Even when baby’s nothing but a preconceived notion, you can begin to prepare for her future well-being … by taking care of yourself.
- Before you try to conceive, start taking a daily prenatal vitamin. The folic acid will greatly reduce your future baby’s risk of neural tube defects, and the iron will help you avoid pregnancy-induced anemia.
- Drop dangerous behaviors. Smoking won’t do you or your baby any favors, so if you haven’t quit yet, this is the time. Alcohol consumption can also be harmful to a growing baby, so it’s wise to cut back or abstain while you’re trying to get pregnant.
- Pick an OB/GYN or midwife if you don’t already have one. Schedule a visit to discuss your plan to conceive, and receive health pointers to fit your individual needs. Find out if medications you’re currently taking are baby-safe, and make changes if necessary.
- Seek genetic counseling if your family has a history of hereditary disease, you belong to an ethnic group with increased risks, or you’re over age 35.
- Get some exercise—even if it’s as mild as going for a walk a few times a week. Carrying a baby will be physically demanding, so build your strength and stamina now.
- Follow a healthy nutrition plan, making sure to include foods with plenty of calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll feel better—and your body will be better prepared to nourish a baby—if you’re eating right.
- Insure yourself, because having a baby with little or no health insurance can be an extremely expensive undertaking. Find out what your health plan covers and be prepared to pay the required deductible and any other fees.
Baby on board
Although your countdown has barely begun, there’s already plenty to do.
- Schedule an appointment with your OB. Let the receptionist know you’re pregnant and in need of a doctor’s exam.
- Brush up on your pregnancy dos and don’ts. (Your doctor can help you with these.) For starters, sushi, soft cheeses, high-impact activities (like riding horses or roller coasters, skiing or biking) and hot tubs are off the menu.
- Consider breaking the news to your employer. Confessing your physical state this early on is far from mandatory, but it could actually be a big help. You won’t have to stress over keeping your pregnancy a secret, and your boss won’t blame you for making frequent trips to the ladies’ room.
- Stock up on crackers and ginger-infused goodies. If you’re not experiencing morning sickness yet, you probably will be soon.
- Get used to sleeping on your left side. This position provides optimal blood flow to your growing baby.
30 weeks until baby
You don’t look preggo, but you’re feeling it—crazy hormones have you reeling right now.
- Get the maternity leave lowdown from your HR department. If you’re not already familiar with your company’s policy, now’s the time to become acquainted. You may be able to supplement official maternity leave with sick days or vacation days, so plan ahead and hoard that time off.
- Read up on your current situation. You’ll quickly realize just how fascinating—and funny—pregnancy can be.
- Keep a pregnancy journal. You’ll be glad to have your journey documented from the get-go.
- Undergo a first trimester screening. Your doctor visit between weeks 8 and 13 will likely include a blood test and ultrasound. Your doctor will look for possible genetic defects, and may recommend further testing based on the results. This checkup is your first chance to catch a glimpse of your future sweetie—enjoy it!
- Pick up some maternity duds. You may not need them now, but it doesn’t hurt to prepare for the morn-ing when you wake up and nothing fits. Many maternity shops keep strap-on bumps on hand so you can see how your clothes will fit as your belly expands.
- Consider drafting a will and investing in life insurance. You’ll need to add baby’s name later, but it’s not too soon to meet with the appropriate professionals to get started on this important paperwork.
20 weeks until baby
Increased energy, decreased sickness and maybe even a libido boost—this is as good as pregnancy gets!
- Discover baby’s gender (unless you’re ultrapatient and choose to be surprised). The 20-week ultrasound is a big one, so invite your significant other to come along.
- Get back to class with courses on birthing, breastfeeding and baby care. Visit your hospital’s website for a full list of educational offerings.
- Research child care options. If you plan to go back to work after baby arrives, pick the best daycare option for you based on location, approach, caregiver-to-child ratio and cost.
- Take the glucose test. Between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will want to check for the possibility of gestational diabetes. If you pass the test, you’re done. If not, you’ll get to come back for a second dose of super-sweet syrup to determine if you do, in fact, have gestational diabetes.
- Let those nesting instincts take over in the nursery. Knock yourself out sewing drapes and creating one-of-a-kind art, but be sure to enlist help with heavy lifting and go for low- or no-VOC paint.
- Take a hospital tour to get the lay of the land.
- Pick a pediatrician. Starting the search early will give you plenty of time to be choosy, so conduct interviews until you find a doctor you love. Also, find out if he or she has hospital rights at the facility where you’ll be delivering in order to perform your baby’s first exam.
- Begin reading or singing to baby. She’ll learn to identify the sound and feel of your voice, as well as any other voices she hears frequently.
- Preregister at the hospital toward the end of your second trimester. This will save you from having to complete paperwork when you arrive to give birth. (Trust us, you will not enjoy filling out forms when you’re in the throes of labor.)
10 weeks until baby
The clock is ticking—you’re almost there! Now is the time to get ready for baby’s debut.
- See your doctor every two weeks in your third trimester, twice as often as during trimesters one and two.
- Make the call on cord blood banking at least eight weeks prior to baby’s arrival (but preferably earlier). Whether you opt for public or private banking, you’ll need to chat with your bank of choice—it will provide the necessary forms and tell you exactly what needs to happen to preserve your baby’s cord blood.
- Draft a birth plan. Are you planning a tub birth? Will you welcome interventions or try to go au naturel? Will you breastfeed? Do you want baby to room-in with you instead of heading to the nursery at night? Put it all in writing and make copies for your delivery team.
- Pack your bag. Even if it sits in the corner collecting dust for several weeks, at least you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re ready for the hospital whenever it’s time to go.
- Tie up loose ends at work as you prepare to take your leave. Designate a colleague to handle your phone calls and email communications while you’re out so you’re not tempted to check for messages.
5 weeks until baby
Baby could come any time now—try to take it easy when you’re not finishing up your to-do list.
- Install baby’s car seat. You won’t be allowed to leave the hospital without it.
- Pay a weekly visit to your practitioner. You’ll be in and out of each appointment quickly as long as things are progressing normally.
- Remember your honey. Squeeze in a few more date nights before baby arrives and your one-on-one time becomes rare.
- Wash baby’s bedding, towels and clothing with a gentle detergent. It’s best for her sensitive skin.
- Make arrangements for older children. Talk to a friend or neighbor about watching your little ones while you’re at the hospital, and line up a backup just in case. Don’t forget that pets will need a caretaker too.
- Determine if you have group B strep. Your doctor will test you in your last few weeks of pregnancy. If you’re positive, don’t panic—it’s very common. You’ll simply need to take antibiotics so you don’t pass the infection to baby.
- Pick up a few baby care books to learn helpful new-baby tricks. They’ll be a good distraction as you wait for labor to begin.
- Get serious about choosing a baby name. Or if the just-right moniker remains elusive, bring a short list of favorites to the hospital and try them out when you greet your babe.
And … liftoff! Motherhood here you come! (Don’t worry–you’re ready.)