Your Pregnancy Checklist: How to Prepare for a Baby

Pregnancy can be overwhelming, but if you look at the big picture, there are only a few essential tasks you need to focus on each month to stay healthy and get ready for baby.

pregnancy announcement with baby shoe
Photo: Pablo Bauza/Shutterstock

Pregnancy can be a time of excitement, but if you are finding yourself overwhelmed by a seemingly endless to-do list, you are not alone. Between medical visits, childbirth classes, and prepping your home for baby, it's easy to feel like you don't have a minute to breathe.

If you look at the big picture, though, there are only a few essential tasks you need to focus on each month to maintain a healthy pregnancy and get ready for your baby. Here, we break your pregnancy to-do list into several, manageable bite-sized chunks so that you can enjoy your pregnany and stay sane in the process.

What Should You Do When You're Trying to Conceive?

Once you've decided that you'd like to try to get pregnant, it's a good idea to make a preconception appointment with your OB-GYN or midwife to go over some basics. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the following will likely be discussed at your preconception appointment:

  • Your diet and exercise routine
  • Your medical and family health history
  • Any medications you are taking
  • Your past reproductive health, including prior pregnancies

Your healthcare provider may recommend ways you can improve your health prior to getting pregnant, such as healthy eating habits and smart lifestyle choices. They may encourage you to start taking a prenatal vitamin, may recommend vaccines to consider, STD tasting, and may offer preconception genetic counseling.

Pregnancy Checklist First Trimester

Month 1

Pregnancy is calculated starting from the first day of your last menstrual period, so by the time your period is late and you've gotten a positive pregnancy test, you are about a month pregnant. That's all the more reason why adopting healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices is important if you know you get pregnant. Eating a balanced, whole foods diet, and refraining from smoking and drinking is what healthcare providers recommend to get your pregnancy off to a good start.

Month 2

Schedule your first appointment

It can sometimes take a few weeks to schedule your first prenatal check-up, so don't wait to do so, says Elise Pesch, DNP, FNP-BC, Nurse Practitioner at Clinic Sofia. Some offices will take you right away, but some will have you wait until you are at least 7 to 8 weeks pregnant, based on your last period. "Regardless of how your clinic works, always reach out if you have any concerns before your first appointment, whether that's morning sickness, vaginal bleeding, or anything else that's bothering you or you're unsure is normal," Pesch recommends.

Start taking prenatal vitamins

If you haven't already, start taking a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 mcg of folic acid as soon as you find out your pregnant, Pesch emphasizes. "Folic acid is very important for healthy nervous system development of the baby and especially for the prevention of spina bifida, a condition involving the spinal cord," she describes. And what if the vitamin makes you queasy? "If nausea is making it difficult to swallow and keep down a large pill, consider trying a gummy prenatal vitamin, which you may tolerate better," says Pesch.

Month 3

First trimester screenings

Your first check-up will consist of a full medical history, some basic blood work, and possibly an ultrasound. Depending on your risk factors, your healthcare provider may order some screening tests for birth defects and genetic abnormalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), genetic screening tests done during weeks 11 through 13 of pregnancy include:

  • Maternal blood screening tests measuring human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and pregnancy associated plasma protein A (PAPP-A); if levels are out of range, a genetic disorder is possible
  • Ultrasound looking for excess fluid behind the fetus's neck, a possible sign of a genetic disorder

Pregnancy Checklist Second Trimester

Month 4

Get back on track with healthy eating

If you experienced morning sickness during the first trimester, you are probably feeling a little better by this point. "Now is a great time to start getting back on track with healthy eating habits and a good exercise routine," says Rebekah Mustaleski, certified professional midwife and Motif Medical compression director. It's also a good idea to make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day. "Dehydration during pregnancy can lead to headaches, leg cramps, constipation, and even preterm labor so you want to make sure you're getting adequate amounts of fluid each day," says Mustaleski.

Sign up for A childbirth class

Your unborn baby's birth may seem far away, but now's the time to get ready and sign up for a childbirth class. "No matter how or where you plan to give birth, having a baby is very different from what most people do in the rest of their lives so taking a childbirth class is an important way to prepare," Mustaleski offers. Nowadays there are more options than ever, and you can find classes both in person and online.

