Planning your pregnancy

Are you thinking about having a baby someday? If you’re not pregnant yet, the best thing you can do for your future baby is to plan ahead.

Planning your pregnancy means thinking about what it means to have a baby and making decisions with your partner about your future family. Are you ready to be parents now? Or do you want to wait a while?

Your life changes in lots of ways during pregnancy and after you bring your baby home. Planning for these changes can make things easier for you and your partner as you start your family.

Why is planning your pregnancy important?

Planning your pregnancy can help you have a healthy baby. More than half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. This means that lots of women may get pregnant without really being ready for it.

Babies who are planned are more likely to be born healthy than babies who are unplanned. This is because women who plan their pregnancies are more likely to get healthy before pregnancy. And they’re more likely to get early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy. Doing these things can help you have a healthy baby.

How can you plan your pregnancy?

Use these tips to help plan your pregnancy:

  • Make a reproductive life plan. This means thinking about if and when you want to have a baby. Ask yourself these questions:
    • How many children do I want?
    • How far apart do I want them to be?
    • How can I get healthy before pregnancy?
    • If I’m sexually active and don’t want a baby now, how can I keep from getting pregnant?

Talk about your reproductive life plan with your partner. You may not agree on every answer, so you may need some time to figure things out. There are no right or wrong answers. And your answers may change as you get older. The important thing is to really think about your plan and your family before you get pregnant.

  • Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant. If you’re sexually active and not ready to get pregnant right away, use birth control. There are many kinds of birth control, like the pill, the patch and condoms. Ask your health care provider about the best kind of birth control for you and your partner.
  • Think about what it’s like to be a good parent. Being a parent is a big job. Talk to your partner to find out if you’re both ready to have a baby. It’s helpful if you can agree on important things, like child care and giving up some of your free time, before you get pregnant.
  • Budget for your baby. Having a baby can be expensive. Do you have enough money to pay for things, like child care and diapers? Do you have health insurance that helps pay for medical care? It’s a good idea to figure out how a baby can affect your finances before you get pregnant.

For more information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC Show Your Love Campaign

Last reviewed September 2012

See also: Are you ready emotionally?, Are you ready financially?, Getting healthy before pregnancy, Your checkup before pregnancy

Most common questions

Can dad's exposure to chemicals harm his future kids?

Dad's exposure to harmful chemicals and substances before conception or during his partner's pregnancy can affect his children. Harmful exposures can include drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs), alcohol, cigarettes, cigarette smoke, chemotherapy and radiation. They also include exposure to lead, mercury and pesticides.

Unlike mom's exposures, dad's exposures do not appear to cause birth defects. They can, however, damage a man's sperm quality, causing fertility problems and miscarriage. Some exposures may cause genetic changes in sperm that may increase the risk of childhood cancer. Cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can seriously alter sperm, at least for a few months post treatment. Some men choose to bank their sperm to preserve its integrity before they receive treatment. If you have a question about a specific exposure, contact the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at www.mothertobaby.org/.

I've been diagnosed with PCOS. Can I get pregnant?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, hormones, heart, blood vessels, appearance (especially excessive hair growth) and the ability to have children. Although women do make small levels of androgens, also called male hormones, women with PCOS typically have high levels of androgens. This creates a hormonal disorder that affects ovulation and fertility. PCOS can cause many infertility cases. However, with the right treatment, many women have been able to get pregnant.

Women with PCOS often have trouble keeping a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight and increasing physical activity will help maintain ovulation and fertility. It'll also help prevent other complications like diabetes and heart disease. Your health care provider might consider the following treatments to help you get pregnant.

- Medications to help improve insulin resistance and ovulation
- Medication to induce ovulation

My menstrual period is irregular. Can I get pregnant?

Every woman's menstrual cycle is different. Some women have their cycle like clockwork. Others have trouble knowing when it's going to happen. If you have only slight variations from month to month, but you have your menstrual period at least once every 25 to 35 days, this could be normal. However, if your cycle is absent for more than 2 months, you bleed too little or too much and you can't predict when it's going to happen, talk to your health provider. Having an irregular menstrual cycle may mean that ovulation isn't happening or it's happening only a few times a year. This will affect your ability to get pregnant. Your health provider will probably check your thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands. After a checkup your health provider will discuss your treatment options.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).