10 changes to make before you get pregnant

Get off the pill

Before you can conceive, obviously you have to get rid of your birth control. But it's usually not as simple as quitting and then becoming pregnant the next week. You should stop using oral contraceptives about two cycles before you want to get pregnant; have an IUD removed a month before. This will give your hormone levels a chance to reset, and will allow you to track your period and learn when ovulation -- the time you're most likely to get pregnant -- occurs. That said, some couples get pregnant right after stopping birth control. Always use other forms of contraceptives so you don't get pregnant before you plan to.

Fix your weight

Studies have shown that being both underweight and overweight can have an effect on fertility and foetal health. Talk with your doctor to determine what your ideal weight is and what steps you need to take to get there.

Work out

Even if you're at your ideal weight, being physically active before (and during) pregnancy has benefits. The more fit you are, the easier your pregnancy and delivery may be. You can continue with your regimen if you're already active; just be sure not to overdo it. If you're just beginning a workout program, it's not good to push yourself too hard. Whether you're a fitness buff or a newbie, discuss your physical activity with your doctor to get the green light.

Chill out

Stress can affect fertility, pregnancy, and a baby's health. In one study, researchers found that pregnancy was more likely to occur during months when couples reported that they felt good and relaxed, and less likely during months when the couples felt tense or depressed. Taking time for yourself every day, exercising, journaling, getting massages, talking with your partner, and getting enough sleep can make it easier to unwind. If you're having problems managing stress, seek help.

Eat clean

You really are what you eat. And so is your baby-to-be. To start your pregnancy off right, eat foods from each of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, lean proteins (like chicken, eggs, and beans), and dairy products. Avoid foods high in fat and sugar, and make sure you're getting enough fluids. Making dietary changes when you're still in the trying-to-conceive stage will pave the way for an easier pregnancy diet makeover once you become pregnant, not to mention helping you to stay at a healthy weight.

More folic acid

Having enough folic acid can help prevent birth defects in a baby's head and spine. Most prenatal vitamins will meet your daily folate needs. Some good food sources for folic acid include leafy vegetables (moringa leaves, palak, methi), beans, citrus fruits, whole grains, and folate-enriched cereals and breads. Experts recommend upping your folic acid intake three months before trying to have a baby.

Quit smoking

Women who smoke before pregnancy are about twice as likely to experience a delay in conception and about 30 percent more likely to be infertile than women who don't smoke. Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a low birth weight, to be born prematurely, or to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

If you smoke, quit -- the earlier, the better. Being off all tobacco at least one to three months before you conceive is best. If you plan to quit on your own, try at least a month in advance to make sure you can do it.

And other bad habits

Some studies say it's okay to have a few drinks during pregnancy, but others have shown that heavy drinkers have a harder time conceiving than women who drink lightly or abstain.If a woman is actively trying to conceive, it’s best not to drink at all. The same goes for marijuana. If you wouldn't give it directly to your baby, make sure it's out of your system before (and during) pregnancy so that you don't pass it along.

Get a thorough check up

Yes, we know you'll see your gynaec more than enough once you're actually pregnant. Still, it's important to see her before you're pregnant.It’s ideal to have a pre-conception visit to get an STI screening, make sure any chronic health issues, like thyroid disorders, diabetes or asthma, are under control, discuss any genetic disorders and/or issues with previous pregnancies, and get an overall view of her health.

Including of your teeth

Women with gum disease are four to seven times more likely to have an underweight or premature baby, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association. Schedule a pre-pregnancy dental visit to make sure your oral health is in good standing (and so that you'll have time to correct any issues).