The 6 things all couples should do before they try to conceive

 

The end of the year is a time to look back, but it’s also a time to think ahead, to consider what you hope to achieve in the coming year. And if you’re like many people, you may be hoping to take the next step in family planning—trying to conceive. (September is the most popular birth month, so we know a lot of you are trying to conceive right now.) This guide is for you.

 

1. Check in on your fertility health

Over 14% of couples will struggle with infertility. While most people will have no issue getting pregnant, some will have a few issues, and some will have a lot of difficulty.

Unfortunately, the majority of couples don’t know where they stand before they start trying, and traditional advice will tell you to wait a year before seeing a specialist or getting testing. That’s a long time, especially if you’re already in your 30s and hoping to have multiple children. And if you do end up struggling with infertility, that may mean months or even years of treatment—including specialists, medication, and even surgeries—before you’re finally able to take home a baby.

The good news is that you can be proactive about your fertility. For women, fertility testing, such as blood work and an ultrasound, can ensure your reproductive system is in good working order. Tracking your menstrual cycles for several months can also give you and your doctor some valuable information about when—and whether—you’re ovulating, and raise a red flag for any illnesses that might make it harder to conceive.

For men, it may feel like your health isn’t as important to the process of conception as your other half’s. But sperm is half the fertility equation. Male fertility issues account for as many as 30–50% of infertility cases. A semen analysis is a simple, non-invasive test that provides a comprehensive understanding of your fertility, so you can address any issues preventatively.

At Legacy, we offer an easy mail-in sperm analysis kit, so you can get clinic-grade testing from the comfort of your home. Our reports also come with individualized recommendations to improve your fertility and your chances of conception. Learn more about sperm testing.

 

 

2. Get physically prepared for conception and pregnancy

For the partner who will be carrying the baby, pregnancy is a physically demanding experience—so it’s important to make sure that you’re in the best possible health. Schedule a preconception visit with your OB/GYN to discuss your plans to conceive; they will check that you’re up-to-date with all screenings (such as a Pap smear and STI testing), and can give you guidance based on their knowledge of your medical history. It’s also recommended to see your primary care physician for an annual check-up, to get blood work, screenings, and vaccinations to identify or prevent illness prior to or during pregnancy.

You’ll also want to make sure your lifestyle is conducive to conception and pregnancy. We know that smoking and drinking is a no-no for pregnant people. But did you know that cigarettes and alcohol also have an impact on male fertility? Quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol are both important ways to improve your chances of conception (and get on the same page as your partner). In general, adopting a healthier lifestyle—with moderate, regular exercise, enough sleep, and plenty of fruits and vegetables—has been shown to benefit sperm health.

Learn more about sperm improvement.

The partner who will carry the pregnancy should be taking prenatal vitamins for about 3 months prior to conception, to ensure they have all the necessary nutrients for pregnancy (such as folic acid and vitamin D). But there are supplements that can be helpful for male partners as well; there’s evidence that certain vitamins, antioxidants, and herbs can increase libido, improve levels of reproductive hormones such as testosterone, and boost sperm health. Learn more about male fertility supplements.

Both partners will want to understand the potential impact of any medications they’re currently taking, as not all prescriptions are safe for pregnancy, and some are known to impede fertility. And finally, for those who have a family history or a predisposition for certain genetic disorders (such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, or sickle cell anemia), genetic testing known as “carrier screening” may be appropriate before trying to conceive.

 

 

3. Assess your living situation

You don’t need to be living in a 4-bedroom, 2 and ½-bathroom house on a cul-de-sac to have a home that’s suitable for a family. But the fact is that babies and children—and their things—do need space, and so do parents.

If you live in a small home or apartment, is there enough room for a baby, and all the associated necessities (like a crib, a playpen, or a changing table)? Keep in mind that, when they’re just born, it’s common for babies to sleep in their parents’ room, but as they get older, it’s helpful for both the children and their parents if kids have their own room. How can you make that work in the space you have now? And if you can’t, and you decide you need to buy a home or move to a larger rental before you have a baby, that needs to factor into your financial conversation (more on that below).

Deciding where you want to raise your kids is also a matter of values. Do you want to live in a city, where you might be paying more for a smaller space, but your children have more cultural and educational opportunities and a more diverse community? Or do you prioritize space to play and create, like a yard or a finished basement, more highly?

