Before you get pregnancy

Why is being ready for pregnancy so important?

Conception occurs about 2 weeks before your period is due. That means you may not even know you’re pregnant until you’re more than 3 weeks pregnant. Yet your baby is most sensitive to harm 2 to 8 weeks after conception. This is when your baby’s organs (such as the heart) begin to form. Anything you eat, drink, smoke or are exposed to can affect your baby. That’s why it’s best to start acting as if you’re pregnant before you actually are.
How to plan your pregnancy

Ovulation is the release of a single egg from a follicle that developed in the ovary. It usually occurs regularly, around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle. Woman planning to conceive may choose from these methods:

Natural planning methods such as the ovulation method (intercourse takes place just before or
after ovulation)

The symptothermal method (evaluating fertility based on your daily temperature). Remember: women are more likely to become pregnant if intercourse takes place just before or just after ovulation. This is because the unfertilized egg can live for only 12-24 hours in your body. If you have been trying for a few months with no results, don’t get discouraged. Only 20% of women who are trying to get pregnant are successful on the first attempt, so don’t lose hope or assume something is wrong.
Your monthly fertility pattern

Understanding your monthly fertility pattern (days in the month when you are fertile, days when you are infertile, and days when fertility is unlikely, but possible) can help you plan a pregnancy, or avoid pregnancy. If you have a problem with fertility, learn all you can about you and your partner’s health, and your options for treatments.
The Menstrual Cycle

Being aware of your menstrual cycle and the changes in your body that happen during this time can be the key to helping you plan a pregnancy, or avoid pregnancy. During the menstrual cycle (a total average of 28 days), there are two parts: before ovulation and after ovulation.

• Day 1 starts with the first day of your period.

• Usually by Day 7, a woman’s eggs start to prepare to be fertilized by sperm.

• Between Day 7 and 11, the lining of the uterus (womb) starts to thicken, waiting for a fertilized egg to implant there.

• Around Day 14 (in a 28-day cycle), hormones cause the egg that is most ripe to be released, a process called ovulation. The egg travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If a sperm unites with the egg here, the egg will attach to the lining of the uterus, and pregnancy occurs.

• If the egg is not fertilized, it will break apart.

