Pre-pregnancy prep -- anything worth doing?
December 12, 2017 3:20 PM   Subscribe

We're planning to try conceiving around the middle of next year, and I'm unsure about whether it would be a good idea to take prenatal vitamins now or do anything else in preparing my body besides the obvious stuff like don't smoke or do hard drugs, eat copious amounts of junk food, etc.

So if you are or have been pregnant, I would love to hear from you about anything you did prior to the pregnancy that you think did a lick of good for the baby.
posted by Forty-eight to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You should be taking prenatals before you're pregnant (the folate is most important very early on in pregnancy - possibly before you know you're pregnant). There are lots of recommendations that every woman who could get pregnant should be taking them.

Kegels & having a strong core will make pregnancy and post-partum (marginally) easier/more pleasant.

But other than that, there's not really anything that would help. I asked my amazing gyno this question about a year before we wanted to conceive and she basically shrugged and said nah.
posted by brainmouse at 3:25 PM on December 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

Seconding core and pelvic floor exercises (not just kegels!)

Make sure you’re right up to date on dental work, immunization (check your pertussis is still good, in particular.)

If you want to really feel overwhelmed, I might also recommend gradually simplifying and decluttering your surroundings, while getting in tons of experiences like...see things live (concerts, shows) before babysitting and sleep schedules are involved. But really, ehh.

It took me 7 years to make it to term the first time, so I also don’t recommend going too overboard. I gave up too many wine tastings. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 3:33 PM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

You could choose a physical therapist now.
You could start working on your pelvic floor, TRA, glutes. The exercises you need to support your body in pregnancy aren’t like anything you do in the gym (except maybe Pilates). Also, go to Pilates.

You could install grab bars in your tub, toilet and bed now. You could plan a main level bedroom if you can no longer climb stairs. Stockpile muscle rubs, ice packs, and other non-drug pain relief. Ace bandages, wrist braces, hip braces. Spanx will help you keep your hips stable, just slit the front.

You could also plan for bed rest if needed. I’ve never had it so not sure what you would need.

I wish someone had given me a walker and a wheelchair. I wish I had someone to dress me in the mornings, I screamed in pain each time I changed my underwear for the last couple months.

You may or may not have problems. I was nearly disabled and have long term damage to my muscles and ligaments, but that only happens to a few people. But, it’s not unusual to be on bedrest or not very mobile due to all kinds of factors in pregnancy, regardless of being in good or bad shape going into it. You won’t know how it effects you until you are there. But some reduced mobility and pain is a given.
posted by littlewater at 3:43 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

The really important stuff in the prenatals is the folic acid btw. They gave me terrible constipation so I really only took folic acid with the full knowledge of my doctor and they were fine with that. The other stuff is more by way of insurance but hasn't been shown to have an effect on outcomes.
posted by peacheater at 4:03 PM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sort out any general physical issues (like back pain) with a physical therapist and keep up your daily exercises, if you are assigned any.

Start building a habit of light exercise like walking and yoga that you'll be able to do throughout your pregnancy. I know some people spend their entire pregnancy deadlifting or running long distances, but the important thing is to stay active at all, so if you're likely to quit harder exercise early in pregnancy (I did!), make sure you have other activity in your life. I've averaged about 13,000 steps a day throughout pregnancy and have done yoga at least 1x/week, and it's helped immensely.

Also as others have mentioned, kegels or at least lots of sex (I'm almost 40 weeks and haven't peed my pants yet, LOL).

Discuss your parenting vision with your partner, even just at a high level.

