check with your doctor about whether you should bulk up a bit. Being very thin, especially if it throws your periods out of whack, is a known fertility meddler. Typically, the get-pregnant ideal is a body mass index (BMI) between 19 and 24.

However, note that BMI is just a guide and healthy bodies can come in all shapes and sizes. That said, obesity and being underweight do significantly increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.

07 of 17

Start Saving Before You Get Pregnant

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Soon, you'll start socking money away for college, diapers, and all that baby stuff. "But even pregnancy itself can be more costly than you'd anticipate," says Katina Z. Jones, author of The Everything Get Ready for Baby Book (think doctor's co-pays, new maternity clothes, prenatal vitamins, etc.) "Even if you do a little at a time, just $20 a paycheck, you'll feel better knowing you have some type of nest egg set up before you begin trying to conceive. And if you have money left over, you can always spend it on nursery furniture or other baby expenses."

08 of 17

Pop a Prenatal Supplement

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"Any woman thinking about getting pregnant in the next three to six months should start taking a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid," says Dr. Wider. According to the March of Dimes, getting enough of this B vitamin in prepregnancy and early pregnancy can reduce brain and spine birth defects by up to 70%. And the multivitamin itself is packed with other nutrients crucial for a healthy pregnancy, like iron to prevent anemia and calcium for strong teeth and bones. Pop the pill after you brush your teeth in the morning or stash a jar at work and set an e-mail reminder to take it. If you hate swallowing pills, they come in chewable form, too. Starting the habit now will make it easier to remember once you're expecting.

09 of 17

Stock Up on Sleep

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Bank those zzz's now, recommends Jackie Rose, co-author of The Newly Non-Drinking Girl's Guide to Pregnancy. "Sleep in with your husband on the weekends, nap whenever you can," says Rose. Most of us anticipate sleepless nights once the baby arrives, but it can also be tough to get a decent night's rest during pregnancy when things like heartburn, getting up to pee, and adjusting to side-snoozing can keep some expectant people tossing and turning. Getting enough sleep may even help you get pregnant faster; people who get too little shut-eye tend to have more problems ovulating regularly than those who don't, studies show.

10 of 17

Check Your Stress

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While the link is not conclusive, some research shows that having crazy-high stress levels can delay your ability to get pregnant (by making ovulation wacky, or by interfering with an embryo's ability to implant in the uterus). Plus, if you have a Type A personality, your stress may ramp up even more once you're pregnant and preparing for the baby.

"Take an emotional gut-check now, make sure you feel calm and prepared for this next phase of your life, and figure out what helps you relax best," says Dr. Wider. "Maybe it's sipping tea and watching old episodes of Sex and the City, going out for a three-mile run, or just unloading on your best friend. Whatever it is, if it works for you now, it will help you when you're pregnant or a new mom."

Don't have a go-to stress reliever? Dr. Greene recommends keeping a journal on top of your nightstand, and scribbling down 15 minutes' worth of thoughts before bed. Studies show that writing in a journal regularly or ultilizing other relaxation and mindfulness techniques can help you feel more optimistic and less worried.

11 of 17

Figure Out Your Living Situation

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Do you need to move for more space, a better location, or any other reason? If so, our advice is to do it soon. Getting settled—ideally, somewhere you want to be for at least a couple of years—and feeling good about your home may help you feel more prepared for pregnancy. You certainly won't want to deal with movers, renovations, lawyers, landlords, or closings once you're pregnant (and no one wants to be packing at 8 months along!)

On the other hand, if you're happy where live, don't feel like you have to move now that you're family-planning; you don't need a big, multi-bedroom house in suburbia to raise a baby. Remember that many infants sleep in their parents' bedroom for the first few months, and a baby won't be any happier just because they have their own nursery and playroom. You'll have plenty of time to make the big move later on if you end up needing or wanting more space in the future.

