Your Ultimate Pregnancy Planning Checklist
by Clare Apumami
Definition of Pregnancy Planning
Pregnancy is the time during which a child develops in the womb of a woman. Pregnancy planning, however, is the process of making arrangements in advance for a pregnancy.
Why do you want a baby?
I was 17 when my doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression. Five years after my diagnosis, recurrently, I still find myself in that deep dark place where all I feel is sadness and a nauseating numbness. However, I noticed that when I’m at my worse and nothing seems to cheer me up, on some occasions, a stroll could help minimize the suicidal ideation. During a walk, I noticed a woman sitting on a park bench with her baby. I sat across from her and stared at the baby whose eyes were glassy as she laughed at her mother making faces at her. The baby looked in my direction and smiled. At that moment, the feeling of emptiness and sadness I had grown accustomed to over the years now felt unrelatable. All I felt was joy and a sense of fulfillment and it occurred to me that I had found my remedy. There and then, I decided that I would fix up my life, finish college, get a job, and then have a baby.
My reason for wanting a baby was simple, these tiny humans gave me a sense of hope and a reason to want to live when I had none.
After evaluation, I concluded my reason was a bit selfish and decided to hold off on the decision of baby-making. What about you, have you evaluated your reasons for wanting a baby, are they the right reasons?
Are you ready to have a baby?
Occasionally, I brought up the topic with my peers, single or married and most of them want babies as well. Some of them “are just not ready yet”, others “will have one if an unexpected pregnancy happens” while others “are trying”. Consequently, I concluded that male or female, married or unmarried, an approximate 80% of adults want babies but only 40% of that estimate is ready to have one. After an in-depth research, I have compiled a foolproof guideline for people ready to have a baby. I call this guideline a checklist for pregnancy planning.
Your Ultimate Pregnancy Planning Checklist
- Have a parenting talk with your spouse/partner.
- Inquire about your family health history during pregnancy.
- Set up a reserve fund.
- Have a lifestyle and behavioral change.
- Prenatal vitamins
- Get off the pill
- Track your fertile window.
- See your doctor.
Have a parenting talk with your spouse
If married or in a serious relationship, the decision to have kids becomes a bit complicated because it is no longer your decision but that of yourself and your partner. In some cases, while you may want a kid, your partner may not be ready yet or may not even want kids at all. Depending on their decision, you may want to hold off on having kids for now or go for marriage counseling.
If you are both ready, you should both keep in mind that having kids is a big step and can put a strain on both your finances and your relationship. This may be a great time to discuss your religious differences (if any), or a bigger house, and perhaps the neighborhood you would rather raise your kids in. What school will they attend, a public or a private school?
If the child does come, who will be the stay-at-home parent, or will either of your mothers care for the infant, does either of you think a nanny or babysitter is the better option?
After you’ve worked this out, you can move to the next step on your pregnancy plan checklist.
Inquire about your family health history during pregnancy
A friend’s sister gets diabetes whenever she gets pregnant. Although this is a common medical complication of pregnancy, hers was genetic. Having a general knowledge of you and your spouse’s family health history during pregnancy is important. It can give you indispensable pointers to either of your fertility/infertility. This awareness could enlighten you on possible complications in pregnancy or with the unconceived fetus. If either of you has a scary family health history during pregnancy, you should see your doctor. He might refer you for genetic counseling thereafter, you might decide to have genetic tests. The results of the tests should determine your prospective health condition during pregnancy and that of your baby after conception and development.
Set up a reserve fund
While the experience of having a baby may be priceless, its cost could be overwhelming, ranging anywhere from $5000 – $25000. These include medical bills (if you have no health insurance), diapers, baby wipes, a crib, decorating the baby’s room, maternity clothes, baby clothes, baby shoes and well, you name it. When you start to plan for pregnancy, you should likewise start planning for its expenses. It is advisable that you set up a reserve fund to cover the expenses that pregnancy and childbirth could incur.
Have a Lifestyle and behavioral change
If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, changing your lifestyle can have a huge impact on your fertility and optimal health.
Stop smoking, limit your caffeine intake and alcohol usage
Experts connect the possible excessive use of caffeine, alcohol and cigarette smoking to sperm DNA damage associated with men. They suggest that excessive use of these substances probably increase the chances of a miscarriage in women . Smoking has been studied to accelerate menopause in women. The recommended quantity of caffeine intake is 1 – 2 cups daily. The recommended quantity of alcohol and smoke as well is none. Alcoholics and heavy smokers planning to have a baby should seek professional help in quitting.
Exercise and diet
The Body Mass Index (BMI) of an individual is their body mass divided by the square of their body height. it is used to classify an individual as underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.
It is important to reach your ideal weight before getting pregnant. This may involve gaining or losing weight. You can calculate your BMI on the official website of The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
It is also ideal to go into pregnancy with good dietary habits already in place. This includes eating a variety of food including meat, dairy products, fruits vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Even with the right diet, it’s still difficult to get all the nutrients you and your baby need. Prenatal vitamins are vitamin and mineral supplements intended to be taken before, during and after pregnancy. Taking these vitamins at least 3 weeks before conception can lessen morning sickness.
Getting enough of this supplement can reduce your baby’s risk of getting a defect by up to 70%. It may also lower your risk of getting a medical complication during pregnancy. Although the recommended dose is 400mg daily, you should talk to your doctor about use and dosage.
Lack of iron in your diet can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. This lowers the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality.
Other vitamins you need that may not be in prenatal supplements are calcium, essential fatty acids and omega 3. You should ensure that your diet supplies these vitamins in a healthy proportion.
Get off the pill
Although you can get pregnant immediately you get off the pill, it sometimes takes five to six months for conception to occur.
For this reason, you should get off the pill once you decide to have a baby.
Track your fertile window
Scientifically, pregnancy can only happen during the five days before ovulation through to the day of ovulation. This is called “The fertile window” of the menstrual cycle and it is the best time to make an attempt at conceiving.
Ovulation occurs about two weeks before your expected period. You can traditionally map out your fertile days on a calendar or use a mobile application such as “My Period Calendar” to automatically track your fertile window.
See Your Doctor
Your doctor will most probably ask you questions about your family health history during pregnancy, your lifestyle, your exercise and diets among others. If you’ve followed the guidelines above you will be able to give him satisfying replies to his questions that emphasize your readiness for conception.
Your doctor will then proceed with physical exams, vaccinations and in case of any medical condition, prescription of drugs that will not hinder your quest for pregnancy or affect your baby’s health after conception.