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Are You Ready to Have a Baby?

Do you see pregnant women every time you turn around? Countless strollers dotting the sidewalk on your commute? Are you getting baby fever? If it’s time to start thinking about expanding your family, set yourself up for success! Deciding to have a baby is a life-changing event. You know it’s going to be expensive. New parents spend an average of $50 a week on formula, baby food and diapers and approximately $12,000 in expenses for the baby’s first year (based on a 2010 USDA report). So you set up a savings plan to prepare. What other steps should you take? Dr. Megan Evans, MD, MPH from Tufts Medical Center, suggests you work on these five things before trying to become pregnant.

Evaluate your current health. It goes without saying that if you are a smoker, it’s time to quit. You should also avoid alcohol and any other drugs if you’re trying to conceive. The greatest risk to the fetus is in the first trimester — which is often before you know you’re pregnant. Make an appointment with your primary health care provider or OB/GYN to schedule a complete physical and be up to date with routine exams (Pap smears and screening for sexually transmitted diseases). Talk with him or her about whether or not any medication you are currently taking is safe if you become pregnant. “If you are overweight, losing weight prior to pregnancy can help decrease your risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm delivery,” Dr. Evans says. “You can also make an appointment with an OB for a pre-conception counseling visit to discuss how best to prepare your body for pregnancy.” Your OB may recommend that you be screened for hereditary conditions, such as cystic fibrosis.

Start taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid. Dr. Evans says, “The best time to take prenatal vitamins is actually before you get pregnant. Folic acid can decrease the occurrence of neural tube defects in pregnancy, and women should take at least 400 micrograms a day.“ Your OB will let you know if you need a higher dose.

Figure out where you want to deliver your baby — and with whom. Some women are opting to deliver their babies with a midwife rather than a physician. Some want to have a water birth or use a birthing room. Fortunately, there are many options in the Boston area. Have you decided on a hospital? If so, make certain that your OB has privileges there and that it’s easily accessible. “The closer you get to your delivery date,” Dr. Evans says, “the more frequent your prenatal visits.”

Look into childcare options. If you plan on returning to work after your baby is born, you’ll need to have a childcare plan. Do your homework and research daycare facilities, talk to friends about where their children go and visit possible locations. Some popular daycare facilities have long waiting lists and require a deposit. Put your name on the list as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.

Take a look at your medical benefits. “Some insurance companies prefer specific providers and hospitals,” Dr. Evans says. “If you don’t like those options, you could consider becoming a dependent on your partner’s insurance if he or she has better coverage and/or access.” You may have an idea about how much time you’ll want to take for maternity leave. However, you should investigate how much your employer will offer, both paid and unpaid. FMLA (Federal Family and Medical Leave Act) guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn if you’ve worked for your employer for at least 1,250 hours before you need the benefit. The MMLA (Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act) provides for eight weeks of unpaid leave if you have worked full time for your employer for at least three months.

The decision to start a family ushers in an exciting time in your life. While it can also bring some stress, there are plenty of ways to plan and prepare ahead of time. With some careful planning, making the transition from the two of you to the three (or more) of you will be much easier.