• Around Day 25 when hormone levels drop, it will be shed from the body with the lining of the
uterus as a menstrual period.
The first part of the menstrual cycle is different in every woman, and even can be different from month-to-month in the same woman, varying from 13 to 20 days long. This is the most important part of the cycle to learn about, since this is when ovulation and pregnancy can occur. After ovulation, every woman (unless she has a health problem that affects her periods) will have a period within 14 to 16 days. If you are know when you are most fertile, this will help you plan or prevent a pregnancy. There are different methods that could help you to track it every month:
• Basal body temperature method – This involves taking your basal body temperature (your body’s temperature when you’re at rest) every morning before you get out of bed, and recording it on a chart. You will begin to know your own fertility pattern, and you can see the changes from month to month. During the menstrual cycle, your body temperature remains at a somewhat steady, lower level, and begins to slightly rise with ovulation. The rise can be a sudden jump or a gradual climb over a few days. The rise in temperature can’t predict exactly when the egg is released, but your temperature rises between .4 to .8 degrees Fahrenheit on the day of ovulation. You are most fertile, and most likely to get pregnant during the two to three days just before your temperature hits the highest point (ovulation), and for about 12 to 24 hours after ovulation. Once your temperature spikes and stays at a higher level for about three days, you can be sure that ovulation has occurred. Your temperature will remain at the higher level until your period starts. Basal body temperature differs slightly from woman to woman, but anywhere from 96 to 98 degrees orally is normal before ovulation and anywhere from 97 to 99 degrees orally after ovulation. So, any changes that you chart are very small and are in 1/10 degree. You can buy an digital basal body temperature thermometer on our website.
• Calendar method – This involves keeping a written record of each menstrual cycle on a regular calendar. The first day of your period is Day 1, which you can circle on the calendar. Continue doing this for eight to 12 months so you know how many days are in your cycle. The length of your cycle can vary from month to month, so write down the total number of days it lasts each time in a list. To find out the first day when you are most fertile, check your list and find the cycle with the fewest days. Then subtract 18 from that number. Take this new number and count ahead that many days on the calendar. Draw an X through this date. The X marks the first day you’re likely to be fertile. To find out the last day when you are fertile, subtract 11 days from your longest cycle and draw an X through this date. This method always should be used with other fertility awareness methods, especially if your cycles are not always the same lengths.
• Cervical mucus method (also known as the ovulation method) – This involves being aware of the changes in your cervical mucus throughout the month. The hormones that control the menstrual cycle also cause changes in the kind and how much mucus you have just before and during ovulation. Right after your period, you usually have a few days when there is no mucus present or “dry days.” As the egg starts to mature, mucus increases in the vagina, appears at the vaginal opening, and is usually white or yellow and cloudy and sticky. The greatest amount of mucus appears just before ovulation, during the “wet days,” when it becomes clear and slippery, like raw egg whites. Sometimes it can be stretched apart. This is when you are most fertile. About four days after the wet days begin the mucus changes again. There is now much less and it becomes sticky and cloudy. You might have a few more dry days before your period returns. You can describe changes in your mucus on a calendar. Label the days, “Sticky,” “Dry,” or “Wet.” You are most fertile at the first sign of wetness after your period, but maybe also a day or two before wetness begins. This method is less reliable for women whose mucus pattern is changed because of breastfeeding, use of oral contraceptives or feminine hygiene products, having vaginitis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or surgery on the cervix.
• LH Ovulation Prediction Urine Test Kits. Luteinizing hormone ovulation urine test (home test kit); Ovulation prediction test; Urinary immunoradiometric assays (IRMA). This urine test detects LH levels above a certain threshold. Urine is collected. A sample of the urine is then applied to the test kit. The first urine of the day should not be used for this test. The test is done to determine the time of ovulation and is also used to adjust doses of certain medications. The anterior pituitary gland secrets hormones called Gondaotropin (LH is one of these), which stimulate the ovary to prepare a follicle to release an egg. Once the follicle has matured, a dramatic rise in LH levels (known as the “LH surge”) signals the ovary to release the egg. (This is ovulation.) Ovulation typically occurs 10-12 hours after the peak of the LH surge. Most test kits can detect urinary LH levels as low as 20-40 IU/L (international units per liter). An LH “surge” is detected if the urinary LH is above the threshold. However, variations between different urinary LH kits are common. Check with the manufacturer to find out the detection limit of their kit in IU/L.
Pre-pregnancy checkup

The first step towards this is to visit your doctor. He or she will give you the right advice after evaluating your health. Based on the evaluation, your doctor will suggest methods of taking good care of yourself before you become pregnant. Keep track of the following aspects while planning your pregnancy.
Body weight and fertility

Maintaining your weight in the normal range before and during pregnancy helps your health and that of your baby’s. Being overweight has its risk of high blood pressure and Diabetes. It also puts a strain on the heart. This strain becomes even greater during pregnancy, when your heart has to work harder to supply blood to you and your baby.

Obese women are more prone to problems during pregnancy, which is risky for the baby as well as the mother. There is also the added risk of macrosomia, a condition in which the baby grows too large leading to labor and delivery complications. On the other hand, being underweight can diminish your chances of even getting pregnant. It also may increase your chances of giving birth to a Low-birth Weight baby. These small babies often have problems during labor and after birth. Therefore, it is important for you to maintain a healthy body weight before pregnancy. Your doctor will tell you just how much weight you may have macrosomia lose depending on your present body weight. Moreover do not go on crash diets to reduce weight. It will rob you of vital nutrients and spoil your health.
Good nutrition

A healthy diet will ensure adequate stores of nutrients for you and your baby’s needs, when you are pregnant. Choose healthy foods and avoid junk or fast foods, making sure you have a well- balanced and varied diet. An average woman needs about 2,000 calories per day. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products each day. Drink fat-free or low-fat milk and consume other dairy products.
Nutrition for the father

