Planning to have a baby is super exciting, but can also be really overwhelming. It’s normal to feel like you have a zillion things to do, but you’re still missing something important—so we’ve put together a comprehensive-but-not-impossible list of things to keep in mind. 

 

By Dr. Nazaneen Homaifar

Okay, having a baby—what do you need to do?

  1. Take care of number one
  • Stress: The most important thing to focus on is getting healthy and happy—which means, as hard as it sounds, not stressing too much. Yeah, it’s annoying to be asked not to stress out as part of a long list of things you have to do—but think of this thing, “self-care,” as your one non-negotiable. Everything else can give a little. This is the priority to protect.
  • Diet: One part of pre-baby self-care is diet. That doesn’t mean you need an app, or a list, or a new Instagram obsession (but if those help you, do it up!) It just means you should try to eat healthily—you know, fruits, vegetables, go easy on the McDonald’s runs. 
  • Prenatal multivitamin: Another thing to add to your routine is a prenatal multivitamin that contains at least 400 mcg of folate (MTHF folate preferably) because it helps with the production of new red blood cells and reduces the risk of neural tube defects, like spina bifida. Spina bifida is a condition where a fetus’s spinal cord and spine don’t form the way they’re supposed to—taking supplemental folate before pregnancy will help to prevent that. We’d also recommend that you check out the recommendations for vitamin supplementation in pregnancy so that you can figure out whether or not you’re hitting all of those bases already, and if you’re not, you can change your diet a bit or add some more supplements.
  • Exercise: Exercise is another important aspect of self-care when you’re getting ready for pregnancy. You don’t have to run marathons, but it’s a great time to get into a solid exercise routine, at least three times a week for 30 minutes to an hour. Most exercises are safe during pregnancy, except your super-high-impact workouts where there is a potential to hurt your abdomen (we worry about its risks to your placenta and oxygenation to the fetus). If your usual workout is horseback riding or kickboxing, you might want to cross-train with another exercise routine that you can continue throughout pregnancy. Spinning, swimming, and elliptical machines all do the trick, and there are many more options—but maybe wait on your dream to take up the trapeze. 
  1. Get your vaccines up-to-date

If you haven’t been in or around a school for a while, and you haven’t worked in a hospital, you might have no idea if your vaccinations are up to date. It’s a good idea to look at your medical records and make sure you’ve received all your shots. In fact, we recommend starting with a preconception visit with a nurse practitioner, midwife, physician assistant or doctor to go through your relevant personal and family history, recent travel, medications, and vaccinations before you get pregnant to check for any red flags (like the need for Zika screening). 

Some of the conditions we vaccinate for—like Rubella, aka German Measles—can spread from mama to fetus during pregnancy or nursing. Certain live vaccines like varicella and Measles, Mumps, and Rubella are contraindicated in pregnancy and, once born, babies can’t receive the vaccinations until they’ve reached a certain age. This is especially important right now, as we’re seeing a measles outbreak. If you do need some vaccinations, talk to your doctor about how long you need to wait before trying to get pregnant. 

  1. Budget

I know, I know—we said not to stress out, and now we’re bringing up money. But it’s hard not to think about it. Having a baby requires a lot of stuff, and while you can get hand-me-downs for a lot of it, you’ll probably have to spring for things like diapers.

So how much do you think a baby will cost in the first year? Let’s do a little budget exercise: 

First Year Costs

Childcare

$

Medical bills

$

Food / Formula

$

Car seat 

$

Stroller

$

Crib

$

Toys

$

Clothes

$

Other expenses

$

TOTAL FIRST YEAR COSTS

$

 

If your total came in around $12,000, your expectations are on track with the average (a lot depends on your location). Surprised by the number? You’re not alone. Half of would-be parents estimate the first year would cost less than $5,000. Hospital and delivery costs aren’t included in that amount. The average cost of raising a kid to age 18, without college, is $225,000.

  1. Take care of your mental health

We say “it’s normal” a lot, but we want to emphasize that it’s super normal to have lots of emotions about preparing for pregnancy. This is a big change. It’s going to affect your body, your relationship, your daily routine, your bank account—basically, your whole future. That’s a great thing. It’s also a lot. If you’re worried, don’t feel guilty about that.

You might get into a tough emotional place during pregnancy, especially if you’ve had anxiety or depression before. That’s super common. If you’ve ever been on medications, like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, talk to your doctor about the plan for continuing them. Not only are many of these medications safe in pregnancy, but they are recommended to continue since symptoms can be exacerbated in pregnancy. If you’ve got the bad kind of stomach butterflies, we recommend working with a talk therapist—they can help you sort through and get comfy with your fears. We’re alone so much in our modern world, and we weren’t always. Generally speaking, pregnant women and couples used to have more familial and social support during and after pregnancy than most of us do now. Wanting or needing support from other people is just as human as pregnancy is. 

  1. Check-in on your relationship 

If you’re going through this process with a partner, talk to them about how you will handle these changes and the possible roller coaster together. We hope everything will be smooth sailing, but it’s hard to ignore the statistics. Miscarriages happen. It may take longer than expected to get pregnant. Sometimes the sex for baby-making is lackluster. The symptoms of early pregnancy may take a heavier toll on you than expected. You may process these ups and downs differently – how will you help support each other? 

On a more somber note, many pregnant women are abused by their partners. If a person with whom you’re in an intimate relationship intentionally physically, emotionally, or sexually harms you, that is abuse. No one deserves to be abused. Abuse during pregnancy is a huge risk to the woman and her fetus and the cycle usually continues with subsequent abuse to one’s children. The first step to breaking this violent pattern is to tell someone: a close friend or family member, a nurse or doctor, or counselor or social worker. You can search the internet for emergency hotline numbers for where you live.  

The Bottom Line

Getting pregnant is a big, potentially scary, exciting life event. The more planning and self-educating that you can do, the more you’ll be able to thrive, through pregnancy and into motherhood. The good thing is that if you’re reading this list, you’re already taking the steps that will get you there. We’d also recommend that you check out some of our other articles so that you know as much as possible about what lies ahead.

 

Featured illustration by Megan Galante