preconception, pregnancy test, birthing, maternity, fertile, prenatal vitamins

What should I do to prepare for pregnancy?

From preconception all the way to delivery, obstetricians and gynecologists agree that it’s important to be at optimal health.

“Pregnancy is wonderful, but it can put stress on your body,” Annevay Conlee, MD, a family medicine obstetrics physician at OSF HealthCare, said.


Preconception is that time when you think you want to get pregnant in the near future. It’s a sort of preparation time before getting pregnant.

Dr. Conlee encourages women to schedule a preconception appointment with their providers.

“You should meet with your OB/GYN before you even get pregnant. Schedule a preconception visit as soon as you have that first thought that maybe you’d like to get pregnant. You and your provider can talk about all the things that make for healthy fertility and pregnancy.”

“When it comes to fertility, I think it’s important to know your body. Your fertility depends on how regular your menstrual cycle is. And there are several different ways to learn about that,” Dr. Conlee said.

Dr. Conlee suggests women should know their body and whether their menstrual cycle is healthy.

A normal menstrual cycle is a range around 28 days, give or take a few days. If you have long or short cycles, something may be wrong. Anything longer than 36 days is a long cycle. Anything shorter than 21 days is a short cycle.

Women can learn an effective menstrual cycle tracking method, like the Creighton fertility awareness model. Learning to track your fertility gives you more control over your health. It also helps to know when your most fertile window is if you’re trying to get pregnant.

“You can meet with a nurse to learn about your menstrual cycle, even as a teenager from the first period. You learn what’s normal, what’s not normal, the signs of fertility. You can learn what your discharge reveals about your cycle. Those pieces of knowledge help you to know your overall health,” Dr. Conlee said.


If you’re thinking about trying to get pregnant soon, start with a healthy lifestyle and diet. Being at a healthy weight for your body increases your chances of getting pregnant. It also helps you support a healthy pregnancy when the time comes.

Having a healthy lifestyle before and at the time of conception will help to lower risk during pregnancy. Certain birth defects, such as neural tube defects, can occur before you even know you’re pregnant. So, being as healthy as possible will give you and your baby the best opportunity to thrive during pregnancy.

There are even benefits of prenatal vitamins while not pregnant.

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Prenatal vitamins offer many supplements to a healthy diet. They can boost vitamins and minerals in your body, like iron and folic acid. These supplements help your body to support a healthy pregnancy and baby. Prenatal vitamins also boost collagen and keratin, which may cause healthier skin, hair and nails.

However, Dr. Conlee doesn’t recommend taking prenatal vitamins if you’re not trying to conceive. You may end up with too much of a vitamin or mineral, which can cause other issues in the future.

In addition to looking at your diet and lifestyle, you can also start tracking your menstrual cycle.

Ovulation may occur on a different day each month. Using a fertility awareness method, like Creighton, can help to know when ovulation occurs month to month.

You can usually tell when you’re ovulating based on the mucus you notice when you go to the bathroom. If the mucus is stretchy, clear and slippery, that is a sign you’re fertile. Many women describe this type of mucus as looking like egg whites.

Women are most fertile during ovulation and about three days after. Ovulation and the first few days of the luteal phase are when a woman is most fertile.

However, there are some exceptions. Sperm can last inside a woman’s body for a few days. So, even if you haven’t ovulated yet, you can still get pregnant if you’ve had sexual intercourse in the days leading up to ovulation.

When to take a pregnancy test

Most home pregnancy tests can give you a reliable result the day after your first missed period. If you have any suspicion that you might be pregnant, wait to take a test until you miss a period. If you take a test too soon, your chances of getting a false negative increase, even if you are pregnant.

Home pregnancy tests measure the level of hCG in your urine. It doesn’t matter what time of day you take a test. But your urine is more concentrated first thing in the morning, which means the level of hCG present might be a little bit higher.

Read the directions on the pregnancy test box for how results will show up. Positive results are often shown with two lines or a plus sign. Negative results are often shown with one line or a negative sign.

If you take a test and it comes back negative, but you still haven’t started your period after a week, take another pregnancy test.

If you’ve taken a home pregnancy test and it’s positive, schedule an appointment with you OB. Health care providers usually see pregnant women around the four-to-six-week mark.

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About Author: Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in English Studies. Before joining OSF HealthCare in 2021, she worked in magazine editing, digital marketing and freelance writing.
Katie is often found listening to ‘60s folk music, deciding on a new skill to learn, losing track of time in a library or spending time with her family and friends.

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Categories: Birth & Maternity, Women's Health