Tell me how to prepare for pregnancy
December 9, 2008 10:12 AM   Subscribe

We've decided to try and get me pregnant within the next few months. I'm 36 years old, healthy, and have no idea what to expect, or what DO (um, besides the obvious!). Pregnant-experienced Mefites, tell me all about it! What should I do or plan right now? What do you wish you had done in the early planning stages, or what were you really glad you did?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
A ten minute Barnes and Noble perusal of Taking Charge of Your Fertility will help you get the timing right.

What do I wish I'd fast it was going to happen. We expected it to take a while but it happened the first month (see above)-- I wish we'd gone out and gotten drunk and tottered home together one last time.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:17 AM on December 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

Check with your doctor about taking a Folic Acid supplement. Most women do not get enough in their diet, and it is very important for the development of the baby. You want to start even before being pregnant. Some doctors even start to prescribe prenatal vitamins prior to conception.

If you do not exercise regularly, start now and continue during pregnancy with a doctor's guidance. It made a huge difference for me in my pregnancies (no. 1 - no exercise, no. 2 - awesome shape before and during). You will have more energy and strength and feel better.
posted by maxg94 at 10:18 AM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Seconding "Taking Charge of Your Fertility." I learned a lot from that book (mainly charting + ovulation predictor kit).
posted by mattbucher at 10:21 AM on December 9, 2008

Start prenatal vitamins now. I'd say go with the flow on most things. You don't know how you will be affected by pregnancy so just be laid back about stuff. When I was pregnant with my first, I swore I would eat only healthy food - no sugar, blah blah blah, but when it came down to it, I was so sick and throw-uppy that I threw that idea out the window and ate what I could - healthy or not. I ended up eating plums, nectarines and grapefruit juice almost exclusively . . . which leads me to something else to consider . . .

I suffered with morning/afternoon/night sickness constantly but thought I was being a wimp so I didn't tell my doctor. Finally it became too much to handle and I told him - he put me on some medicine and ta-da, no more pukies! If you're feeling bad most likely there will be a way to make you feel better. Just ask.

Pregnancy related stuff is hard to plan ahead for, because like I said, you really don't know how you'll be affected. Maybe you'll be full of energy and love being pregnant. Maybe you'll be tired all the time and hate it.

I'd plan for the worst case scenario of being sick and hating it. Perhaps you could stock up on simple to make meals or freeze a bunch of meals for the times you're too tired to make something.

If you're working, start putting away a little bit of your paycheck to help with expenses. If you're not working, start putting away a little of your SO's paycheck.

Lastly, take it easy. Take it one day at a time.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:22 AM on December 9, 2008

Obvious ones: start taking your pre-natal vitamins now. Cut back on alcohol (not completely, I think that's overkill, but no more binge drinking or drug taking!). Make an effort to eat more healthily.

Less obvious: I recommend NOT going crazy with charting and temperature measuring and all that stuff. If you are unsuccessful after about 6 months, then sure go ahead and try it out, but I think that people immediately go for the charting and end up getting really stressed and obsessive about it. Being stressed seems to reduce your chances of conception. For the same reason, try not to obsess over books about pregnancy and everything that happens, or could go wrong etc. Its just another way to work yourself up into a state. Don't go crazy buying baby stuff, you are setting yourself up with high expectations = stress.

I wish I had got into shape before I got pregnant. It would have made my pregnancy a little easier - I went from an out-of-shape blob that was 10lbs overweight, to a gigantic out of shape blob with no energy. Don't suddenly begin exercising when you find out you are pregnant - it's a guilty response, but its not a very good idea unless you do it very gently indeed.

Overall, try and relax and enjoy, the, uh, process. Don't get all worked up about whether you are pregnant or not, don't expect things to happen immediately, just relax and de-stress.
posted by Joh at 10:22 AM on December 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

If you do not exercise regularly, start now and continue during pregnancy with a doctor's guidance. It made a huge difference for me in my pregnancies (no. 1 - no exercise, no. 2 - awesome shape before and during).

Me too -- this really helped, and helped me feel like my body was still my own. I ran up to month seven, and did cardio and weights up to the day before she was born.

