What did you research while trying to conceive?

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By: Helene SamsonCC BY 2.0
My husband and I are planning on trying to conceive in the next three to four months. I originally thought that I was a crazy person for wanting to go ahead and do some planning for care providers and such now, but I am quickly learning that I am not a crazy person (at least not because of that), and that it’s quite normal.

What I’d LOVE to know, is what you all did/planned/researched before you conceived — a timeline with to-dos for each month would really help me out! — Amanda

Comments on What did you research while trying to conceive?

  1. Pretty much nothin’! It’s one of those things you can’t predict– you could conceive next months, or six months from now, or next year, and conception isn’t a guarantee of successful delivery. The one major thing we discussed and ironed out before TTC was: are we mentally ready for a kid? Can we support one? Do we really, really want to?

    Once I found out I was in fact actually pregnant, THEN the research began. Starting with:
    1) What does our health care plan cover? How much can we expect to pay?
    2) How often should I have prenatal check-ups?
    3) When should I put my hypothetical child’s name on the daycare waiting list at work? (answer: after 12-week ultrasound is a pretty good time)

    … the latter was the most important thing for us. We lucked out and only had to wait eleven months to get a spot in daycare. We put him on the waitlist when he was still a fetus. (fetus name: Max Power)

  2. i researched a lot of nutrition for fertility and also pregnancy nutrition and general advice just so i would be able to hit the ground running with what i could/couldn’t/shouldn’t eat or do. it’s not research, but i also started working to get my body into the best shape i could.
    related to the daycare advice above, i didn’t need to because i live in a small town, but a friend in nyc waited a few weeks after she got pregnant to look for a homebirth midwife and they were all booked up! if you live in a place with competition for obs/birth centers/midwives, etc, i would find one you like so that you can call them immediately when you get pregnant.

    • also – if you want to pre-screen providers, you can meet with a midwife/MD for pre-conception advice/discussions and get a feel for what kind of provider you prefer

  3. I researched ovulation charting apps (I went with Fertility Friend), saw my doctor to see if there was anything I should do (prenatal vitamins, some blood tests to check on immunizations I wasn’t sure if I had), and went to lots of concerts, figuring each one might be my last for a while!

    Good luck.

  4. I started research and preparation ahead of time! I tend to over plan and thought I was starting my research too early, but I think it actually helped in my case. When we had a timeline for trying, I started seeing a midwife for my well woman exams. That way, I was already a patient so when the time came I would be more likely to get one of the coveted spots in the birth center where she practices. I looked into our insurance and actually switched types so that we would have better coverage for a non-hospital delivery and if we would need any kind of fertility treatments. I looked into ways to “help” with fertility. It actually ended up taking us longer to get pregnant than we had thought it would. I started seeing an acupuncturist right when we started trying and she was able to help get my cycles more regular and with stress relief when the charting and waiting was getting to be a bit much for me. I also picked up the book The Whole Pregnancy Handbook: An Obstetrician’s Guide to Integrating Conventional and Alternative Medicine Before, During, and After Pregnancy. I found it to be a great resource before (regarding nutrition and preparing your body for conception) and now during my pregnancy. I agree with the Fertility Friend app being really helpful as well.

  5. I went off the pill six months before we started trying to conceive (it worked on the first try — subsequent pregnancies have demonstrated that I get knocked up really easily). In that time, I charted according to Taking Charge of Your Fertility, so I knew my cycles inside and out.

    I went over our health insurance to see whether it might cover a homebirth, had some long conversations with my partner about where I’d ideally give birth, and once I discovered that it did, researched midwives. We didn’t interview with them until I was pregnant.

    I wish I’d done research about childcare so that I could have known when it would have been a good idea to get my kiddo on waiting lists, etc. I really think that poor planning around childcare was a large part of me ending up being a stay-at-home mom (which is not something I regret doing, ultimately).

    • Reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility and learning how to chart my cycle was incredibly valuable. After four months of charting/trying to conceive, it was clear that I wasn’t ovulating, so I had hard data to take to my OB/GYN (and then the reproductive endocrinologist). We still aren’t parents yet, but I’m glad I knew my cycle; if I hadn’t been charting, we could have spent a year or longer wondering why I wasn’t getting pregnant.

      • This! I’m using charting as a backup for barrier methods, and also because we’re hoping to try conceive next year, and my charts have revealed that I’m just not ovulating. I’ve already had some bloodwork done and have a hysterosalpingogram booked for next week. It’s hard to take, but I’m so grateful I know this now rather than later.

