Technology can help in many ways, but don’t overlook basic health practices when planning for pregnancy. For example, one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby is also one of the simplest: remember to take a daily vitamin before you try to get pregnant and throughout your pregnancy. Folic acid, found in prenatal vitamins, can slash the risk of major birth defects of the fetus‘ brain and spine between 50 and 70 percent. There’s even some evidence it can reduce the risk of other birth defects, including cleft palate, stomach problems and defects in arms and hands.
That’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated fortifying all cereal products with folic acid in 1998. Since then, the incidence of neural tube defects dropped 26 percent. All of which makes pre-pregnancy planning important, says Michelle Collins, CNM, a certified nurse midwife and clinical faculty member at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Pre-pregnancy or “preconception” planning involves a visit to your health care provider for a full medical evaluation, including a detailed medical history before you begin trying to get pregnant.
If you or anyone you know has ever had an unexpected pregnancy, you know all of the emotions and shock that come with it. It may take a few weeks to get used to the idea of being pregnant. Then you have to tell your family and assess how you will handle this huge change in your life that you weren’t necessarily preparing for. While my husband and I were hoping for a new little one to add to our family, we didn’t expect to get pregnant with two. All of the excitement of finding out that I was pregnant with twins instantly transformed into fear and worry when we realized we weren’t just having a baby; we were having a family all at once.
It is very important to prepare for pregnancy and not just “wing it”. The healthiest soil creates the healthiest plants, just as the healthiest body will create the healthiest babies. Taking the time to prepare for pregnancy isn’t always possible (my third baby was a big surprise!) but if you have the opportunity, do it! A healthier body will lead to a happy and healthy pregnancy, birth, baby and journey to parenthood. It’s worth it!
My first worry was for the safety of the twins. I was living in Grenada, a developing country in the Caribbean, and I knew I wanted to move back to the United States to get better healthcare. My second worry was money. We had started a small savings fund for a baby when I was trying to get pregnant, but now it seemed like we had to save double. We weren’t exactly sure how we were going to do it, but little by little we developed a plan that allowed us to save $10,000 over the course of a few months.
Consider the affect of preexisting conditions and current medications on pregnancy
It’s a time to consider how you’ll treat any preexisting condition that requires medication, such as . A woman with diabetes, for instance, runs the risk of having a child with cardiovascular disease or other problems if her blood sugar levels aren’t well-controlled before and during her pregnancy, says Ms. Reynolds. Plus, certain anti-seizure medications may cause defects in the infant by interfering with a woman’s ability to use folic acid. And in late 2005, the FDA warned pregnant women not to use paroxetine(Paxil), a popular antidepressant, during pregnancy because of a potentially higher risk of birth defects.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop taking all medications during pregnancy, says Ms. Reynolds. Usually, there are alternatives available that have been shown to be safer during pregnancy.
Understand how your weight can affect your chances of conceiving
The time before pregnancy is also the time to address any weight problems. Studies find that being overweight can increase your risk of gestational diabetes and may even make it harder to get pregnant. Conversely, being underweight can interfere with fertility.
Quit smoking before you get pregnant
And, of course, it’s a time to quit smoking. Smoking not only increases the risk of having a low birth-weight baby, but also a baby with Down syndrome and a multitude of other birth defects.
Discuss preconception and genetic counseling with your health care provider and your options for pregnancy.
In addition to preconception counseling, women might consider genetic counseling before they get pregnant, says Ms. Reynolds. During genetic counseling, a specially trained counselor takes a detailed medical history of you and your partner, as well as your families, to identify any potential or known genetic disorders. “Often, it is only when a woman becomes pregnant that genetic disorders come up, and for some, it’s too late to make a difference in promoting a healthy outcome,” she says. But even here, technology can step in.
A relatively new form of in vitro fertilization called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) can enable couples who carry genes for genetic disorders like Tay-Sachs or sickle cell anemia to have a healthy child. The procedure involves removing one cell from an eight-cell embryo and studying it for any genetic abnormalities. Only those embryos with no obvious problems are implanted into the woman’s uterus.
The procedure isn’t 100 percent effective, however. University of Florida researchers find that about 1.5 percent of embryos may be implanted with undetected genetic disorders because of a rare condition called chromosomal mosaicism. But for women who know they have a genetic risk for one of these devastating diseases, PGD can be a tremendous advantage.
Another advantage is a test given to women in the first trimester of pregnancy who have a risk of having a child born with Down syndrome. The disorder is the most common chromosomal abnormality, affecting about one in 800 babies born each year.
Previously, the only way to know if a woman was having a baby with Down’s was with second-trimester blood tests and/or invasive amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) tests, all of which carry a slight risk ofÂ miscarriage. If a woman then decided to terminate the pregnancy, she faced a more complex and emotionally wrenching second-trimester abortion.
But a major study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2005 found that screening in the first trimester with an ultrasound and blood test can identify most fetuses with Down syndrome between the 11th and 13th weeks of pregnancy, allowing women to decide what they want to do earlier in their pregnancy.
