Skip to main content

Your health, your year: What to consider when preparing for a baby

| Healthy You | Women’s Health | Kids Health

Pregnant woman and partner look together at a wall calendar

Tips to smooth the way before and after the baby’s arrival.

Are you planning to have a baby this year or next?

If you love to plan, this post is for you. Looking ahead a few weeks or months can ease your mind.

Are you already pregnant? Congratulations! Depending on when your baby is due, maybe you’ve already taken many of the steps below. Scan the list. You might still find some useful reminders.

Do you hope to be expecting soon? The tips below are a handy guide to help as you start or expand your family.

Before Baby

Here are a few ways to prepare before you’re expecting :

  • Start taking prenatal vitamins. Start a prenatal vitamin two months prior to trying to conceive. Prenatal vitamins are available over the counter and can help the normal development of a baby’s spine.
  • Start tracking your period. Apps are available to help you know when you're most likely to conceive.
  • Practice healthy habits.  Try to eat a healthy diet and get daily exercise to maintain a healthy weight. This goes for both you AND your baby's father as the health of each parent can have a powerful effect on the health of your yet-to-be-conceived child. 
  • Talk with your primary care provider. Your PCP can help you identify any health concerns that might affect your ability to get or stay pregnant. Ask them to check that any medications or supplements are safe for pregnancy.

Here are a few ways to prepare when you’re newly pregnant:

  • Check your health insurance plan. See how your insurance covers pregnancy, childbirth and support resources. The information might affect some of your other decisions, such as where you want to have your child delivered.
  • Find a provider who specializes in pregnancy/childbirth. This might be an OB-GYN, a midwife or family medicine practitioner with OB. You may also consider a doula for support.
    • Ask your provider where they deliver babies.
    • If it’s at a hospital, check to see if the facility is covered by your insurance.
  • Review time off policies, work benefits and childcare options. You’ll need time for prenatal visits, family leave and check-ups after the baby arrives. Explore other benefits that can make returning to work easier. For example, if you’re planning to breastfeed, does your office have a place where you can pump and store breastmilk?  Start planning early for childcare when returning from work. Many places have months-long waiting lists.
  • Plan for prenatal care. This is an important part of keeping you and your unborn baby healthy. Here’s a typical prenatal schedule:
    • Your first visit at 10-12 weeks. This takes about 40 minutes and includes a complete review of your medical and family histories, education about pregnancy safety and warning signs, and a full physical exam.  
    • Once a month until 28th week (about 7th month). These visits take about 20 minutes and include checking blood pressure and weight gain. It’s also an opportunity to learn how well your baby is growing and developing.  
    • Every other week from 28th week to 36th week. These usually last 20 minutes. Talk to your provider about how to plan for other screenings and appointment types.
    • Weekly until delivery (up to 41st week or earlier depending on your risks).
  • Take advantage of tours, classes and other resources. If you plan to have your baby at a hospital or birthing center, you might be able to watch an online virtual tour, like this one for PeaceHealth St. Joseph Childbirth Center.
  • Draft a birth plan. Discuss your preferences for labor and delivery with your healthcare provider. Having some ideas about how you want your delivery to go is good. But prepare yourself to be okay if things don’t happen the way you thought.
  • Choose a pediatrician. Soon after birth, your newborn will need a provider. Ideally, you’ll have one lined up before the baby comes.

After Baby

Set reasonable expectations ahead of time for yourself and others on what things will be like after your baby is born. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Expect follow-up care after delivery. Your body will have just gone through a stressful experience. Check with your provider about concerns related to childbirth or signs of postpartum depression. And if you want help with breastfeeding, many birth centers offer lactation support.
  • Make everyday self-care a priority. Besides seeing your OB-GYN or PCP for follow-up care, take your self-care seriously. That means eating nutritious food, exercising and getting sleep. Ask friends and family to help as you adjust to caring for yourself and the baby.
  • Prepare for baby care. You probably know a lot of this already, but it’s helpful to ask your provider, friends or family for key advice on caring for your baby at different stages. Consider taking a class on infant CPR.
  • Plan for well-baby checkups. Your little one will be due for regular checkups and immunizations. Here’s the typical schedule for baby checks:
    • A few days after birth 
    • 2 weeks after birth
    • Monthly to every other month until 6 months
    • 9 months
    • 1 year

Wherever you are in the parenthood journey, you’ll thank yourself for having a plan. 

portrait of Dana A. Hansen CNM

Dana A. Hansen CNM

Dana Hansen, CNM, ARNP, joined the PeaceHealth Medical Group team of providers in 2015. Dana is a board-certified Nurse Midwife and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. She has more than 12 years' experience in obstetrics – including 10 years as a labor and delivery nurse – and special training as a Doula, or birth companion. Dana is particularly interested in helping young women make the important transition to motherhood. She is also sensitive to the cultural differences among mothers-to-be and is committed to honoring diversity. Dana has three children of her own, and enjoys spending time with them in and around their Bellingham home. Outside of work, she likes reading, crafting and learning. She has a special interest in topics related to cultural differences, economic disparities and health and wellness.
portrait of Nena C. Barnhart MD

Nena C. Barnhart MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology
Nena Barnhart, MD provides obstetrics and gynecology services with a goal of integrating patient centered care and evidence-based medicine. She attended University of California San Francisco for medical school and residency and focused on Community Health and Social Advocacy at that time. She initially worked at Kaiser Santa Clara then joined the PeaceHealth ObGYN group in 2014. As a Seattle native, she was happy to return to the Pacific Northwest to be close to her family. Her specialty interests include group-based prenatal care, contraceptive options, reproductive infectious diseases and minimally invasive surgery. “I feel honored to share so many important moments with women including the joy of childbirth, the sorrow of losing a pregnancy, the challenges of undergoing surgery, and decisions about protecting our health.” When not working, Dr. Barnhart enjoys reading, baking with her kids, and spending time outdoors: walking her dog, gardening, berry picking, and paddleboarding. She lives in Bellingham with her husband, a professor at Western Washington University, and her two daughters.