Skip to content
5 things to do before you try to conceive
Yvette Smith, MD, MPH posted:
You and your partner have decided it's time to try to conceive. It's an exciting time! But before putting the dream into motion, here are a few practical steps you should take that can help make for a healthier pregnancy:

1. Stop all hormonal methods of birth control about 3 months before you are ready to start trying for pregnancy. This includes birth control pills, the vaginal ring, the patch, hormonal injections, and skin implants. You want these hormones to flush out of your system, so your natural menstrual pattern can be re-established. Some women may have irregular bleeding the first month or two after stopping hormonal birth control methods, which can be confusing and frustrating as you're trying to conceive.

2. Review your personal and family medical history. Are you taking any other medications? Are they safe for pregnant women, or do they need to be changed? Are you using any over-the-counter supplements that may not be safe to take during pregnancy? Do you have any medical conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, arthritis, etc.) that should be addressed before trying to conceive? Consider scheduling a preconception-counseling visit with your obstetrician to discuss these issues.
You'll also want to look at your partner's medical history and that of any extended family. Are there conditions that seem to run in either of your families? Were any babies on either side born with any pre-existing conditions? You may want to research these conditions before trying for a baby.

3. Begin monitoring your folic acid intake. Folic acid, or folate, has been shown to decrease spinal cord defects when taken appropriately. By taking the recommended daily amount of folic acid, the natural occurrence of spinal cord defects may be decreased by more than 50% for parents with no family history of such conditions. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends taking 400 mcg, or 0.4 mg, of folic acid daily, starting at least one month before trying to conceive. The recommended dose is higher if you have a family history of spinal cord defects. So check with your obstetrician to discuss your family history and to get their recommendations.

4. Adopt healthier eating and exercising habits. You should be able to continue these habits throughout your pregnancy. If you need to lose weight, begin a healthy weight loss plan. Exercising on a regular basis is a wonderful habit to adopt that can usually be maintained throughout pregnancy.

5. Address any bad habits that you need to nix before getting pregnant. If you're a smoker, it's time to stop, or at least begin cutting back. Can you go from a pack a day to half a pack? Continue working on cutting back until you have stopped completely. It's a tremendous benefit to your health and the health of your baby. Excessive alcohol or illicit drug use must also be stopped before trying for pregnancy. Even periodic excessive drinking has been shown to be harmful to unborn babies. Talk to your health care provider about your level of alcohol intake before trying to conceive. These issues are too important. Don't take chances with your child's future.

Have you made any of these changes already? Are there any other personal changes you are making to prepare yourself for conception?
An_191686 responded:
Very good advice! It's distressing sometimes to see women who post that they are smoking/drinking and trying to get pregnant. Even more shocking that they wonder WHY they can't conceive. The time to get your body right is BEFORE you conceive, not "Oh I'll quit when I get pregnant." My sister had two miscarriages because she was drinking and smoking while trying to get pregnant. She never put the two together. I have weaned myself off of caffeine and do not consume ANY alcohol after CD5...I do allow myself some wine during my period but may even cut that out completely if I don't get pregnant soon (TTC for 2 months now). I exercise regularly but have toned down my routine a bit so as not to stress my body too much. LADIES, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST!!!! You can't "shock" your body into good habits AFTER you find out you are pregnant...these are the things that can lead to miscarriage. Good luck all!
Yvette Smith, MD, MPH replied to An_191686's response:
Ditto, Good luck to us all!

It's amazing what we can do for our babies. The trick is to do these great things for ourselves as well. Maybe then these great habits will stick even after the pregnancy!
H3aLth_ChaLL3ng3d responded:
There's so much talk about women's health before conception...any advice/suggestions for men?

Featuring Experts

David Walmer, MD, PhD is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at Atlantic Reproductive Medicine Specialists . During his 25 year...More

Helpful Tips

New Committee Opinion on Female Fertility TestingExpert
New Guidelines on Fertility Testing! American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) released a Committee Opinion on evaluation of the ... More
Was this Helpful?
9 of 9 found this helpful

Related Drug Reviews

  • Drug Name User Reviews

Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

For more information, visit the Duke Fertility Center