So, you’ve decided you want to get pregnant. It’s a big decision and certainly not one to take lightly, but you have officially decided parenthood is for you – and that's amazing! But like all new and uncertain things, you might not know where to start or how to begin this journey to conception. Don’t worry – we’re here to help break down a few important items on the preconception checklist
1. Start taking prenatal vitamins
You might be surprised to see this as the first item on the list of things to start doing before trying to conceive. Before seeing a doctor? Before ditching your contraception? Yep! This is simply because doctors recommend women start taking prenatal vitamins up to three months before trying to get pregnant. In fact, men should take prenatal vitamins during the preconception period, too. That’s because sperm health has a direct impact on the health of a future conception, pregnancy, and baby, and many sperm deficiencies are directly linked to nutrient shortages.
One of the most important vitamins that you should be taking is folate, as it can help combat potential birth defects in the baby’s brain and spine. Taking an adequate amount of folate during pregnancy prevents most neural tube defects. In fact, folate is so valuable that the CDC actually recommends all women of childbearing age take 400 mg of it every day, as this level of folate is difficult to consume through food alone.
Another critical pre-pregnancy vitamin is choline. The goal is to get at least 425 mg of choline each day while trying to conceive and at least 450 mg per day during pregnancy. While it’s important to add choline-rich foods to your diet, such as egg yolks, fish, chicken, broccoli, and brussels sprouts, you should also be taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin with adequate choline to help you meet your needs during this time. And shop carefully – most prenatal vitamins on the market today don’t meet this recommendation.
Iron, and DHA (an Omega-3 fatty acid), as well as vitamins A, D, B6, and B12, are other ingredients to look for in a prenatal vitamin, with DHA, or Omega-3 fatty acid ideally found as a separate prenatal supplement. And after conceiving, remember that you should continue taking your prenatal regimen throughout the duration of the pregnancy so that you and baby are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
Since there are so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on the right prenatal vitamin for you. Beli's prenatal for women and Beli’s prenatal for men are great choices for checking off this first item on your preconception checklist. Specially formulated with powerful ingredients to support you from preconception to postnatal, Beli can help you boost fertility and improve egg quality. Plus, they’re one of just a handful of vitamins on the market meeting current recommended levels of folate, vitamin D, magnesium, iodine, and yep, choline.
2. Choose an OB/GYN
While you may have only been seeing your primary care physician for yearly pap smears up until this point, now is a good time to find a trusted OB/GYN that you will continue seeing after getting pregnant.
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Don’t know who to choose? Ask around for recommendations, do some research, and start with providers in your network. Consider their experience, bedside manner, convenience to your location, hospital affiliation, and whether or not you feel comfortable with and trust them. All of these factors will help you decide whether or not they are the right fit for you! Remember, if all goes well and it works out with the doctor you choose, they will be with you from your preconception appointment through postpartum—so really listen to your gut and what you feel is best.
Speaking of preconception appointments now is the time to schedule one! After choosing your OB/GYN, go ahead and book your preconception appointment, during which you and your doctor will discuss any preexisting health issues or medications you take that could affect your pregnancy and whether you are up to date on your preventative care and vaccines.
3. Put your contraception aside
Whether you take birth control pills, have an IUD, or use condoms, now is the time to stop. You can even combine appointments and schedule to have your IUD removed during your preconception visit.
While you might hear that it can take a while for your body to clear everything out and to stop your birth control before you are actually ready to conceive, this isn’t the best plan of action, as it can take little to no time for your body to readjust.
4. Track your cycles
Start tracking! Track your menstrual and ovulation cycles to optimize the best timeframe for conception. If you have been using hormonal birth control, then your period has been pretty regular up until this point. Now it’s time to start tracking its natural cycle. Keep a record of how long you have it, how heavy or light, and, most importantly, how many days are there between the day of your period and the start of the following period. This will reveal how many days are in your cycle.
The duration of your menstrual cycle—or how many days between the first days of each cycle—will help you track your ovulation cycle, as well. If you have a 28-day cycle, ovulation can occur anywhere from day 10 to day 20. People with short cycles can experience ovulation anywhere starting from day 7, and if you have a longer cycle, then your ovulation cycle might go beyond day 20.
How do you know when you’re ovulating? You can track it in multiple ways. You can take your basal body temperature (BBT), check your cervical mucus, or use at-home tests. If you plan to test for ovulation, begin testing on day 7 or 10 depending on your cycle length.
5. Plan to have sex during fertile window
Now that you know when you are ovulating, plan to have sex during this time, as it is your fertile window. If and when you get a positive ovulation test, your cervical mucus is heavier, or your BBT has increased, plan to have sex that day and the next. The following month, plan to have sex on the five days leading up to ovulation and two days after.
If you choose not to test for ovulation, that’s okay! Planning to have sex every other day beginning on Day 10 and until Day 20 will suffice, especially if you have a normal menstrual cycle length.
This is certainly an exciting and nerve-racking time. You’re about to begin one of, if not the greatest adventure of your life, but don’t worry. You’ve got this! Even just taking the initiative to make sure you have everything lined up and in order shows how awesome you’ll be at this whole parenting thing. For any nervous times or moments of uncertainty, we’ll be here for you.
Save 15% on Beli supplements for men and women to start your preconception journey with the code, RESCRIPTED15 at Beli!
Brighid Flynn is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband and puppy. She is just beginning her journey toward motherhood.