  6. My husband and I aren’t trying to conceive just yet, but hopefully will be in the near future. As others have mentioned above, Fertility Friend is an amazing resource. I’ve been charting my monthly cycle for almost 2 years, and I love knowing my body’s rhythm. It also makes it a lot easier to predict when your period is expected (and therefore if you may be pregnant). And when the time comes to start trying, at least I know how my body rhythm works to give it the best shot we can.

  7. About the only things I did pre conception were
    – discussions with my husband that we were ready for this
    – know that we had a work/childcare plan in place
    – take my regular vitamins that contain folic acid
    – come off the pill and start charting my cycle

    Good luck!

  8. I’m an MA student and a geek, so researching is in my blood. I also deal with anxiety by getting as informed about the thing that’s worrying me as possible. My researching went through phases:
    Phase 1: holy sh*t…we’re going to have a baby. Start compulsively reading everything I can about the phases of pregnancy, what labour looks like (and sounds like…I watched every youtube video on homebirthing and water births I could find)

    Phase 2: halfway through the pregnancy. At a certain point my focus shifted from the pregnancy to the birth experience, putting together our home-birthing kit, taking pre-natal classes, reading up on natural birth techniques and what to do if medical interventions become necessary.

    Phase 3: final trimester, realized that the birth is just the beginning! After that, we’ll have a BABY to look after!!!! Started researching the heck out of things like a) breastfeeding b) how to sleep with a newborn c) helping to establish a healthy microbiome for our baby. Say what?!? Yes, I told you I was a geek. Microbiome is science-speak for the balance of healthy micro-organisms that populate our bodies and make it possible for us to function. I’ve had a systemic yeast infection (Candida albicans) for over 10 years now, and I’m worried about passing that on to the baby. I recently read a scientific article about how after the baby leaves the sterile environment of the amniotic sac and is birthed out into the world, it is inocculated with its mother’s bacteria as it passes through the vaginal canal, and also via breast feeding and skin-to-skin contact. Within 24-36hrs the baby’s intestines are colonized with its mother’s microbiota. If the mom has a healthy balance, it bodes well for the baby. If the mom has a yeast infection, the baby can pick it up, and end up with oral yeast (thrush) which in turn can infect the mom’s nipples and put an end to breastfeeding. Since I want to help my baby get off to a good start I’ve been working on getting my Candida problems under control using probiotics and an anti-candida diet (no concentrated sugars, lots of veggies and high-quality protein, complex carbs instead of simple carbs). Having a healthy balance of internal flora and fauna is now linked to everything from preventing asthma and diabetes, to improving your immune system. Amazing!

  9. I agree with everyone who mentioned “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” (TCOYF) by Toni Wechsler. I cannot recommend this book and its website enough. I also use TCOYF as my charting software. Fertility Friend is another great one, but I like the attached online community at TCOYF. Start there. Start charting. And then research yourself and your partner. I was convinced it would take us just a few months, but here we are 11 months later. I bought a million pregnancy and birth books and haven’t cracked them open because we’re still learning about conception, fertility and how to make that all work. We’re researching our limits, comfort levels of alternative methods and procedures, tests, bloodwork, answering “what if” questions, all that fun stuff. Research how you and your partner want to go through this journey together. It’s been so important for me and my husband to constantly check in with each other that we’re on the same page especially as the cycles go on.

    I would also recommend getting as much blood work out of the way as possible, especially if you’re in your 30s. There were quite a few tests we left until later because it was recommended to wait, but they returned results that we could have taken action on much earlier (Semen analysis, thyroid levels, FSH/Estradiol levels, progesterone – these are all pretty standard, all were covered by our insurance and could have saved us a few months…maybe)

    Lastly, research who you want by your side – midwife, obgyn, etc. I feel like I lucked out with my “team” of my midwife, acupuncturist and recently a reproductive endocrinologist as we seek alternatives. Keep in mind this team will likely be with you for a while, so what are your priorities in care ESPECIALLY philosophically. I’m in an online buddy group where some of the women are dealing with getting the run-around from their care professionals, dismissing their charts and pressuring them onto paths that are more medically invasive than they’re comfortable with. I feel empowered and heard with my team and I couldn’t be more grateful.

    I have LOVED getting to know myself so well and getting to feel ever more confident in me and my husband’s readiness. Although I didn’t expect it to take this long, I am grateful for the concentrated, intentional reflection we’ve been forced to do as we attempt to be parents. Good luck to you and your little family!

  10. At least 3 months before I got my IUD out, I:
    1. Started taking prenatal vitamins as soon as we started thinking about a baby.
    2. Worked with my psychiatrist to figure out the safest medicine regimen that kept me stable (I’m bipolar).
    3. Worked with my immunologist to figure out the safest medicine regimen that kept my lungs working well (I’m asthmatic).
    4. Started using a phone app (ovuview) to track my fertility. Obviously this works better if you’re not on hormonal birth control.

