I don’t know about you, but I went from living in mordant fear of an unplanned pregnancy to raging, relentless baby fever, pretty much over night—only to discover it takes a whole lot more than just wanting a baby (and not using birth control) to actually end up with that proverbial bun in the oven.
If you’re in the same boat, hang in there. And use this time while you’re playing the waiting game to get yourself in optimal, baby-growing condition. Here’s the 411 on how to prepare for pregnancy…and hopefully see those two pink lines sooner rather than later!
1. First, get healthy.
Start taking prenatals. Don’t wait for a positive pregnancy test to start supplementing! Ideally, you’ll want three months of higher levels of folic acid even before you conceive. (Check out my advice on How to Choose a Prenatal Vitamin.) In addition, you might consider supplementing with age-old herbal remedies designed to promote healthy menstrual cycles and reproductive health, like Vitex or Vitanica Pregnancy Prep Reproductive System Support, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Get weight-wise. If you’re not at a healthy weight, work on getting there, and do it in a healthy way. No crash diets: eat plenty of fresh produce, lean, high-quality protein and whole grains so you can offer your someday-baby an optimal environment in which to grow. Make sure you’re getting adequate exercise, too—once you get pregnant, your doctor will tell you not to start a new exercise plan, so now’s the time to get your body used to working out.
Birth control pills, be gone! Stop taking oral contraceptives a few months before you hope to get pregnant. Some women worry having traces of the pill in their system could cause miscarriages; whether or not that’s true, your cycle could be irregular for up to six months after your last dose, making due date calculation harder.
2. Next, get to know your cycles.
You know what’s completely false? That Day 14 of your cycle is the day when all women of childbearing age are most likely to conceive. This day is indeed magic if you have a textbook, 28-day cycle, but it took me several months of wild, Day 14 cavorting about to realize that Day 21 was my lucky day. If you have regular cycles of any length, you will want to take the total number of days in your typical cycle and subtract 14 to find your most fertile time period (and please get romantic not just on that day, but in the days before and after that day, for optimal success).
Note that this basic math only works if your cycles are extremely regular—and keep in mind that the most Regular Rhonda can have an off-month due to stress or illness. To take the guesswork about all of this “special day” business, buy an ovulation predictor kit at the drugstore; a positive result is going to be much more trustworthy than relying on what day Miss Egg made her monthly appearance in previous months!
3. Make a pre-prenatal appointment with your OB/GYN.
You’ll want to let your obstetrician know that you’re hoping to get pregnant—she can give you a thorough check up to make sure all systems are a go, and she can also give you a ballpark idea of how many cycles you should let pass without a positive pregnancy test before you need to consider an escalated plan of attack. If you’re in your twenties or early thirties with no known medical problems, that might mean waiting a good year before you get a referral to a fertility specialist. If you’re in your mid to late 30s, she might give you a few months. And if you’re pushing 40 or higher, it wouldn’t be unusual for a doctor to recommend a consultation with a reproductive specialist right away, since time is of the essence.
Gut check: If you just known from the depths of your soul that something is “off,” don’t wait so long to follow up with a specialist. If you pay attention to your cycles and can tell, for example, that you don’t ovulate regularly, tell your doctor immediately!
I have three children. I think the last time I slept through the night—not interrupted by a kid or my own anxiety-related “mom-somnia”—was in 2002. Before you have to deal with nighttime pee breaks that will give way to nighttime feeding sessions, pull those covers up to your chin, place a silky, feathery-soft eye mask on your eyelids, and dream sweet dreams, mama-to-be!
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 3 to 10.