The blood tests measure levels of certain proteins and hormones that could indicate Down’s, while the ultrasound assesses the thickness of the fetus’ neck, called the nuchal translucency. By learning of her risk in the first trimester, often before she even starts showing or telling people about her pregnancy, a woman has more privacy to make her decision and, if she decides to continue the pregnancy, more time to grow accustomed to the idea of having a child with Down syndrome, says Dr. Wu.
Here are some tips on how to financially prepare for an unexpected pregnancy
Make Sure You Have Good Healthcare
If you become pregnant unexpectedly, the very first thing you want to do is check with your healthcare provider. Pregnancies require many doctor’s appointments, expensive ultrasounds, and a whole slew of blood work and tests in the beginning. You’re probably not prepared to pay for these expenses out of pocket.
Find out what your insurance provides, and if it’s not adequate, make sure to call around and check with different companies to see what your options are. Having a baby should be a happy time, not one of worrying about whether or not you can cover your medical bills.
Make a Savings Goal
Early in my pregnancy, I asked friends and family, “how much should I save for the arrival of these babies?” It was difficult to really get a clear answer out of anyone. My mom simply said, “A lot more than you think” while other friends said I wouldn’t need much as long as I had health insurance.
Newly pregnant and not knowing what to do or how much to save I came up with a goal number: $10,000. I planned to use that money to decorate the nursery, buy baby gear, hire some childcare help, and have a bit of a cushion (just in case). Your number may be higher or lower just make sure you take the months you’ll be spending on maternity leave into account, and be realistic about your needs. Will all your time off be covered? Will you need some extra assistance? What if you require a c-section? These are all things you need to think about.
Lose the Extras Until You Have a Baby Fund
Of course, saving $10,000 was easier said then done I knew it would take some heard work. After learning about my pregnancy, I dropped my student loan payments from $800 to $200. I also poured every extra cent of side hustle income into a high yield savings account and really cut back on my spending. It’s amazing how much you can set aside if you really put your mind to it.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll notice that thinking about your baby (or babies) is front and center in your mind when you are pregnant, but everything you buy every purchase you make should be well thought out. If you’re spending more than you’re saving, it’s time to cut back a little on your expenses.
If I want to buy something at the mall, I’m constantly asking myself, “Do I really need this?” or “Can I use this money for the babies instead?”
Look Into Life Insurance and a Will
Looking into life insurance can seem morbid, and that’s why people often avoid it. Still, if you’re young and healthy, a term life insurance policy can cost very little (and will barely make a dent in your monthly finances). Likewise, a will can provide peace of mind that’s invaluable. A lawyer can draw up a basic will for a minimal cost, or you can check out some of the online legal programs available.
Realize Babies Don’t Need the Best of the Best
Even a frugal gal like myself can get caught up in the baby gear hype.
It’s taken a lot of self-control to not buy them everything on the planet. When shopping for a crib, I’m instantly drawn to the more expensive ones and wondering why the others ones are so cheap.
My choices and my purchases require a lot more thought and advance planning, but over the past few months I’ve realized that a onesie from Wal-Mart and a onesie from Baby Gap really do serve the same purpose. And the best gift you can give your children is being financially prepared.
All in all, having a baby is really exciting, but I know that if you aren’t quite ready for it, it can be a bit of a shock. Still, with a little bit of planning and clear thinking, you can be just as ready – and happy – about your pregnancy as any other expectant mother.
Here are five things every couple should know when they start planning to grow their family.
Just because you think it’s time, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. On average, it takes a healthy couple one year to conceive. Yes, I am sure you have heard, and probably used the term fertile myrtle. And if you are anything like me, you are pretty certain that everyone except you is exactly that. However, that is not the norm; in fact, those couples are part of the numbers that create the average of one year. Think of all the people who try for two, three, 10 years, or even those who never succeed at becoming pregnant on their own.
It’s science not magic. Knowing and understanding your body is a huge help in getting pregnant. The more you understand what your body is telling you the quicker you are likely to get pregnant.
Know your cycle
The average woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days, not 7. In this cycle you have your three to seven day period. After your period ends, your body begins to prepare itself to release another egg, called ovulation, which generally occurs around 14 days after the first day of your period.
Over the next week or so, your body is working hard to make sure that egg is fertilized and makes it safely to your uterus where it will implant itself into your uterine lining. If it is unsuccessful at doing so, you will then have your period again as the uterine wall sheds and cleanses itself to then begin the process once again.
Know you’re prepared
Preparing to become pregnant is just as important as trying to become pregnant. Folic acid is essential in the development of a growing baby. Weeks before you ovulate, your ovaries are trying to decide which egg will be released. The egg that will be released will be the egg that is the most mature.
Folic acid helps to mature your eggs and helps to ensure that there would be no birth defects, which usually results in a miscarriage. If the eggs aren’t mature enough the chances of conception are decreased, and the chances of miscarriage and or birth defects are increased.
Know how to relax
Don’t think too much about it. This sentence is one of the most annoying things you can hear when you are trying to get pregnant, however, it is very important. Stressing too much about getting pregnant can actually prevent it. So, as annoying as it is can be to hear, relax and don’t stress. Meditation is going to be your best friend. Learning how to feel the stress in your body is key to being able to keep yourself calm, and with meditation or exercises like yoga you can bring peace and serenity into your life that can lower your stress helping to create a better chance of conception.
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