    Once we started trying to conceive, I:
    1. Tried to stop drinking except on special occasions.
    2. Slowed down my half-marathon training regimen a bit after a few months of failure, since extreme exercise (and I was pretty into running) can limit fertility.
    3. Found out what my maternity leave options were and signed up for short term disability insurance since I only get unpaid leave. I should have done this earlier, because I’m not sure whether my pregnancy will be labeled as “preexisting” or not — I got pregnant the month I signed up for the insurance.
    4. Found an OB/midwife practice that I liked. I didn’t do any interviews or anything, just checked out their practice on the internet and got a few reviews.
    5. Thought about childcare but didn’t do anything except get nervous.
    6. Read the Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

    Once I got pregnant, I:
    1. Freaked out a lot.
    2. Read everything I could find.
    3. Made space and childcare plans (we just bought a house).

    Good luck!

  11. Yes to Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I also took an online course I saw advertised on Offbeat Families – ‘Purposeful Conception’. I wasn’t sure if it’d be worth it, but I figured I’d give it a go. It really helped us think through a lot of parenting, pregnancy and lifestyle issues – from practical stuff like ‘am I eating right?’, to ‘what type of parent do I want to be’. From ‘what does my health insurance cover’, to ‘what kind of support will I need in the early days of parenting?’.

  12. I’m bipolar, too, and the majority of my research has been related to my medications. I’ve been getting ready to try to conceive for the past two years, psychiatrically. With help and guidance from my therapist and the psychiatrist who manages my meds, I tried to go off all medication with pregnancy in mind, which was a big fat fail. Because I had a great team in place, I didn’t fall too far before they got me back on track. Getting back on track involved tweaking those meds, getting me on the lowest dosage without reoccurrence of illness, then watching me carefully to make sure I had a sustained period of stability. I’ve been stable for 8-10 months now, which is hugely important.

    I also researched the best obstetric psychiatrist (yes, that’s a speciality now) I could find, saved up the $650 for the consultation (the best of the best don’t take insurance), and went with my husband to put a plan in place to manage my illness during pregnancy. This has lead to me researching an OB/GYN practice that will support my staying medicated during pregnancy (because of my psychiatrist-supported experiment with going off my meds two years ago, we know I have to stay on them).

    I am looking at giving birth in Manhattan where the obstetric psychiatry practice has privileges and delivers babies, so that my hypothetical future child has the best possible care during the three days of withdrawal he or she will experience as my medications leave his or her system. The thought of my baby in withdrawal scares me, but the thought of cycling erratically postpartum is scarier. I don’t say that lightly, either.

    In this time, I’ve also been working hard in therapy to be the most self-aware, stable version of myself I can be. I’ve wrestled my demons, and while I’ll never know if I can definitely say I’ve won, the demons are punch-drunk on the mat with two black eyes a piece right now. I like to joke that I have my baggage, but at least now it’s cute and it all matches. I’ve made peace with issues from my childhood (mostly food related) because I want my kids to grow up with the least number of body issues possible.

    I’ve also been saving money for maternity leave. I’m self-employed, so if I take time off, I need to have a financial safety net in place. Because of the meds, breast-feeding is not recommended for me. I’m not pregnant yet, and I’m mourning that loss already. That was the most difficult news we received at the $650 consultation. I am trying to work through those feelings now, so I’m not paralyzed by the guilt later. (I know how my brain works.) I also know that we’re going to need to buy formula. So we’re saving money.

    Lastly, I’m getting in shape, losing weight, getting an exercise routine in place and taking prenatal vitamins. I’ve been off hormonal birth control for a year. I’m doing a cleanse recommended by my chiropractor, and paying attention to the length of my cycle so I can best predict my fertile days. Operation Physically Conceive a Baby commences April 11th!

  13. You asked for a timeline, and so a timeline you shall have! This is what I’ve set up, maybe some of it will help you. All of my research involves Google, so I can’t really recommend anything in terms of planning literature.

    3-4 Months before trying to conceive
    1. Sit down with your partner and make a list of your family’s medical history – especially any issues that have a genetic component.
    2. Make a wellness appointment with your doctor/whoever will assist in your pregnancy, and ask what services they provide.
    3. Make a dentist appointment (gum disease can cause problems during pregnancy, so get everything checked out soon)
    4. Start charting your menstrual cycle (if you aren’t already).
    5. Stop any hormonal birth control.