It helped me to feel that pregnancy was not a disability, which unfortunately is the opposite of how my doctors made me feel.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:24 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wish I had planned financially for my 3 months of unpaid leave more methodically. Learn now what your country/employer will provide. (For example, most employers over 50 people in the US are required to provide three months of leave if you have a baby and have worked there for a year. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act doesn't indicate that they have to pay you. Your employer might do it anyway. Figure this out as early as possible so you're not surprised.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:25 AM on December 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

Get your car professionally detailed. My wife's sense of smell was acutely sensitive during her first trimester, and our dirty car didn't help. Once we had it detailed she was much better. It's a survival trait that pregnant women have carried with them (used to determine which food is edible and what may be spoiling).

I know it sounds weird, but that's one of the "early" things I can think of that we should have done.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:25 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wish I had gotten all my teeth fixed before I ended up pregnant. I had to stop all cosmetic dentistry.. and now with a kid, we can't afford it and my job doesn't have dental. I know it may sound silly.. but that's the one thing I regret.
Before pregnancy though... eat right, travel where you've been meaning to, make sure your medical insurance is up to snuff, start interviewing OB/GYN doctors now (vital!).

Most of all.. enjoy and relax!
posted by czechmate at 10:27 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

vitamins, exercise (even if it's just walking a mile every day), be comfortable with your doctors, and try to relax, We also fell into the "really fast" camp.... wish we'd spent more time practicing :)
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:29 AM on December 9, 2008

If there are any pounds lingering that are bugging you, take care of them now. It might be much harder after.
posted by agentwills at 10:32 AM on December 9, 2008

Some dude's opinion here but I would personally do things that you have been meaning to do but never had the time to. Like if you want to go on a trip to somewhere.... do it now while you are still childless. For anything else I would listen to the answers above me.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:38 AM on December 9, 2008

Get your life insurance now, before they take into account your increased weight!

If you're planning on quitting caffeine once pregnant, do it now! Once you're pregnant you can't take anything but Tylenol for headaches, so if you're like me and need your Advil, you'll be suffering during those withdrawal days.

You may want to research which potentially toxic things you may choose to give up... like acne creams, medications, hair dye. I wish I would have gotten my hair highlighted or streaked so that the color change when I abruptly stopped dyeing it would have been less obvious.

Got big plans to move furniture around, climb up on ladders, strip furniture? Do it now, or arrange for friends to help later on.

+1 for Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
posted by xo at 10:42 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

My wife has got a lot of support and advice via and their message boards.
posted by fings at 11:21 AM on December 9, 2008

Find an OBGYN that you like, and meet with him/her asap. If all goes well, you may be spending a lot of time together.

Get your flu shot, exercise a little and eat right when you can, cut back on drinking, and take your vitamins. Get your body as healthy as you think you can maintain (ie don't try to become a triathalete all of a sudden if that's not your way).

Start paying attention to your cycle, but don't get obsessed about it.

Start to think about what you'd do if you got pregnant right away, AND if you don't. Start talking to your partner honestly and openly about your expectations and fears, and how far down the medical path you might be willing to go together to make it happen.

(fwiw I was 36 and we thought it would happen right away. it took us almost 2 years, and we needed a minor fertility-treatment boost along the way. Most importantly, we were on the same page throughout the process).
posted by nkknkk at 11:21 AM on December 9, 2008

Kind of random, but if you are even slightly uncomfortable about your mattress now, you will hate it when you are pregnant. I am five months pregnant and a good night's sleep is priceless, to me. Luckily we bought a new mattress right as I found out, so I'm very, very glad we have the new one and not the old horrible one. But seriously - you get so tired when pregnant that it's important to get your rest. And when the baby gets here, you won't have much time for sleeping at all (or so I've been told).
posted by sutel at 11:28 AM on December 9, 2008

Look into how your health insurance handles everything. Does the doctor you choose deliver at a hospital in your network?
posted by poppo at 11:36 AM on December 9, 2008

Keep an open mind about your pregnancy. Any time you declaim "I will definitely do it XYZ way" you know circumstances are going to mean that you end up doing the opposite (like what you're eating as pointed out above).

