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Pregnancy Preparation

Jessica Evert, MD, edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD Updated: Jun 28th 2016

red no signBefore trying to become pregnant, there are many preparations you should make to ensure optimal health of your embryo and fetus. It is important to quit smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol and using any other types of drugs (including marijuana). In addition, you should review your medications with your doctor to make sure none of them are dangerous in pregnancy. Similarly, your partner should evaluate his current health and lifestyle and make similar changes if necessary. Obviously, you should stop using birth control pills and other methods of contraception. Although pregnancy is possible at any time following the discontinuation of birth control pills, it can take one to two cycles for your fertility to return to normal levels. You may also experience irregular periods during this time. It is usually recommended that birth control pills be stopped two to three months prior to when you wish to become pregnant. Remember to use barrier protection (such as condoms or diaphragms which offer some protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease) until pregnancy is desired.

You should also begin a prenatal vitamin or another source of folic acid supplementation. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects, specifically 'neural tube defects,' that can occur early in pregnancy. Pregnant women and those wishing to become pregnant should get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, however, it is more desirable to get 800-1,000 micrograms. Prenatal multi-vitamins that contain other beneficial vitamins and minerals are available on the market. Look for vitamins that contain: 800-1,000 mcg of folic acid, 400 IU of vitamin D, 200-300 mg of calcium, 70 mg of vitamin C, 1.5 mg of thiamine, 1.6 mg of riboflavin, 2.6 mg of pyridoxime, 2.2 mcg of vitamin B-12, 17 mg of niacinamide, 10 mg of vitamin E, 15 mg of zinc, and 30 mg of iron.

Prenatal vitamins are relatively large pills that can cause an upset stomach, especially if not taken with food. If you experience nausea or other intolerable side-effects, speak with a doctor. There are chewable and other formulations of vitamins available that may work better for you. You may also experience constipation from these multi-vitamins. In this situation a stool softener can be used safely.

Increasing your chances of getting pregnant:

Infertility is only determined after months of trying because it is normal for multiple monthly cycles to go by before an actual pregnancy occurs. Even young, healthy partners may take a few months to conceive. The following tips can be used to increase the likelihood of pregnancy before seeking medical consultation.

Timing your sexual intercourse to occur on those days that you are most fertile can increase your likelihood of pregnancy. In general, women who have 28 day cycles (the number of days from the start of one period to the start of the next) are most fertile 13 to 15 days after the start of their menses (period). This period of fertility corresponds with the ovulation of the egg, which is its release from the ovary. To calculate this approximately, 14 is subtracted from the length of the cycle and then that number of days is added to the first day of your period. For instance, if you have a 32 day cycle: 32-14 is 18. Thus, you will likely ovulate 17-19 days after your period. Another method is to time vaginal sexual intercourse every other day for the middle third of the cycle. Thus, if you have a 28 day cycle, you and your partner would have sex every other day from day 9-19 (the day is calculated by adding the number of days to the first day of the period- for example if a period starts on September 1, then intercourse would take place on alternating days from September 9 to September 19). In the midst of all of these scientific calculations and scheduling it is easy to forget that sexual intercourse can be enjoyable! Try to maintain a sense of humor, if possible. You may also want to visit a website such as for research-based information about enhancing your sex life.

Tools such as ovulation predictor kits (OPK's) and basal body temperature monitoring can also help to time intercourse and increase the likelihood of conception in any given month/cycle. Several of these tools are described in the following discussion.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Increase Chances of Pregnancy - Diet - Joseph Conrad - Jun 20th 2010

Nice post, Dr Evert.

Sometimes ovulation issues can complicate things. The right diet goes a long way toward normalizing ovulation. You talked about eating fruits and veggies and cutting out the junk food. Good advice to anyone wanting to be healthy.

Also, the overall health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids cannot be underestimated. The best sources are oily fish (i.e. salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna) and omega-3 supplements. Research shows that Omega-3s promote healthy menstrual cycles, support normal ovulation and improve ovarian health.

Joseph Conrad is a medical researcher and creator of Increase Chances of Pregnancy

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