If you have any situations in your life that cause you unnecessary anxiety, figure them out. Maybe this means quitting (or being ready to quit) a volunteer position, having a difficult conversation with a family member, etc.
posted by beyond_pink at 4:04 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

If there's anything medical or dental you're waiting to care of, get it taken care of now! You'll be way more restricted wrt medications when pregnant and likely short on time after the birth.
posted by peacheater at 4:06 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could start charting your morning temperatures now. Get a special basal temperature thermometer at the drugstore and keep it next to your bed with a pad of paper and a pencil. Before you get out of bed, take your temperature and record it with the date. It will give you an idea of when you're about to ovulate and will give you valuable data on how long your cycles are. Keep all the pages and keep doing it. If you end up having trouble conceiving, you will have months worth of really important information for your physician. This is by far the best advice I got when I started thinking about babies.
posted by Kangaroo at 4:06 PM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

One of my very best friends is a midwife, and through both my two pregnancies she kept on reminding me: women have been doing this for hundreds of thousands of years: you can do it.
This helped me a lot — not to disregard sound advice from doctors and midwives, but to remember to listen to my own experience, to trust it and to use that as the base of everything I did.
posted by mumimor at 4:18 PM on December 12, 2017

I’m 7 months pregnant and I am really missing a few things - live music, normal massages, and resort pools. In addition to the prenatals and kegels, think about the lifestyle things you might miss and do them now.

On a more serious note, I did genetic screening to make sure I wasn’t a carrier for any diseases before we started trying to conceive and it did a lot for my peace of mind. Insurance covered most of the cost, I believe it ended up being about $350 out of pocket.

I also really underestimated how physically difficult pregnancy is (for me at least) and how incapacitated I would be for almost all of it. I wish I would have been in better shape when I got pregnant because I feel very weak and I probably would have had an easier time if I were more fit.

Finally, I used ovulation predictor kits and got pregnant in our first cycle trying. I was NOT expecting it to happen so quickly and then ended up being violently ill and miserable on our international honeymoon. Don’t be like me - get pregnant ON your fun trip, not beforehand!
posted by tatiana wishbone at 4:23 PM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

"General good health" is what's recommended: good vitamin intake, probably including prenatals, not because they help with conception but because they cover those first few weeks before you're certain, and general physical fitness.

Kegels and pelvic exercises are useful, but more in the general sense of "so you'll have some practice with them later." The body changes during pregnancy - different elasticity of muscles; more blood; different sense of balance; lots of other small changes. There's not much in "tone the body" before pregnancy that specifically helps during pregnancy - other than, it helps to be reasonably fit; it helps to know how to exercise; it helps to know how to recognize the difference between tired and damaged.

Start building a habit of light exercise like walking and yoga that you'll be able to do throughout your pregnancy.

This, or something like it. I did Irish dancing through my 7th month the first time (at which point, the other dancers said I was scaring them and would I please stand down). Having some kind of exercise routine is good, but what you have before pregnancy may not work with the changed body shape and different tolerances. Be ready to try something new.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:34 PM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm just about nine months pregnant, so as far as pregnancy goes, this is about as fresh in my mind as it will ever be. Mostly I would say relax, and maybe read Emily Oster's Expecting Better if you want a clear rundown of what you're potentially getting yourself in for.

Start tracking your cycles, if you don't already, and it doesn't hurt to start on the prenatal vitamins now. It's recommended to begin taking folate a minimum of one month before conception to reduce the risk of spina bifida and other disorders.

If you exercise, keep exercising. If you don't, start now, but nothing crazy. Pregnancy is tough on the body in unexpected ways, and there's a lot you simply cannot ward off or anticipate, but good overall health starting out doesn't hurt.

Definitely make sure you're solid on dental work and any other ongoing pain issues. Your options for anesthetic and pain relief become very limited during pregnancy. You'll also want to lay off high doses of Vitamin A and retinoids while pregnant, so keep that in mind if you have a complicated skin care routine.

Don't worry about the vaccinations yet. In many places, it is standard procedure to get a booster during pregnancy so as to pass on antibodies to the baby in utero. This also goes for things like flu shots.

Enjoy all the forbidden foods and drinks now, but get comfortable with the idea of going without. If you have a 12 cup-a-day coffee habit, it's a lot easier to scale it back beforehand than suddenly going cold turkey (but you shouldn't ever have to go cold turkey on coffee, for the record.)

Don't make big travel plans and make sure any plans you do make are flexible. Some people are perfectly fine going on some crazy adventure babymoon once they're pregnant, but others are miserable and huddled over a toilet for months. You won't know which one you are ahead of time, so don't tempt fate by booking a bunch of nonrefundable international plane tickets months in advance.