Consider a midwife rather than an OB/GYN if you're comfortable with that option. I found that my midwife had so much more time to spend with me than my OB/GYN ever would have.
posted by gaspode at 11:44 AM on December 9, 2008

Your dude is "carrying" his contribution child right now. He should cut out any illicit drugs he might be into, stop taking hot baths, etc.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:46 AM on December 9, 2008

contribution *to the* child
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:47 AM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: Enjoy your freedom while it lasts. This is your last chance to get drunk, party hard, and go clubbing in Europe.
posted by Anonymous at 12:11 PM on December 9, 2008 is a really easy and informative resource.
posted by zizzle at 12:17 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

See if your doctor will check out your immunities. When I was pregnant the first time, they ran blood tests and saw that I was not immune to German Measles. But since I was already pregnant, I couldn't get a shot until after I had the baby. The doctor told me, "Well, be careful not to get German Measles!" Okay... German Measles isn't very common, but it was a bit nerve wracking whenever I was around kids. They had to give me the shot before I left the hospital after delivery. Then, when I was pregnant with the third, guess what? Once again. not immune to German Measles! (I was apparently fine with the second child and when I had a miscarriage a year before the third pregnancy. ) So, get any possible immunities checked out if your doctor will do it. Even if you had all your vaccinations, they apparently don't always work. I don't know what else they screen for, but they do it when it's already too late!
posted by artychoke at 12:25 PM on December 9, 2008

I forgot to mention, the pregnancy site is full of good information too. I realize is hit or miss, but the pregnancy pages are definitely a good hit.

Here's the getting pregnant page.

Keep in mind that for couples in their 20s, there's a 25% chance of getting pregnant each month. For couples in their 30s, the chance is closer to 20% and that's if everything that needs to be lined up is lined up. So, expect that it could take as little as two months or as long as a year. Given your age, if it takes longer than 6 months, it may be a good idea to speak to your primary care about seeing a fertility specialist.
posted by zizzle at 12:48 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Make a plan for who to tell what and when. Consider this: who would you tell if you had a miscarriage? If you needed fertility treatments? Whose support would you want/need? Tell those people (and only those people) about your plans for conceiving and early pregnancy.

Hate to be a downer, but think about miscarriage as a real possible outcome. It happened to me (though I went on to carry to term next time) and I found it devastating.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:01 PM on December 9, 2008

Just remember that every pregnancy is different and that there's a wide range of weird within the normal parameters. You might get pimples. Or not. Crave pickles, or not. Libido up, libido down, spin the wheel and take your chances. You're going "OMG, what is this bizarre thing that's happening to my body" and it doesn't sound like anything that has happened to anyone you know--but your doctor has seen it 500 times and will tell you to relax, it happens to some women.

That said, do write down your worries and share them with your OB at appointments. When you go to appointments, wear clothing and shoes that are easy to shed, especially as you get big. It's not impossible to reach down and tie your shoes but slip-ons become much more appealing.

Morning sickness was minimal for me but I managed it with Herr's salt-and-vinegar chips. YMMV. They were portable, relatively neat to eat and settled my stomach quickly.

Seconding the advice to do dental work pre-pregnancy. If you plan to breastfeed, you probably won't want to get x-rays done.

I was happy that I had a supply of baby clothing laid in long before my children were born, which saved me from taking them with me to go shopping. My girlfriend sent me the baby box, a bunch of outgrown clothing that circulates among friends with new babies. Everybody adds a little and the box gets a bit bigger with each child before it moves on. Ask your friends if they'd be willing to do such a thing. Baby clothing is expensive!

Don't buy all of the baby contraptions. You won't need them. Car seat, place to sleep (if you're not co-sleeping), and some form of carrier is as basic as it gets.

I can't stress enough the need to talk with your partner about sleeping arrangements and how you handle baby being up every two hours. The first few months will just be really, really hard. If you have a plan in place (co-sleeping? Night nursing? Who will handle feedings? Where will everybody sleep? Who does diaper changes at 3 a.m.?) you will feel a little more in control. Remember, there's no perfect solution. Do what works for you and never mind what your MIL thinks.