Prepregnancy care needs the active involvement of your partner too. It is important for aspiring fathers to follow a nutritious diet. Various studies indicate that low levels of zinc can reduce Sperm count. Excessive alcohol can also diminish zinc levels. Meat, whole-grain cereals, seafood, eggs and pulses are good sources of zinc. Low levels of the mineral selenium also affect male fertility. Meat, seafood, mushrooms and cereals are good sources of this mineral. Aspiring dads should also watch their weight Prepregnancy overweight or underweight can also impair fertility in men. Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Other precautionary measures that you should take to lessen the risks of problems during pregnancy include:

If you are planning a pregnancy ensure that you are vaccinated for certain diseases that can harm the baby. Examples are chicken pox, Rubella etc. These vaccinations must be taken at least 6 months before you get pregnant. General health care You should maintain a healthy weight and follow a balanced nutritious diet. Physical exercises with the permission of your doctor will help both mother and the baby during pregnancy. It is important to avoid smoking, alcohol and other drugs. Inform your doctor if you are on any medication since certain medications can affect the development of the growing baby. Avoid extreme weather and other potential environmental hazards. It is important to quit smoking not only for woman herself, but also for her partner as passive smoking is also harmful for fetal growth. Other forms of tobacco consumption must also be avoided.
Existing and past medical conditions

If you are planning to get pregnant, it is important to inform your doctor about past or existing medical condition that you may be suffering from such as diabetes, eating disorders, hepatitis A or B, Hypothyroidism or HIV to prevent future difficulties. Pregnancy should be planned when these diseases have been optimally controlled. Role of the husband You must involve your male partner in your health planning, whether it is planning a pregnancy or otherwise. Encourage your partner to support you at every stage of preparing for your pregnancy to ensure you get good preconception care and antenatal care during pregnancy. Test to be done before pregnancy You may need some tests to find out if you have problems that could harm you or your baby during pregnancy. Many things can be treated before pregnancy to help prevent problems for you and your baby.

Rubella. If you don’t know whether you’ve ever had rubella (also called the German measles) or been vaccinated against it, a blood test can give the answer. Catching rubella while you’re pregnant can be very harmful for your baby. You can be vaccinated against rubella before you get pregnant. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and AIDS can make it hard for you to get pregnant and can also harm you or your baby. It is best if these diseases are diagnosed and treated before pregnancy. Other problems. Your doctor may also want to perform some other tests depending on your risk for other problems (such as anemia or hepatitis).

You should take 1,000 mcg (1 mg) of folic acid every day during your pregnancy. Folic acid can help prevent problems with your baby’s brain and spinal cord. It is best to start taking folic acid before you get pregnant. Your doctor might want you to take a prenatal vitamin. If you do take a prenatal supplement, make sure you’re not taking any other vitamin or mineral supplement along with it unless your doctor recommends it.
How long one can work?

This depends on whether you have any problems with your pregnancy, what kind of work you do and if you’re exposed to anything at work that could harm your baby. For instance, lifting heavy objects or standing for long periods can be hard on your body. Radiation, lead and other heavy metals, such as copper and mercury, could be damaging to the baby. However, working in front of a computer screen is not thought to cause harm to an unborn baby. Talk with your doctor about your work environment. Exercise

Unless you have problems in your pregnancy, you can probably do whatever exercise you did before you got pregnant. Exercise can help ease discomfort during pregnancy. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Talk to your doctor about any special conditions that you may have. Some women say exercising during pregnancy makes labor and delivery easier. Walking and swimming are great choices. If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, start slowly. Don’t overdo exercise. Listen to your body. Call your doctor if you have symptoms such as blurred vision, dizziness, chest pain or abdominal pain while you are exercising. Don’t get overheated. Be sure to drink plenty of water so that you don’t get dehydrated. It’s best to avoid anything that could cause you to fall, such as water skiing or rock climbing. It’s also best to avoid contact sports such as basketball or soccer.
Sex during pregnancy