 

 

4. Get your finances in order

The financial conversation has a few parts: first, you’ll have to pay for the birth of the baby. Secondly, you’ll need to think about how to manage the ongoing costs of raising a child. And lastly, you’ll want to consider how you can save for those big ticket items in your child’s life, like a college education or helping them buy a home.

The average cost of a hospital birth in the United States is just over $10,000, but when you factor in pre- and post-natal care, it can get as high as $30,000. If you’re insured, your health plan may cover some or all of that cost (more on that below). But what about the non-medical costs, like purchasing a crib or a carseat, or redoing a nursery? Do you have enough saved to cover that, or do you have family and friends who will help chip in to these costs?

Until a child attends preschool or kindergarten, you’ll need to figure out childcare (whether it’s a non-working parent, grandparent or family member, nanny, or daycare provider). Keep in mind that childcare costs, on average, $800 a month. Childcare is a huge part of the average cost of raising a child: about $12,000–$14,000 per year depending on the child’s age, according to the USDA.

And finally, you’ll want to consider how you can regularly contribute to a savings account for those expensive investments in your children’s future, like a college education. Higher ed costs a staggering $20,000 per year on average in the United States.

If your brain is swimming from all these numbers, don’t panic. You don’t need to budget for all of these costs right now. But having a picture, however fuzzy, of the financial undertaking of child-rearing is a very important part of planning to have a baby.

 

 

5. Understand your benefits and health insurance coverage

If you get benefits—namely parental leave and health insurance—through your employer, that can help offset the cost of having a baby considerably. Make sure you understand what your benefits offer, so your financial planning can be more accurate. You can get most of these answers by speaking to your human resources department and/or your insurance provider.

For example, do you have parental leave benefits? If yes, for how long? What percentage of your salary is paid to you while you’re on leave? Do both parents get leave, or just one—and if both, do they need to take it at the same time?

And if you have health insurance, it’s important to understand what they cover. If all of your prenatal visits are covered (typically they are), is the cost of delivery covered as well? Do you have a deductible you need to meet before your insurance “kicks in”? Do you have a copay or coinsurance you’re responsible for? It can also be helpful to understand if your insurance covers complementary medicine or nontraditional choices, like prenatal massage, a birthing center, or a doula. And what if you need fertility treatment—is that covered?

And finally, it’s important to know that once the baby is born, all medical care provided to him or her in the hospital (such as vitamin supplementation, testing, or NICU treatment) is billed separately from the care provided to you. How and when should you add your new baby to your insurance plan to ensure these expenses are covered?

 

 

6. Talk about your parenting styles and expectations

Thankfully, it’s no longer about begging men to change diapers, or dads referring to caring for their children as “babysitting.” In 2020, most dads-to-be are expecting—and excited—to be equal partners in parenting. But parenting is still a balancing act between two people with different skills, interests, and outside obligations (such as work).

It can be helpful to bring some real-life examples to the table. Discuss which partner will stay home with the kids when they’re too young for school, or, later, on a sick day or snow day. Who will cook dinner, help with homework, or get involved in class or extracurricular activities? Who will be responsible for cleaning up after the kiddos? How will you divide the feeding and caring responsibilities in the tough newborn stage, when sleep is a rare and precious commodity?

It might be helpful for each partner to discuss how their own parents raised them, and what they think worked—or didn’t work—about their parents’ approach. Some other questions you might consider: How much freedom or decision-making power do you believe is safe and appropriate for your children to have? What happens if a child doesn’t meet your expectations, or does something wrong or hurtful? How do you see the role of grandparents or extended family in your child’s life? What are your expectations for your own relationship while parenting?

It may also be helpful to discuss your expectations for trying to conceive and pregnancy, before there’s even a baby in your home. How will you approach trying to conceive—do you hope to track your cycle and time your intercourse to get pregnant as soon as possible, or does a more relaxed approach appeal to you? What if you don’t have success getting pregnant on your own—are you comfortable with seeking fertility treatment such as IVF or ICSI? At what point?

You don’t need to have clear answers to every question right now, and it’s expected that things will change. But these conversations can help illuminate any potential mismatches in expectations between partners.

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