Second trimester screenings

Second trimester genetic screenings usually happen at or around the 15 week mark. According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), typical screening tests during this time include:

  • A "quadrupole" blood test (done anywhere between 15 and 22 weeks) that screens your baby for Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and neural tube defects

Month 5

Start setting up your registry

If you haven't already, now is a great time to set up a baby registry or compile a list of items you'll need for your baby. It's worth noting that babies don't need much, at least not at first. They need diapers (lots of diapers), baby clothes, receiving blankets, and a few burp clothes. If you are planning to bottle feed, you will need bottles, formula, and some bottle cleaners. Breastfeeding parents may consider having a pump handy. As for the nursery, you'll need a safe place for your infant to sleep, such as a crib or bassinet, a place to store your baby's things, and a place to change them. You should also invest in a stroller or carrier and—of course—an infant car seat.

Second trimester ultrasound

Sometime between 18 and 20 weeks you will have a fetal anatomy scan, or anomaly scan. This is also the time when you can find out your unborn baby's sex, if you are interested. The main purpose of the scan is to check on the size and growth of your unborn baby and to look out for birth defects, specifically in organs such as the brain, spine, heart, limbs, and abdomen.

Month 6

Start interviewing pediatricians

Your pediatrician will be someone who will see your baby from birth, and very frequently during their first few years of life, so you want to find someone you can trust. "Talk to your friends and family about the experiences they've had and find someone that you're comfortable with," Mustaleski suggests. "Having a good relationship with your child's doctor is so important, as there are many things that come up during childhood and you're going to need someone to ask all your questions."

Get tested for gestational diabetes

You'll be tested for gestational diabetes via a glucose challenge screening sometime between your 24th week and 28th week. During this test, you'll be given a sweet liquid to drink. Your blood sugar will be tested about an hour later. If your blood sugar is too high, you will have to take a test called an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) to confirm a gestational diabetes diagnosis.

Pregnancy Checklist Third Trimester

Month 7

Start baby proofing your home

Michael Green, MD, an OB/GYN at Winona, says that pregnancy isn't too early to start baby proofing your home. "Don't wait until your little one is up and moving to complete these important tasks," he says. He suggests securing electric outlets, removing loose electrical cords, and eliminating any choking or tripping hazards. "The bottom line is this: Don't wait until an accident happens to get these details in order. Get them done well in advance of your due date," Dr. Green recommends.

Consider CPR certification

No one wants to think about an emergency happening with their child, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Getting certified in infant and child CPR during pregnancy is a wise idea, says Mustaleski. "Babies put everything in their mouths, and while I hope you never need to use it, I would much rather you have the training and knowledge and not need it than to not be able to help your baby if they were choking."

Month 8

Pack your hospital bag

If you haven't already, now's the time to pack your hospital bag, says Mustaleski. "While most babies wait until at least 36 weeks of pregnancy to be born, some of them do come early," she notes. As for what to pack, consider any drinks or snacks you might like, some comfortable clothing, soothing music, and outfits for you and baby to go home in.

Get your car seat installed

Make sure that you have a car seat ready and installed in your car: The hospital won't let you go home without a properly installed car seat. Your local fire or police department will usually inspect the installation to make sure it's up to standard. You can also look for a certified car seat safety technician to check your installation here.

Start doing kick counts

Counting your unborn baby's kicks everyday is a smart idea at this point in your pregnancy. All babies are different and movements vary throughout the day, but most kick about 10 times each hour. "This is a great way for you to keep track of your unborn baby's wellness between prenatal appointments. It will also help you know if you should call your doctor or midwife about changes in baby's movements," Mustaleski describes.

Group B strep test

At the very end of pregnancy, usually about 36-38 weeks, you will be tested for Group B strep, a common bacteria that doesn't usually cause symptoms in your body, but which can be harmful for your baby. If you are positive for Group B strep, you will be put on an IV antibiotic while you are in labor.

Month 9

Rest and nest

The end of pregnancy is for resting (your body will need it) and getting your home and heart ready to meet your baby. Trust us: The next 18 years will be devoted to caring for your little one, so now is a good time to focus on yourself.

"Make time to take care of yourself; your body is doing so much every day for you and your unborn baby," Mustaleski suggests. "Make it a priority to eat nutritious foods, rest and nap when you are able, and do something every day that is relaxing and comforting to you."

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