If you're thinking of getting pregnant, you'll want to discuss a few important things with your OB/GYN first. When it comes to a safe pregnancy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that supports both of you, it can take time to clarify a few issues. Plus, you'll also need some background information on your current health and body state, to determine how to proceed in trying to get pregnant and whether or not you're ready to carry a child. Luckily, as long as you find a supportive, kind OB/GYN to work with, you'll be in good hands, so you can take the leap, worry-free. Here are 10 questions you'll want to ask your doctor ahead of time before making a decision.
1. When Should I Begin Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
Of all the areas to address prior to pregnancy, the simplest and one of the most supported by evidence is the use of key nutrients, such as folic acid, during pregnancy. These nutrients will make you more fertile and give the baby the right care and nourishment it needs throughout the duration of pregnancy. "The American College of OB/GYN recommends 0.4 mg of folic acid daily, to begin one month prior to conception attempts and continue throughout the pregnancy. Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of major birth defects of the fetal brain and spine called Neural Tube Defects," Mark P. Trolice, M.D., reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at Fertility CARE — The IVF Center and Associate Professor of OB/GYN at the UCF College of Medicine, told POPSUGAR.
2. Can I Still Work Out?
You may want to back away from those hour-long CrossFit workouts, but staying active is actually really beneficial for creating a good environment to give birth. "As long as you are healthy, mild to moderate exercise is strongly recommended to improve fertility, health of mom, and of the pregnancy," says Trolice.
"The American Heart Association advises at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity) i.e, 30 minutes a day, five times a week. And, during pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend women maintain this same degree of exercise as long as there is no medical contraindication," he says. Still, you'll want to go over your medical history and discuss an appropriate range of exercises and duration with your physician. It can vary based on the individual. Plus, once you are pregnant, here are the exercises to avoid and the ones that are safe for you to do.
3. When Am I Most Likely to Conceive?
You'll want to go around your ovulation point, getting frisky a few days before. "It is well established [that] the more a couple have intercourse PRIOR to ovulation, the higher the chance for conception by allowing more sperm into the female reproductive tract," he says. "Ovulation will occur from 1-2 days following detection by an OPK (ovulation predictor kit). We advise couples to have relations every day to every other day over the six days prior to and up to the day of ovulation using an OPK," he says.
4. How Long Should I Wait After Quitting Birth Control?
"Contrary to popular belief, neither the birth control pill (BCP) or IUD have long lasting detrimental effects on fertility," he says. In fact, it doesn't take long to be at risk for pregnancy upon quitting. "Once discontinued, the woman can simply await one normal menstrual cycle to ensure resumption of regularity prior attempts at conception. In almost all women, menses and fertility should return to normal within 90 days of stopping BCPs," he says.
5. Can I Smoke?
Your current habits can affect fertility, so you'll want to make sure your lifestyle gives you your best shot at a safe pregnancy. "Tobacco use has been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy (a life-threatening condition where the pregnancy implants outside the uterine cavity, usually in the fallopian tube), and genetic alterations of the sperm," he says. It's pretty clear you should ditch the cigarettes before thinking of conceiving. During pregnancy, tobacco use increases the risk of fetal low birth weight and birth defects.
6. Does My Weight Matter?
"Extremes of body weight, either low or elevated BMI can result in ovulation disorders and infertility," he says. It's important to be at a safe body weight before trying to get pregnant. "During pregnancy, low BMI increases the risk of fetal malnutrition, whereas elevated BMI can result in miscarriage, maternal hypertension and diabetes, preterm birth, birth defects, and still birth," he says. If you are concerned, seek advice from a dietician to figure out a meal plan that might help you get to the weight you need.
7. Can I Drink Alcohol?
"Any alcohol use by the woman can reduce fertility and, during pregnancy, increase the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), resulting in fetal mental retardation. However the exact amount of alcohol intake needed to result in FAS has yet to be determined," he says. If you are regularly drinking throughout the week, or you're drinking to excess, and are concerned, speak to your doctor about your drinking habits first.
8. Am I "Too Old"?
Unfortunately age can matter, so as you get older, your chances of getting pregnant decrease. "Some background first: woman are born with their total endowment of eggs, approximately 1-2 million whereas men begin to make sperm following puberty. A woman's peak fertility is up to age 30 with a slow but steady decline thereafter," he says. Technically, a woman has the potential to conceive a pregnancy until she enters menopause, on average at age 51 in the US, he adds.
Furthermore, risk of miscarriage increases, with age, too, he says. By the way, men are not spared this biologic clock, either. "Multiple studies have now shown a man's sperm production declines with age, and fertility appears to wane after age 40," he says.
9. How Do Vaccines and Zika Play a Role?
First off, make sure you are vaccinated appropriately, as chicken pox and other viruses can infect the baby if you're not protected. This is especially true for Zika. "Infection with the Zika virus occurs by the bite of a mosquito. The virus can be passed from the woman to her baby during pregnancy and can result in serious fetal brain birth defects, especially if occurring in the first trimester," he says. "If a woman or man travels to a Zika-endemic area, the CDC recommends deferring pregnancy for two months by the woman and six months by the man from the time of return from travel (even if there are no symptoms) or onset of symptoms in order to reduce the risk of infection of the fetus," he says.
10. Should I Get a Genetic Carrier Screening Prior to Getting Pregnant?
You'll need to know of your medical history and history of disease prior to conceiving, as these diseases can be passed on to your child. ACOG recommends providing all women information on genetic carrier screening prior to pregnancy. "If the woman is found to be a carrier of a particular disease, the partner should be tested because if both are carriers then the baby has a 25 percent chance of inheriting the full disease and 50 percent chance of being a carrier," he says. Certain diseases are recommended by ACOG but over 100 diseases can be tested in commercial labs, so feel free to check for anything that is of concern to you.