As for the obvious, try every third night.

Good luck, anon.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Take folate.
posted by lottie at 2:21 PM on December 9, 2008

I disagree with a previous poster's advice NOT to start a temperature chart. I think it's the first thing you should do, since you're trying to get pregnant at a slightly later age. It takes several months for patterns to emerge, and for the trends in the chart to make some sense, so why not start doing it right now, and then in 6 months or so, if you're not pregnant, you've got something to show your doctor that will probably mean something to her.

You don't have to start going crazy every month every time there's a rise or dip in your temperature .. just start keeping track of it now so that in a few months, the variations will hopefully be in some sort of pattern that you can predict and count on.

The single best advice I got about getting pregnant was to chart my temperature. And I got pregnant within 6 months of doing so, after age 40.

I'd also recommend going to your doctor now and asking for an FSH test. It's a blood test they do 5 days (I think it's 5 days, not positive) after the start of your period. It measures the level of follicle stimulating hormone and what it tells you is how hard your ovaries are working to produce an egg every month. A low number means that in theory you're producing viable eggs and you will hopefully be able to conceive.

This is a good time to make sure that you like your doctor and that you're comfortable going through this process with her. Get a checkup, talk to her about what you're aiming for and when, get her thoughts on how long you should try before doing any tests, and ask about how the pregnancy will be handled by the practice. This is something you want to be comfortable with before you get pregnant. You don't want to have to switch doctors mid-pregnancy.

Seriously. Start charting now. It's easy and I think you'll be really glad you did. Good luck!
posted by Kangaroo at 2:26 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Not to be pessimistic, but take crazycanuck's advice seriously. Miscarriage, though not talked about very much, is actually quite common. There's about a 25% chance you'll miscarry without having ever known you were pregnant. Once you make it out of the first trimester, that drops to something like 8%, which is a lot lower, but still non-trivial.

As such, don't make any official announcements until you're in your second trimester. It's just easier for everyone to deal with it. I've known women to have waited ten weeks or so to tell their husbands for that very reason, particularly if they've been trying to get pregnant for a while. Pregnancy isn't immediately obvious in most women by then anyways, so it shouldn't be hard to keep it under wraps.

Similarly, don't majorly rearrange your life until you're in your second trimester. Yes, obviously do everything your doctor says, and that will probably involve some changes. But if you were planning on, say, redoing a room, or moving, or leaving your job, or some other major life-changing step in preparation for a little one, hold off. Leaving your job when there's a 5% chance you'll want it back is one thing, but leaving it when there's a 25% chance is less advisable.

Bringing a new life into the world is far and away the most biologically complicated thing you're going to ask of your body, so it's not surprising that things don't always go like clockwork. Miscarriage is just one of those things that happens, and most of the time there isn't a thing wrong. You can usually "try again" pretty much right away.

Good luck!
posted by valkyryn at 3:09 PM on December 9, 2008

As for the obvious, try every third night.

You'll have a happy man! But, ovulation does not occur every third night. You'd have a greater chance of getting pregnant doing it three times in the 12-36 hour window of ovulation.
posted by mattbucher at 3:33 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't be bothered if it takes anything up to a year to get knocked up.

Your blood volume doubles over the first few months of pregnancy. That's why you'll most likely always feel like you've been running a marathon.

The fitter[1] you can get the better you'll cope with the extra load on your body, and likely the easier childbirth will be. Of course, easier is a very relative term here...

Everyone told us first babies are almost always late. My wife worked up to 2 and a half weeks before her due date. Our daughter arrived the first day of her pregnancy leave. It would have been better for her to leave work earlier.

My wife always carried some celery and crackers, and found she could avoid morning sickness by having a nibble whenever she felt a bit queasy. Of course, other people we know have had raging, puke-around-the-clock morning sickness that such tips do nothing for.

Everyone seems to understate things like recovery periods for childbirth so as not to "scare" mothers. This pissed me off and still does, since we made assumptions about what we'd be able to do when that turned out to be nonsense. Friends have the same experience - it seems to be near universal.

Don't start major renovations to your house in such a way they'll coincide with the pregnancy like almost everyone we know did.

