Planning a pregnancy? 10 steps to take

Apr 22, 2011 at 11:29 p.m. ET

Hoping to win at Baby Roulette? Before you and your partner toss the birth control in the trash and embark on any serious babymaking efforts, you've got some important decisions to make.The choices you make right now are every bit as important to your future baby's health and well-being as the decisions you make after the pregnancy test comes back positive.

Sperm meets egg

If you're hoping to get pregnant in the near future, here are 10 steps you should plan to take in the year prior to conception!

1What's up, doc?

A generation ago, your doctor would have thought you were crazy if you called to set up an appointment to talk about your conception plans. Today, it's fast becoming the norm for couples to book a preconception health checkup.

You may have to do a little arm-twisting to get your partner to accompany you to your appointment -- a lot of guys feel that their role in Operation Conception is limited to heading up the elite Sperm Squadron forces! -- but, whether he's prepared to admit it or not, your partner also needs to do a little preconception health planning of his own. (See page 3 of this article for some details.)

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2Testing one, two, three

I know, I know... lying spread-eagled on an examination table isn't my idea of a good time either, but the experts are pretty much unanimous on this point: the ideal time to schedule a pap test is before you start trying to conceive. That way, should anything abnormal show up, you and your healthcare provider will be able to deal with the problem prior to rather than during your pregnancy.

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3All systems go

You wouldn't even dream of heading off on a cross-country expedition without checking to ensure that your car's equipment was in good working order.Well, you're about to embark on the ultimate of journeys -- the journey to motherhood -- so it's even more important to make sure that your body is firing on all cylinders.

Mother Words - Ann Douglas

Your doctor will generally give you the green flag if you are in reasonably good health (e.g. any chronic health conditions, such as heart problems, diabetes, or high blood pressure are under control, and you haven't tested positive for any sexually-transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea).

Your doctor may also want to talk to you about any hazards that you may face in the workplace -- strenuous working conditions or exposure to hazardous agents, for example -- since they may impact on your pregnancy as well.

4The human pincushion

Don't relish the thought of being turned into a human pincushion? Chances are you won't have to. While it's always a good idea to have your immunity to both rubella (German measles) and chickenpox checked before you start trying to conceive,most adult women are immune to these two diseases. If it turns out that you're not, it's time to roll up your sleeve: both diseases can be devastating to the developing baby.

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What's more, if contracted during pregnancy, chickenpox can pose significant health risks to the pregnant woman as well.

5Shaking your family tree

Something else you might want to do before you and your partner move into the "action phase" of babymaking is to find out what types of skeletons are swinging from your family tree.

Certain types of birth defects and serious -- even fatal -- diseases are genetic in origin, and it's possible that you and your partner may be carriers for certain types of these inherited diseases. A geneticist can help you to determine your odds of giving birth to a healthy baby.

ON the next page: What to do 3 MONTHS AHEAD OF TIME

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