12 of 17

Evaluate Your Job

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Though there's no law that says you can't job-hunt while you're pregnant (and in fact, it's illegal not to hire someone based only on the fact that they're expecting), now's a better time to switch jobs if you're unhappy. For one thing, you need to have been working somewhere at least 12 months to qualify for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), the federal law that stipulates companies of 50 or more employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid maternity or paternity leave. But more than that, it's important to take a 10,000-foot look at your career, says Cathy Stahl, co-author of Twin Set, and ask yourself the following questions: Are your hours okay? Is there enough flexibility for childcare after baby arrives? Can you handle the commute? Do other new parents seem happy working at your company? If you find yourself answering "no" to any of these questions, you may want to look for a new gig or see if your boss is willing to work with you to tweak your job description, work location, schedule, or benefits. Perhaps you can take on smaller clients to cut back on your hours, say, or clock in from home a couple of days a week if you have a particularly gruesome commute.

13 of 17

Ask Your Family Members About Their Pregnancies

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Ask your mom, sisters, aunts, and grandmas, if you can about their pregnancies. Did it take them a long time to conceive? Were there any complications, like preterm labor or breech presentation? Certain health conditions tend to run in families, and it's a smart idea to brush up on your history and share any relevant information with your doctor. But don't worry too much. Just because it took a family member a year to get pregnant doesn't mean you'll necessarily have a hard time, too. Many common fertility problems, like poor egg quality (due to age) or blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, are not hereditary, but some, like fibroids or ovarian cysts, can run in families. Your doctor can help you understand which, if any, issues can affect your fertility or pregnancy so you'll be better prepared to deal with them later, if needed.

14 of 17

8 Ways to Get Pregnant Faster

Planning for a baby soon? These tips might help you get pregnant faster.

15 of 17

Visit Your Doctor

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Many experts recommend booking a prepregnancy check-up at least three months before you plan to start trying for a baby, says Dr. Greene, especially if you don't see the doctor regularly. Your healthcare provider should ensure you're up-to-date on vaccinations, check for STDs, test for heart-health issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol, and monitor any chronic conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, or thyroid problems). During your visit, bring up any questions you have about getting pregnant, and make sure you aren't taking medications that affect fertility.

Use this visit to assess your relationship with your doctor and make sure you'll want to continue seeing them once you're pregnant. (Also check that they treat pregnant people. You may be surprised to learn, for example, that your gynecologist may not be an obstetrician). Do they take the time to address your questions fully and carefully, or do you get brushed off with eye-rolls or comments like "You don't need to worry about that"? Remember, you may be seeing a lot of this person once you're expecting, and you'll need to be able to trust their advice during one of the most important times of your life.

Consider sending your partner, if you have one, to an internist too. Note that many men see doctors far less regularly than women. A regular physical can help determine if they have any chronic conditions, and the doctor can check if their medications can affect sperm count or fertility.

16 of 17

Don't Forget the Dentist

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It may seem totally unrelated to fertility, but getting your teeth and gums checked out before pregnancy is another wise move, says Dr. Greene. More research links oral health to a healthy pregnancy; women with unchecked gum disease are more prone to miscarriage, preterm birth, and preeclampsia. "In fact, brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly can cut your miscarriage risk by up to 70%," he says. Having your teeth examined now gives you time to get gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) under control and get x-rays (which should be avoided during pregnancy) if you need them. If your oral health is less than stellar, your dentist may recommend you come in for cleanings every few months.

17 of 17

Return to Your Roots

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If you've been hiding your true hair color, now's the time to reconsider. "You don't want to be getting touch-ups every few weeks while you're pregnant," says Dr. Wider. Though there's no conclusive research that proves hair coloring is unsafe during pregnancy, most experts recommend trying to minimize your exposure to the chemicals, especially in the first trimester when your baby's major organ growth takes place. If you're concerned, talk to your doctor. You can also ask your colorist about how to scale back—perhaps you can phase into highlights, which are usually less upkeep and may be safer, or dyes that use fewer chemicals.

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