Are you thinking about having a baby? There are many things to think about before embarking on having a baby. There are financial, health, career and lifestyle factors to consider before an addition to your family comes along. Apart from times when being pregnant can be unexpected, if you’re in plan for pregnancy, then you have an opportunity to prepare like an athlete prepares for a big race.
Talk to your Doctor
The first thing you should do is talk to your GP or doctor about your plans. You’ll need to get a full check-up including a Pap smear. Your doctor will ask you about any medications you are taking that might affect your pregnancy or your ability to conceive. Your partner needs to do the same.
The doctor will also discuss your family medical history and any concerns you might have. Your doctor should also be able to tell you which vaccinations you’ve had and which you will need. Some important vaccines, such as the rubella (or German measles) injection can be very dangerous to pregnant women and need to be administered some months before you get pregnant. Other vaccines have additives which may not be good for your unborn child.
More importantly, your doctor will talk to you about your diet and what foods or supplements would be best taken to prepare yourself for conception.
Things to avoid
If you’re planning on becoming pregnant, then it’s a good idea to stop smoking, drinking and taking any social drugs at this time. Drinking alcohol in whatever amounts (small or big) can cause intellectual impairment and disability in your child. Smoking is unhealthy whether you’re pregnant or not (no surprises here), but it affects your chances of being able to conceive, and during pregnancy and beyond can result in low birth weight, an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Moderate your caffeine consumption. Actually it’s also important to do some research to look into some of the other dietary research related to pregnancy – particularly regarding listeria, toxoplasmosis and other increased risks. There are certainly foods you should avoid and you need to discuss these things with your doctor.
Take Essential Pre-Natal Vitamins.
Certain vitamins and nutrients become very important in pregnancy – for example, folate, iodine, iron and vitamin D. Folate in particular is known to be protective against the foetus developing spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
It can be difficult to get a sufficient level of folate from your diet, so you should start taking a supplement around three months before you plan to conceive and continue with it until the end of the first trimester, during which the spinal chord and brain develop.
Vitamin D, which comes from exposure to sunlight, is very important in the absorption of calcium. Pregnant women have an increased need for this vitamin, as well as for iodine and iron, because of the needs of the developing foetus. If you feel that your diet and lifestyle will provide insufficient quantities of these and other vitamins, speak to your doctor about taking supplements.
It’s really important to get fit and stay healthy in the lead up to a pregnancy. A woman should never underestimate the impact that nine months of pregnancy can have on mental and physical health. Drink lots of water and eat a balanced diet. Try to keep your weight in the healthy range for your height, because both underweight and obesity can be causes for fertility problems.
As soon as a couple starts talking about having a baby, they should start paying attention to their own personal health and wellbeing. If parents have the opportunity to plan a pregnancy, then they need to seriously consider doing regular exercise, eating balanced meals, maintaining a healthy weight, and for a woman optimising her folate intake.
Your fertile timing
Planning to get pregnant is all about timing. It’s really important to chart your menstrual cycle some months before you intend to get pregnant. If you have a regular cycle then it’s easier for most women to be aware of the pattern of their cycle.
Basically, your cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends the day before your next period – the average cycle is 28 days, but varies from individual to individual. Some women have regular 35 day cycles, some much shorter.
When you are planning to conceive the length of your cycle becomes very important because in the middle of that cycle, you will ovulate. The days immediately before and following the day of ovulation are your most fertile days.
A more accurate way of predicting ovulation is the Billings method, where a woman analyses the consistency of cervical mucus at various times of the month. When ovulation occurs, the mucus is of a certain consistency, known as the ‘egg white’ consistency, and this is the most fertile time of the month. Ask your doctor for more information on this method.
It is important to examine your contract and know your entitlements – particularly given the introduction of the Federal Government’s paid maternity leave scheme.
Most employers will only pay company-funded maternity leave after you have been with the company for a minimum period – this is usually around four months, exclusive of your gestation period (the nine months during which you are pregnant), meaning you have to have been with the company for at least a year by the time your child is born.
If you’re considering getting pregnant in the next year, it pays to examine your contract and also to take this into account if you’ve been considering leaving a job and taking up a new position.
If you intend to return to the workforce before your child starts school, and for many women this will be the case, it pays to think long and hard about child care. Are you financially prepared for it? Is it going to be an emotional wrench to leave your child in the hands of someone else during the working week? Is it financially viable when compared with the alternatives – working part time and saving on childcare expenses by looking after the child yourself, or calling on the help of relatives?
Having a baby should be one of the happiest times of your life. The more prepared you are in planning your pregnancy, the more confident you’ll feel. It’s important to take care of yourself and your physical and mental health. Read a lot and talk to others about their experiences. More importantly, enjoy the life process of trying to conceive! Wishing you the best of luck.