But really, just relax. Pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint.
posted by Diagonalize at 4:37 PM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you can still opt to put money into your health FSA, consider adjusting the amount up. Medical co-pays, prenatal massage or acupuncture to help with morning sickness, out-of-pocket costs for vitamins, etc.
posted by Jaclyn at 4:39 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some people are sometimes unintentionally doing things that will lessen their chances of getting pregnant, so you might want to do some reading up just to be sure. You can go crazy with this, but ovulation tracking (or at least tracking periods) and fertility-friendly lube are good additions to your pre-pregnancy life.

Also, financial planning, evaluating your insurance, and contributing to your FSA.
posted by vunder at 4:43 PM on December 12, 2017

Save money. Do your hobby stuff. Travel. Exercise. Don't bother with the pertussis shots, you'll have to get them around 7 months. Find a good midwife/ob. Look for daycare (not actually kidding....sigh. In some places you have to get on wait lists while you're pregnant.).
posted by john_snow at 5:37 PM on December 12, 2017

Oh, and think about your job. You need to be somewhere a year before you're eligible for FMLA. Do you want to keep your current job for a few years? Now is a good time to look if not. Are they family-friendly?
posted by john_snow at 5:47 PM on December 12, 2017

Go to the movies as often as you humanly possibly can. Ask me how I know.

In all seriousness, though, all you need is folic acid supplements BEFORE you get pregnant. Don’t bother with a pertussis shot, you’ll need one in your third trimester regardless of when your last one was (I had two pregnancies and two shots in two years), that’s how baby gets some level of immunity.
posted by lydhre at 6:23 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Aside from taking folic acid there is nothing I did to prepare for pregnancy that helped except maybe go on three amazing holidays in a row so I didn't feel quite so deprived when we had to cancel a trip due to me being pregnant (Still too sick at 5 months pregnant).

I wish I had known how sick I would be all the way through as I would have planned work slightly differently. I wish I had known that I would be too sick to drive, though there is nothing I could have done about it.

Now that I have a baby who is nearly one, i wish I had spent more time reading about parenting. I'm just now realising that I like a lot of Montessori ideas and it would have been useful to know more about it earlier.

Also, you can have all kinds of intentions but please forgive yourself if you can't follow through. When I was 2 weeks pregnant I hiked 28 miles in a day. 3 weeks later I was fainting from the exertion of standing up for 15 minutes and I couldn't manage the 10 minute walk to work. I didn't exercise for my entire pregnancy because I just couldn't. I had a normal birth with no intervention and no pain relief. I'm back at pretty much my old level of activity now.
posted by kadia_a at 6:25 PM on December 12, 2017

I would say you can wait to start prenatal vitamins until a month or so before you stop using birth control.

I waited until I was pregnant before finding a doula but it never hurts to look at your options for midwives, doulas, etc. early - do you like your OB? Make sure you like your team.

I had been strength training in a minor sort of way before I got pregnant and I agree that a base level of fitness was helpful.

I read hippy books (Ina Mae Gaskin et al.) because I am interested in that stuff anyway, and found that I actually really liked reading peoples’ personal narratives of pregnancy and birth. I tried to be a critical reader though, and found the Emily Oster book to be something of a corrective to the farther reaches of woo. Actually, while I am not queer, I am really glad I read a book intended for lesbians trying to conceive - it was good to break out of all the heteronormative stuff. There is so much of it.

Since my first approach to anything is usually through a book, I spent a certain amount of energy reading about conceiving, pregnancy, birth, and post-partum, BUT I would say that one of the hardest things was remembering to trust my own body and lived experience as it happened - and you can’t read your way through it.

