No one is ever truly “ready” for becoming a parent. There is no perfect time…there is no perfect situation…. and even if you think you have completely anticipated and prepared for every unforeseeable event, life will find a way to surprise you! It is a journey that has many unexpected twists and turns but is rewarding and rich with opportunities to learn and grow for both you and your child.
If you are on the early part of preparing for parenthood, there are some important things to consider even before trying to conceive.
Tips on getting ready for pregnancy
- Have a routine checkup or “pre-conceptual” visit. Many pregnancies are unplanned, often exposing the developing fetus to medications that can potentially cause birth defects or increase risk for miscarriage. See your regular practitioner and review your medications. Tell them that you are going to attempt pregnancy and want to make sure your medications are safe while you are trying to conceive, and whether you should continue or stop the medications if you become pregnant. Tell your provider if you have a family history of genetic diseases or pregnancy complications. Genetic testing is now readily available to screen and understand your risks even before conception. Finally, check that you are up to date on your immunizations.
- Begin to make health changes such as exercising regularly. Find a routine you can continue while you are pregnant. This will help with the fatigue and mood changes that often go along with pregnancy. Having a healthy routine before you are pregnant will help to minimize the impact your changing body and mood will have on your day-to-day life.
- Follow a healthy diet. During pregnancy, you should eat frequent small meals 5 to 6 a day. Eating every few hours can prevent morning sickness, and helps to keep your energy level constant.
- Monitor your weight gain. Proper weight gain in pregnancy varies depending on your BMI (body mass index) before pregnancy. Visit Fit4AllMoms to get a better understanding of how much weight you should gain and exercises you can do during pregnancy. Obesity can increase your risk for pregnancy complications like hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, diabetes and even miscarriage. Getting into healthy habits before you become pregnant will encourage a healthier pregnancy lifestyle.
- Eat foods high in folic acid and increase your iron by taking a daily prenatal vitamin. Folic acid has been shown to decrease birth defects even up to a year before you become pregnant. Many women become anemic during pregnancy because their pre-pregnancy iron stores are low. Extra iron will ensure you are not anemic and prepare you for extra iron demand of pregnancy and lactation. Visit Fit4AllMoms for other nutrition tips for pregnancy.
- Research and set an appointment with a provider who cares for pregnant mothers. Consider the type of provider, ensure they are on your insurance plan and also make sure they deliver at the facility you want.
- Stop hormonal contraception at least 3 months prior to attempting to conceive. Track your cycles. Your due date is based on your last menstrual cycle, so an accurate date is important. In most cases, your provider will confirm it with an early ultrasound. If menstrual cycles are irregular, see your provider.
- RELAX!!! Stress can affect fertility. Research with couples undergoing In vitro-fertilization has shown that couples taking part in stress reduction techniques, such as acupuncture, have better fertility rates than those who did not. It can take up to one year for normal couples to get pregnant. In general, it is only after this time that you should seek further evaluation. If you are over 35, it’s recommended you see your provider after six months to identify other potential barriers to becoming pregnant.
Child Proofing At Home
If you’re already pregnant, there are a few tips to prepare yourself and your home before bringing baby home.
- Check your baby’s crib: Make sure the crib meets current standards for the space between rails. If it’s too wide, a baby’s hands or head can become entrapped, or an infant may be able to slip in between. Also, many parents are using cribs or strollers that have been handed down from family or friends. It is important to check for any recalls on these items. Finally, be careful about placing any objects in the crib with baby. Young infants have weak neck strength and control. Stuffed animals or blankets in the crib can increase risk for suffocation and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
- Take care with stairs: Be sure the space between stair railings meets current standards and buy a barrier if needed. Make sure that stairs are properly child proofed with a baby gate or barrier to prevent accidental falls.
- Prevent exposure to smoke: Exposure to tobacco smoke is another risk factor for SIDS and can increase the incidence of asthma and upper respiratory infections. Don’t allow smoking in the house, or even better, if you smoke – QUIT!
- Secure furniture to walls: Toddlers will begin to explore and climb. Unsecured furniture like TV’s or dressers can easily topple under a toddler’s weight and trap or injure a young child.
- Check that hazardous materials, chemicals and medications are all in locked cabinets or out of reach of children: Plastic locks, latches or hidden magnetic locks can be found at hardware stores or most major retailers.
- Make a laminated list of emergency numbers: This list should include numbers such as poison control, police, hospital, pediatrician, parents’ cell phones and emergency contacts. Post the numbers in a convenient place near a phone or on the refrigerator. This can be very useful if you plan to have childcare or babysitters. Don’t forget to post your full home address – if a babysitter is calling during an emergency they may not remember the address to tell emergency providers.
- Monitor water temperatures: Set water heaters at a maximum temperature of no more than 120 F (48.9 C) to prevent accidental scalding.
- Prevent fires and burns: Block access to stoves and fireplaces. Stove guards are available to prevent children from reaching and touching hot burners. Also, don’t forget to install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors and cover all electrical outlets with outlet covers to prevent electrocution or sparks.
- Conduct water safety checks: If you have a pool or open body of water make sure fences properly enclose the area to prevent access by unsupervised children. A childproof pool safety fence and gate can prevent many accidental drowning. In addition, ensure house doors that lead to outside have childproof locks and handles or install slide lock at upper part of door, far out of reach of children. It is always good practice to empty any bucket or container filled with water after use and never leave unsupervised. For more water safety tips, visit com
- Check your child’s car seat: Make sure you have car seats installed properly. All Children’s Hospital provides child passenger safety classes where experts can help show you how to install your baby or child’s car seat. Also, check for recalls if you are using an older seat or hand me down.
There are certainly more safety tips to consider before bringing your baby home and throughout their childhood years. Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about keeping your child safe as they grow.
Sheila Devanesan, M.D. is an OB/GYN with All Children’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists and has been practicing in the St. Petersburg area for the past 14 years. She is a mother of an 8 year old girl and 10 year old boy, board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and is a also a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She attended the University of South Florida College of Medicine and its residency program in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Devanesan is the principal investigator of “Fit4All Moms”, a grant funded community program for pregnant women to address weight gain issues during the antepartum and postpartum time period. She is also the principal investigator for Healthy Start at All Children’s, a federally funded program designed to improve the health and well-being of women, children and families by empowering individuals and communities to address medical, behavioral, cultural and social service needs.