Yes, unless your doctor believes you’re at risk for problems. Don’t be surprised if you’re less or more interested in sex while you are pregnant. As you get larger, you may find you need to try different positions, such as lying on your side or being on top. If you have oral sex, tell your partner not to blow air into your vagina. This could force air inside you, which could cause an air embolism. Air embolisms can cause permanent brain damage and even death to a pregnant woman and her baby. Tips to handle pregnancy discomfort Here are the most common discomforts of pregnancy and some tips for handling them: Morning sickness. Nausea or vomiting may strike anytime during the day (or night). Try eating frequent, small meals and avoid greasy foods. Keep crackers by your bed to eat before getting up. Talk to your doctor if morning sickness lasts past the first 3 months of pregnancy or causes you to lose weight. Tiredness. Sometimes tiredness in pregnancy is caused by anemia, so tell your doctor. Get enough rest. Take a daytime nap if possible. Leg cramps. Gently stretch the calf of your leg by curling your toes upward, toward your knee. Constipation. Drink plenty of fluids. Eat foods with lots of fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and bran cereal. Don’t take laxatives without talking to your doctor first. Stool softeners may be safer than laxatives. Hemorrhoids. Don’t strain during bowel movements. Try to avoid becoming constipated. Clean yourself well after a bowel movement (wet wipes may be less irritating than toilet paper). Take several warm soaks (sitz baths) a day if necessary. Urinating more often. You may need to urinate more often as your baby grows because he or she will put pressure on your bladder. This can’t be helped. Varicose veins. Avoid clothing that fits tightly around your legs or waist. Rest and put your feet up as much as you can. Move around if you must stand for long periods. Ask your doctor about support or compression hose, which may help ease or prevent varicose veins. Moodiness. Your hormones are on a roller coaster ride during pregnancy. Plus, your life is undergoing a big change. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you feel very sad or think about suicide, talk to your doctor. Heartburn. Eat frequent, small meals. Avoid spicy or greasy foods. Don’t lie down right after eating. Ask your doctor about taking antacids. Yeast infections. The amount of discharge from the vagina increases during pregnancy. Yeast infections, which can also cause discharge, are more common during pregnancy. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about any unusual discharge. Bleeding gums. Brush and floss regularly, and see your dentist for cleanings. Don’t put off dental visits because you’re pregnant, but be sure to tell your dentist you’re pregnant.
Stuffy nose. This is related to changes in the levels of the female hormone estrogen. You may also have nosebleeds. Edema (retaining fluid). Rest with your legs up. Lie on your left side while sleeping so blood flows from your legs back to your heart better. Don’t use diuretics (water pills). If you’re thinking about cutting down on salt to reduce swelling, talk with your doctor first. Your body needs enough salt to maintain the balance of fluid and cutting back on salt may not be the best way to manage your swelling.

Skin changes Stretch marks appear as red marks on your skin. Lotion with shea butter can help keep your skin moist and may help reduce the itchiness of dry skin. Stretch marks often can’t be prevented, but they often fade after pregnancy. Other skin changes may include darkening of the skin on your face and around your nipples, and a dark line below your belly button. Staying out of the sun or using a sunscreen may help lessen these marks. Most marks will probably fade after pregnancy. Call your doctor if you have:
• Blood or fluid coming from your vagina

• Sudden or extreme swelling of your face or fingers

• Headaches that are severe or won’t go away

• Nausea and vomiting that won’t go away

• Dizziness

• Dim or blurry vision

• Pain or cramps in your lower abdomen

• Chills or fever

• A change in your baby’s movements

• Less urine or burning when you urinate

• Any illness or infection

• Anything that bothers you

Do not do

• Don’t smoke. Smoking raises your risk for miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and many other problems.

• Don’t use drugs. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other drugs increase your risk of miscarriage, premature birth and birth defects. Your baby could also be born addicted to the drug you’ve been abusing, which can cause serious health problems.

• Don’t drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the major cause of preventable birth defects, including fetal alcohol syndrome.

• Don’t clean your cat’s litter box or eat raw or undercooked red meat. You could get toxoplasmosis, a disease that can cause birth defects.

• Don’t sit in a sauna or hot tub. The high heat raises your risk of miscarriage and birth defects.

• Don’t douche. Douching could force air into the vagina, which can cause an air embolism. The vagina doesn’t require cleansing in addition to normal bathing. Douching disrupts the helpful bacteria that keep the vagina clean