Talk to your partner about genetic testing, what level of foreknowledge you want and what you might do with it. Make sure you understand where you are both at.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:28 PM on December 12, 2017

I asked my OB before I had my first kid- make sure your MMR vaccine is up to date- can't be done while pregnant because IIRC, the rubella is a live vaccine.
posted by pearshaped at 6:31 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, exercise and especially pelvic floor exercises. Otherwise you end up in Physical Therapy (ask me how I know ;))
posted by jbenben at 6:58 PM on December 12, 2017

Start tracking your cycles. I did this and it was excellent information for my doctor when I got pregnant (which was way sooner than expected). It helped determine the due date which correlated exactly with the ultrasounds I received in my first trimester. Charting is pretty useful - it takes work, but it takes a lot of the guesswork out of knowing when you're fertile. I charted without ovulation predictors, but those are really helpful for some women.

In the months before conception, I took prenatal vitamins, exercised a lot, and found an acupuncturist who specialized in women's fertility. She regulated my cycles in about a month, and by the time we were ready to conceive, I got pregnant the first cycle.

Nthing the comment above about getting pregnant *during* (or after) a vacation - I was so sick for the first two months that I could barely get to work. I can't imagine being that sick on vacation.

Oh! And stay hydrated. In my experience, it was harder to check cervical fluid without staying consistently hydrated.

I also found this book to be really interesting, with regards to conception. I was actually pregnant when I started reading it and didn't make it all the way through the book, but it provides an informed discussion of fertility and options that women can take before turning to IVF if fertility becomes more challenging than they initially anticipated.
posted by onecircleaday at 8:40 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get on the waitlist for your preferred daycare. Figure out how much it’s going to cost and start putting that amount in a savings account every month.
posted by juliapangolin at 4:29 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Go on fun overnight or weekend trips NOW. See all the museums, lie on the beaches, go for big hikes, go to all the sporting events, try all the restaurants, etc.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:58 AM on December 13, 2017

I'm just past the halfway point with my first pregnancy. About 6 months before we started trying, I started taking prenatals and started a good diet and exercise program. I also had a pre-conception appointment with my OBGYN. I read "The Impatient Women's Guide to Getting Pregnant" and started taking my BBT every morning (recommend vaginally) and using OPKs, so I knew exactly how my cycle worked. Got pregnant on the 2nd cycle of trying.

Things I did not anticipate: pregnancy sucks (though this isn't guaranteed for everyone). I've spent the last 20 weeks being nauseous and constantly hungry and having no energy. I leave myself at least 10 hours of time to sleep at night because I need it and I wake up to pee so much/general pregnancy insomnia. I've been eating like crap because carbs are the only thing that settle my stomach and not exercising because getting through my work day is all I can manage. I didn't think I'd have to give up on "normal" life so soon. I was planning on a 2nd trimester babymoon and no way would I try traveling during pregnancy. If there are things you want to do, make sure you do them before you are pregnant.
posted by disaster77 at 10:56 AM on December 13, 2017

Good advice above. I'd add, do any home repairs now, as many of those chemicals aren't great during pregnancy -- e.g., maybe paint the nursery? Also, I'd start learning about how to minimize your exposure to chemicals like BPA -- e.g., swap out your toiletries for healthy ones if you haven't already. Look into possible lead sources in your house, and cut back on any mercury exposures. You might read up on what food is and isn't recommended and start adjusting now. E.g., cutting back to the levels of coffee that they recommend put me in withdrawal headaches from doing it so quickly.
posted by slidell at 9:58 PM on December 13, 2017

Just had a baby on Friday! I'd take note of which fish are high in mercury. I realized early on in my pregnancy that swordfish are so high in mercury it's recommended to avoid them for a year before getting pregnant! I felt guilty that I ate some right around when I conceived even though my OB said not to worry about that one time.
posted by carolr at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2017

If you or your partner are Ashkenazi Jewish it could be worthwhile to have him run a battery of tests for various things you could be carriers of. My husband did that before I got pregnant and it was great being able to test out of so many tests - believe me you're going to get so sick of giving blood or getting poked by the time you're through - it felt like a gigantic favor my husband did for me.
posted by peacheater at 6:46 AM on December 17, 2017

I am late to this game but eat all the food. ALL THE FOOD.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:44 PM on December 31, 2017

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