4 Things All Couples Should Do Before Getting Pregnant

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couple in love in autumn

Let our pregnancy week by week calendar guide you through the various stages of pregnancy right up until birth. We take you from the exciting time you first discover you’re pregnant, through the uncomfortable stages of morning sickness. We’ll help you pick a baby name, decorate your nursery, pack your hospital bag, and even prepare you for the pinnacle moment – the birth of your new baby! Find your week of pregnancy or get started with Week 1.

have a parenting talk

Most of the experts and real moms we spoke with agreed that it’s important to chat with your partner about some of the biggie parenting issues — like how you’ll share childcare, working vs. staying home, religious traditions — before you start trying. “But before you start freaking out over differing opinions on circumcision, public vs. private schools, or other things that are way down the road, remember that you can and will change your mind about a lot of these issues as you go along,” say Odes and Morris. “The important thing is for couples to start talking about their priorities, expectations, and fears throughout the entire process, especially before you get pregnant.”

go off the pill

Stop your birth control a couple of months before you plan to start trying, says Robert A. Greene, MD, co-author of Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility. This gives you a bit of time to see what your natural menstrual cycle is like — 27 days? 32? — so you can figure out when you’re ovulating, the time of the month when you’re most fertile. If you’ve been taking the pill for a while, your cycle could be different from what it was before you started. It can take a while for hormone levels to get back on track after you ditch the pill, but if your period’s still MIA after three months, you should see your doctor.

cut back on partying

Drinking and smoking during pregnancy? We don’t need to tell you they’re major don’ts. If you indulge in either, start scaling back now, says Jennifer Wider, MD, author of The New Mom’s Survival Guide and medical advisor to the Society for Women’s Health Research. “If you’re a moderate drinker — you have a couple of drinks on a Thursday night or over the weekend, you probably don’t need to change anything, as long as you’re sure you’re not pregnant yet,” she says. “But drinking most nights of the week or downing five cocktails in a sitting can be more of a problem.” That goes for your partner, too. Excess alcohol intake has been shown to interfere with your fertility and can also lower sperm count in men. Smoking cigarettes, even socially, can affect your egg quality and your hubby’s sperm — not to mention increase your risk of birth defects, miscarriage, preterm labor, and other conditions after you become pregnant. It’s estimated that up to 13 percent of fertility problems may be caused by tobacco use, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine — and no level of smoking or exposure to smoke is safe. In fact, research shows that even women exposed to secondhand smoke have more problems getting pregnant than those who aren’t. Bottom line: There’s never been a better time to kick butt, and insist your partner does too.

What’s more, quitting smoking or drinking cold turkey after you do become pregnant can be a shock to your system, say Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris, authors of From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent. “Psychologically speaking, if you feel that pregnancy made you ‘give up’ all these things you loved, you can pile on some resentment right out of the gate,” they say. “Quitting smoking or your multiple margarita habit is a great achievement, so start now and let it be something you’re proud of, rather than pushed into.”

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limit caffeine

If the Starbucks barista knows your order as soon as you step up the counter or you can’t get through the workday without four cups of French roast, “do yourself a favor and cut back your caffeine intake now,” says Dr. Wider. “Not only because studies show that too much caffeine can trigger miscarriage, but because you want to avoid withdrawal after you’re pregnant.”

FYI: Doctors are mixed about how much caffeine is safe once you are expecting. Most condone the equivalent in a small cup of java a day — about 100 milligrams — though some may recommend forgoing it entirely, especially in the first trimester. And don’t forget to tally other common sources of caffeine, like soda, tea, energy drinks, and even certain pain medications. A 12-ounce can of soda or 8-ounce cup of green or black tea can pack anywhere from 30 to 60 milligrams of caffeine; two tablets of extra-strength Excedrin have 130 milligrams. If you’re worried, start reading labels to see how much caffeine is in your diet.