    1-2 Months before trying to conceive
    1. Start taking vitamins (both partners)
    2. Plan to finish any trips that require malaria pills
    3. Finish any vaccines that your doctor thinks are necessary
    4. Talk with your partner about birth plans, your opinions on visitors after childbirth, parenting expectations, etcetera.

    Good luck!!

  14. I researched family planning and began charting on fertility friend to get a good sense of when I’d be most likely to conceive. For us it happened quickly, but I also thought generally about where I might like to give birth and a general idea of what I’d like to happen. I found a hospital close by that had midwives for the pregnancy and birth, but could have an overseeing OB if necessary. Other than that, I didn’t do much research on babies/birthing, but did a lot of ‘woo woo’ things about getting pregnant and being open to abundance and expanding our family, etc.

  15. All of the above suggestions are awesome. One thing I did obsessively that I’m not sure too many people here have mentioned – I looked up STUFF. Tons and tons of baby stuff. I made lists about what would need to be purchased beforehand, at birth, 6 months later, etc. This can be done at any time, you can do it whenever, but it really helped me to get a handle on about how much money we would need upfront for stuff. Having decisions already made like crib vs. cosleeper, cloth or disposable, those things were really helpful – and it also helped me take my mind off of obsessing over charting and things like that.

    It also gives you plenty of time to look for real examples of why certain things might or might not work – you can look at your living space, figure out what will go where, what you won’t have room for, etc. And if you know how much things will cost new, then you can plan for a certain amount of spending – but still get to research bargains after you conceive, and keep track of just how much money you’re saving! It feels so great to get something for $50 on Craigslist knowing it costs $125 new, y’know? 🙂

    Also, I massively regret not looking for several possibilities with prenatal care. I had always assumed I’d go to one particular midwife/birthing center – when I realized I had some risk factors that might make me slightly more high risk, I had to find an alternative who wouldn’t boot me just because my blood pressure is on the high side of normal, etc. (Nothing against midwives who only take low risk cases – I understand why. But I’m happy I was able to find a clinic of nurse-midwives who will keep you even if you present high-risk, they will just share your care with a perinatologist.)

    • This is a GREAT suggestion re: starting early on the hunt for Baby Stuff. You can save a lot on cots/cribs/car seats/bouncy chairs/etc (and get a year’s worth of baby clothes for next to free) on Craigslist, Freecycle, etc– but only if you start looking ahead of time, instead of waiting until you actually need the item.

  16. I’m a big researcher/planner, so I did try to do a bunch of stuff in advance, but I honestly don’t think anything is necessary unless you enjoy this kind of stuff. 🙂

    1. About a year before we started trying to conceive, I started a “baby savings” account. It allowed us to pay for a birth center birth (not covered by my insurance) out of pocket, plus take an extra 6 weeks unpaid maternity leave. At my insurance open enrollment period, I also made sure I understood what my insurance would cover, since that would be my last chance to make any changes. I ended up opting for higher premium coverage during pregnancy, then switched it back after the baby was born.
    2. A couple months before we started trying I had a well-woman checkup and got advice about prenatals. I wish I’d gotten a dentist appointment as well.
    3. I also watched a lot of birth videos and read a lot of birth stories before I got pregnant. I wanted to avoid any gory/scary birth stories once I was actually pregnant, so I figured I’d get all the horror stories out of the way in advance. 🙂 That way I knew what could go wrong, but didn’t have it sitting in front of me all the time.
    4. Right about when we started trying I started researching local providers, and compiling a list of questions to ask at the first visit. This timeline gave me about 6 weeks to work on that, since most providers didn’t schedule a first visit until at least 8 weeks. I’m REALLY glad I worked on that list of questions, it made the first visit with the midwife go really smoothly and allowed me to feel confident I wasn’t forgetting anything important.

    I also tried to research any decisions at least a couple months in advance, so I had time to sit on the information and not feel like I was making any heat-of-the-moment decisions. That meant I was researching amnio and genetic tests in the first trimester, labor and birth in the second trimester, breastfeeding and newborn vaccines in the third trimester. And, uh, now that my daughter is 15 months I’m researching preschools…

  17. First thing: prenatal vitamins! You want to those levels in your system when you conceive. Some are a little intense (such high doses of some vitamins can make you feel queasy) so some folks take them at night.
    I take these: Nature Made Prenatal
    They do smell a bit of fish, which I like knowing there’s fish oil in them, but they never made me queasy and I take them during the day.
    I started tracking my cycles, more and more specifically each month as I learned how. I didn’t get to the point where I was taking my temperature each morning, but would check my cervix as I knew I was getting close to ovulating to observe how it changes.
    I bought this book: Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception
    and read much of it with my husband.

