Written in partnership with Horizon genetic carrier screening.
Did you know that preconception planning should really start about two years before becoming pregnant? There are so many factors and everyone is different, but once you start focusing on a healthier lifestyle (for a healthier pregnancy), it takes your body time to cycle and adjust to the changes. Some biological cycles take years to “refresh,” whereas some cycle every day—for example, the hormones that control childbirth are shown to peak between 2:00 am and 7:00 am. Interesting, right?! I went to school for physiology so don’t get me started 😉
So how do you prepare for pregnancy before you’re pregnant?
What do you do for the months or years before conceiving? It’s no secret on Baby Dickey that our first pregnancy was a surprise. There was no planning there and certainly no preconception planning. The second time, we knew we’d start trying to conceive soon so I began a few “preparation” routines—but even that pregnancy happened earlier than we expected. Third time is the charm? We got to plan this one for quite some time! We chose an ideal season for the birthday and worked backward from there.
I definitely suggest you speak to your family doctor, OB, or midwife when preconception planning, but here are some tips and things to consider.
Remove toxins from your environment. This means quit smoking and limit intake of things like alcohol and caffeine. It also means to be aware of your work environment and potential chemicals or poor air quality. This one was pretty easy for us—I’ve never smoked and with two kids at home already, there is rarely alcohol in our lives. Limiting my daily cup of coffee, though… eeek. I pretty much waited until conception for that one.
Start taking prenatal vitamins. Ideally, you’re taking these 3-6 months before conception, but at least one month before. There are many varieties now so if you try one that upsets your stomach, try another. If you struggle with the pills, try prenatal gummies or powder mixes for drinks. I like pills that are natural and food-based.
photo cred: death to stock
Focus on a healthier lifestyle. This is different for everyone, but we all know how to be healthier, in general. Watch what you eat (less processed foods and sugars), drink more water, get your blood pressure under control, exercise, reduce stressors in your life, take care of your teeth (dental issues have been linked to preterm labor), and manage any health issues.
If you’ve been exercising regularly during preconception planning, you can likely continue (in modified forms) during pregnancy—check with your care provider. If you haven’t been, try low-impact and easy-going workouts like going for walks and swimming so you can get in some daily activity.
I started going to the gym 2-3 times a week and we completely cleaned out our kitchen. We got rid of processed snacks and things full of sugar and dyes and we opted for almond milk, sprouted grain bread, and lots more veggies. The transition was much easier than I thought it would be!
Check your finances and employment. What’s your work’s policy on maternity leave? What about paternity leave? How long is it and is it paid or unpaid? How long could you afford to stay home, will you need childcare and what are those costs, etc. It’s never too early to start putting away a small amount each month during preconception planning.
I’m lucky enough to work from home so I can plan my postpartum schedule. My husband will have to use his vacation days. I know I will be asking for support after this baby arrives, especially help with our other 2 kids!
Don’t forget your partner! This all goes for them, too. They need to check their health issues, quit smoking, eat healthier, etc. These things can also affect the viability and mobility of sperm so it’s another aspect to consider during preconception planning. Remember, it takes two!
Genetic carrier screening. Some people plan in advance to start their families–for some, it’s a big surprise! When you’re thinking about starting your family, your doctor will often ask you about your family history. But did you know there may be surprises in your family tree? Genetic carrier screening can help you make informed reproductive decisions as you start your family.
It is common for people to be carriers for 4-5 genetic conditions—if you and your partner are carriers for the same condition, there’s a 1 in 4 chance your baby will be affected.
A benefit to genetic screening in advance is to learn how to care for the condition or what precautions to take. Horizon Genetic Carrier Screening can help parents understand their chances of having a child with a specific genetic disease before or during pregnancy, so they can plan ahead. Parents can get the best care possible including early therapy and intervention.
I have had genetic testing done and learned so much—like my increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s (and passing that trait to my children), so you bet I continue researching the disease and staying informed. If you’re interested in this non-invasive prenatal test, look for a provider near you.
Disclosure: this post is sponsored, but all opinions are my own.