Some of our relatives harped at us about spending more time repainting nurseries and stuff like that. We told them to piss off, and didn't. We're glad we didn't and made the most of being a couple for he last time for 20 odd years. Your kid doesn't give a shit about the colour of their room, and if you're like us they'll be in your room for ages anyway.

Key supplies are clothes, a baby seat for the car, nappies, a crib, and breastfeeding apparatus. Most of the other stuff is optional.

You can save a ton of money if there's an organisation like Plunket here in NZ, who will rent car seats, since you'll be able to get ones sized appropriately for your wee one and upgrade as needed. The capsule-style we god was really handy - they snap in and out of a permanent base in the car, and can be attached to stroller wheels or carried. You can also save a ton of money in hand-me-downs, gifts of clothes and whatnot from relatives, and making your own clothes.

The best thing I got my wife was a cordless phone with a headset, because it meant she could chat on the phone while breastfeeding.

My only regret from when my daughter was born was not being able to take more time off work. I had 5 weeks and felt my heart break every time I left the house for months afterwards.

As such, don't make any official announcements until you're in your second trimester.

We did this, and my wife reckons she won't if/when we have another, mostly because she found it a real pain dealing with the fatigue and whatnot of early pregnancy and not telling people why she was always a little tired and sick.

[1] Note that's fitter not fitter as euphemism for slimmer.
posted by rodgerd at 6:32 PM on December 9, 2008

Lots of good advice here. Tell your doctor you're trying (your OB/GYN too). Yes, take prenatals and extra folic acid. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date. I am not sure how it works if you get the flu shot shortly before you try; it might be that you should get a mercury-free one.

Prepare yourself for both extreme eventualities: that you'll get pregnant right away, the first time, or that it'll take way longer than you think, maybe even requiring fertility treatments. If you get pregnant, at the beginning, tell only the people that you'd want to tell if you miscarried. I learned this one the hard way, too.

Know that you could be super-duper sick for the first trimester (or even longer). Yes, there are medications that can really help, but not everyone, or you may not want to take anything for the first trimester. It can really be a pain in terms of work or just getting stuff done. (I'm not trying to depress you; but a lot of people do get pretty sick.)

There will be people who will give you trouble about what you should or shouldn't eat and drink. You will make your own decisions about what you're comfortable with, but just know that what's recommended varies widely among countries and doctors. In the U.S., for instance, people can be extremely overcautious. Don't get too freaked out.

Make sure you have an awesome OB, not just one who's okay. There are really great ones out there and it can make all the difference when it comes time to deliver.

Your life doesn't end when the baby arrives. It will get busy, there can be hard times, but if you don't get X, Y, and Z done before the due date, it will be okay! And you will still be yourself. People say "Everything changes," and I guess in one way it does, but in another way, it's a lot less than I thought.

It can be easy to get really wound up about the pregnancy, preparations, and delivery. But what matters is what comes after: giving yourself some time and energy to imagine the changes that will come, thinking about how you want to parent, etc.

Best of luck in your endeavors!
posted by Herkimer at 6:56 PM on December 9, 2008

Anonymous, one thing I found is that people kind of loved to scare the shit out of me. I don't know why, maybe it's just me and there's something about me that brought this out in people. Keep in mind that while there are lots of things that can go wrong, there's lots of things that can go wrong while you're crossing the street as well, and generally speaking it works out okay. You just keep in mind there's some inherent risk in crossing the street and go about your business. Mefi mail me if anything freaks you out and you want to ask a stranger about it.

Also, is a good resource w/smart women, although I got a little sick of the total immersion in momhood and pregnancy after a while and stopped going there. But early on, it was quite helpful and a good place to vent and get answers from knowledgeable women.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:36 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Movies. Go out to movies in real movie theatres. Get the large popcorn and share the BIG drink. Hold hands. All that stuff. I miss movies.

"We've decided to try" As a dad, let me say that's an excellent start. You're the one that's going to have to do the heavy lifting on this project, but always remember it's something you are doing together.

Good luck.
posted by Wilberto at 10:22 AM on December 10, 2008

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