    I also took this online course: http://www.purposefulconception.com/
    and shared most of the lessons with my husband as well. Of all the preparations we did, this online course was the MOST helpful. It’s very well rounded and got us thinking in different ways that helped us feel much more prepared when we were ready to try.
    I interviewed one midwife before we conceived, and really meant to research more. If you have the time I would absolutely recommend this step prior to conception. It may seem like jumping the gun, but really what you’re doing is exploring your compatibility with a potential care provider before the extra hormones hit. I just didn’t have the energy to research much more after we got pregnant; we met one other that seems great and have enjoyed working with her, but it honestly still sits funny in the back of my mind that I didn’t explore other providers more extensively.
    I’d researched and decided on a particular Doula before we conceived, and she is the professional on our birthing team that I trust the most.
    I started a steady work out routine months ahead of when I thought we might start trying in order to establish a base level of exercise that I could adapt throughout the pregnancy, and also to improve my BMI. I also started eating “like a pregnant lady,” meaning I started avoiding sushi, unpasteurized dairy, excess sugar, etc. And I began weaning myself off coffee and wine – not totally abstaining, but I started “training” myself to cut back.
    We totally conceived on the first try and we felt very prepared.
    The one thing I wish I’d researched more: day care. I figured I’d look into it during the pregnancy and have found it totally overwhelming.

  18. This may not be quite what you were looking for, but if you are going to need child care, I would begin researching that NOW. I’m sure it depends on where you live, but in my community, quality child care (we have a state rating system) often comes with a 2-year waiting list. So don’t feel silly going to visit centers and getting on those lists now, even though you’re not pregnant.

    I also began reading into parenting philosophies and discussing them with my partner. It gave us plenty of non-pressured time to talk about things. I did not–but wish I had–read more on parenting an infant. Would’ve saved me a ton of late night googling. 😉

  19. We’re just getting started trying to conceive. I’ve mostly been doing a lot of reading. Some of my favorites: Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Making Babies, & The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant.

    I’ve also been working on figuring out how to save more money and budget for a baby. I found this post really helpful: http://www.feedingthesoil.com/2010/05/how-much-does-it-cost-to-have-baby.html . I called my insurance company and asked about the coverage.

    I went of birth control 3 months before we started trying and began charting to get a sense of my cycle. I really like the fertility friend app.

  20. I am not into long, heavy books (have a toddler) so Taking Charge of Your Fertility was out for me. I live a pretty healthy lifestyle so I trusted in my body and just kept that up in preparation for conception. As for conception, a doc told me to do *anal* temperature every day and chart it (I used the My Days app that tracks periods and such, for iPhone), and when it spikes, do the deed. I am now 12 weeks pregnant with #2! Really…that’s all you need. Chart your cycle (anal is better than vaginal or oral…wait, that sounded kinky! sorry!)…and trust your body. If your little zygote isn’t healthy, the body sheds it…happens all the time. We are cut out for this stuff!

  21. My husband and i will start trying sometime in the next 1 – 12 months. I have been:
    1. Quit smoking (!!!!!!!!!)
    2. Cutting down on drinking alcohol and caffeine.
    3. focusing more on nutrition and eating nutritious foods.
    4. Taking folic acid supplement
    5. Getting into the habit of regular exercise
    6. Reading every book about pregnancy, birth and babies i can get my hands on.
    7. Made an appointment with the dentist to get my teeth cleaned.
    8. Scheduled an appointment for my annual papsmear with a midwife. Mostly to meet the midwife.
    9. Talking to my husband about things like where the baby will sleep, what kind of diapers we will use, etc.

    I am really enjoying reading the comments on this post, and hope to hear from more people in this same “prepping” stage of life as me.

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  23. My pre-conception research focused on the financial aspect: what did my insurance cover? Did I have short term disability? How much was in my HSA? How much vacation time did I want to have saved up to help my maternity leave be paid for? Were we happy in our house and neighborhood? Was our car baby friendly? How much was daycare going to cost and where did I want it to be? What prenatal vitamin should I be taking? Is my gynecologist going to be my obstetrician?

    Anything related to pregnancy or baby care, I mostly waited until I was pregnant. 9 months goes by fast so anything related to your finances should be taken care of as quickly as possible. Make sure the space you’re in is where you want to be with a baby. It’s easier to move now than when you’re pregnant or have a small kid.

    And if you don’t have short term disability insurance, look into it! You usually have to be paying for it a certain amount of time before using it. So you want to make sure you start that before you get pregnant.

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