Animation: How to Prepare for Pregnancy (Physically, Financially & Mentally)
Having a child is the biggest commitment you will ever make. Ever. Are you ready to have a baby? Read on for the guidance you may be looking for
8 min read
It’s pretty unlikely that one morning you’ll wake up and decide to run a marathon that day. And if it does happen, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll just lace up your trainers, head to the start line and run 42km straight with no issues. Because running a marathon takes some serious preparation.
Like a marathon, pregnancy is an endurance event. But in this case, it lasts around 9 months rather than 4-5 hours. So, it makes sense to prepare for it.
Here we’ll look at the ways you can physically, financially and mentally prepare yourself for the most exhilarating endurance event of your life: pregnancy.
In a hurry? Check out the animation below for a quick overview.
How to prepare for pregnancy, physically
When you’re pregnant, your body undergoes some pretty amazing changes. Treat it well and keep yourself in tip-top shape before you conceive. Think about:
1. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
Being a healthy weight improves your chances of conceiving. Choosing to lose weight will help reduce the risk of health problems for both you and your baby during pregnancy and beyond.
If you’re underweight, you might experience irregular periods. This can make it a bit trickier to conceive. Talk to your GP about healthy ways to gain weight.
Now’s a great time to start a healthy diet and regular exercising. If you choose pregnancy-friendly exercises, you won’t have to change your routine once you are pregnant.
Stopping smoking, drinking and drug taking
Because you might not realise you’re pregnant straightaway, quitting now will protect your baby in those first few critical days and weeks growing in your womb. Chat to your GP if you’d like some support to quit.
Too much caffeine isn’t great for a growing bump either so try to cut down your caffeine intake now – aim for a maximum of 200mg a day. That’s about 2 mugs of instant coffee.
3. Visiting your GP
If you’re fit and healthy and don’t have any concerns, you can skip visiting your GP and get straight into the baby-making. If you’ve got asthma, epilepsy or diabetes, talk to your GP before starting trying to conceive.
If you have some concerns or just want to make sure that you’re in great shape, ask your GP about a preconception check-up. This might be with a nurse or midwife. This check-up will cover a huge range of things like:
- Your work and any exposure to hazardous substances.
- Any period problems.
- Your general health and lifestyle.
- Your exercise and eating habits.
- Your emotional and mental wellbeing.
- Any existing health conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid or heart problems, and mental health issues.
- Genetic conditions in your family including hereditary conditions such as sickle cell disease or cystic fibrosis.
- What contraception you’re using.
- Any abortions, miscarriages or previous pregnancies.
Tests, jabs and medication
There are a range of screening and tests that you can explore. You might like to do a STI screening to ensure you don’t have any sexually transmitted infections that can be passed onto baby.
You may have some blood tests to check for anaemia. If you’re anaemic, you’ll need iron tablets during your pregnancy.
Check that all your vaccinations are up to date – your GP should have access to all your medical records to check this for you. If you’re not up to date, you might need to have some vaccinations, including rubella.
If you’re on long-running medication you might need to make some changes as they might not be suitable during pregnancy. Speak to your GP before stopping them. If your treatment is changing, your body will need time to adjust. Try to see your GP at least 3 months before you want to conceive.
4. Taking folic acid
Folic acid helps protect your baby against neural tube defects (NTDs) like spina bifida. Take one 800mcg tablet daily from 4 weeks (1 month) before you hope to be pregnant and into the 12th week of your pregnancy. Find out more about folic acid.
Too much stress can impact on your chances of conceiving. As hard as is it to stay calm and relaxed, especially if it’s taking you longer to become pregnant than you’d like, there are ways to help you reduce your stress levels.
Dedicate some time each day to relaxation. Take a yoga class, do some deep breathing, listen to a relaxation podcast, take a bubbly bath, go swimming or for a run, cuddle up with a book, partner or pet – whatever works for you.
How to prepare for pregnancy, financially
Having a baby can be expensive – from all the gear and clothes you need to buy through to paying for childcare.
You can get an idea of how much having a baby could cost with some research on the internet. We like these guides from Sorted.co.nz. Then open up a high-interest account and start saving now. Figure out a budget that balances what you need to live on now with what you can afford to put away in savings.
Cut back on your outgoings as much as possible. Small changes like giving up your daily coffee fix or going to brunch monthly rather than weekly can make big savings.
Think about starting a spreadsheet of everything you need to buy. That way you can tick things off over the coming months and spread the costs, rather than having one large payment.
Set up TradeMe searches for key items like clothes or a pram – you’ll find tonnes of preloved and well-cared-for baby things. In fact, mum+ has a Facebook group for this type of thing, why not try it out?
See if there are any markets or fairs coming up in your area aimed at preparing for baby and offering well-priced clothes and baby products. In Auckland you’ll find Mary’s Market and the annual Baby Show.
Or ask friends (and friends of friends) and family if they’ve got any old things they’d like to sell.
How to prepare for pregnancy, mentally
Probably the biggest emotional challenge you’ll face is that pregnancy is so unknown. You don’t know how you’ll feel, or what birth will be like, or what you may experience along the way. Try to accept the unknown and take each day at a time. If it helps, read as much as you can about what to expect during pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood.
As well as thinking through all the realities that come with pregnancy and parenthood, be sure to get excited too. First smile, first steps, first word, first hug – there’s a lot to look forward to.
To prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the changes ahead, think about:
- Lifestyle changes. Once you’re pregnant and when baby arrives, your time won’t be your own any more. Are you ok with how much a baby will change your day-to-day life?
- Getting a support team. Gather your friends and family around you and talk about what you might need when you’re pregnant and baby comes. Have you got a strong network to see you through the ups and downs?
There are lots of ways to deal with all the emotions that come with preparing for pregnancy. Read books and websites to gather plenty of ideas about what’s ahead. Write letters to your future child. Start a diary so you’ve got an outlet for all your thoughts and concerns. Talk to your friends or family who are parents to find out their experiences. Join social media groups or online forums and connect with people in the same position.
Make sure you talk to your partner, if you have one. You need to be honest with each other and how you feel about parenthood. Ideally, you’ll be on the same page. Sit down and have a chat about:
- What excites and scares you about being a parent.
- How secure your jobs are.
- Whether you can financially afford a baby.
- Who will help and support you both.
- What you’ll do for childcare.
- How you’ll divide the work.
If you’re having problems with your partner, now may not be the best time to welcome a baby. Counselling could help you work through your problems.
Feeling ready for a baby? Exciting! Check out our pre-pregnancy nutrition guide.