New mother eating a healthy breakfast.

If you’ve recently made the decision to try and get pregnant—congratulations, lady! You’re about to embark on an exciting chapter of life. And while it’s exciting, fertility and trying to conceive are topics that can be a bit tricky. Getting pregnant can involve a lot of timing, attention to your body, and to be honest—a bit of luck. While the amount of time it can take to actually conceive can be different for every woman, there are some things you can start doing right now to get your body ready to carry a baby, and increase the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and little one.

Focus on Your Nutrition

Start taking a daily prenatal vitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a minimum of one month before getting pregnant. Folic acid can help prevent major birth defects of baby’s brain and spine. Prenatal vitamins also contain the appropriate levels of other important vitamins and minerals for a growing baby (and mama!).

Similarly, make sure you’re eating a balanced diet (fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products) to ensure your body is getting all of the good stuff—in fact, studies show that a woman’s nutrition before and during early pregnancy can play a role in ensuring a successful pregnancy. And don’t forget the water! Hydration is always important to ensure your body is functioning as it should—and now’s a great time to up your water intake.

Get Enough Sleep

Irregular sleep schedules can potentially increase the odds of irregular periods—which can make it hard to understand your menstrual cycle and ovulation while trying to conceive. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night is one of the best ways to take care of your body before getting pregnant—not to mention a way to keep stress under control (keep reading for more on stress). Create a calming bedtime routine (the less screens, the better!) that will help ensure you get the right amount of shut-eye.

Work Towards an Ideal Weight

Do your best to get to (and maintain) a healthy weight. Whether you are underweight or overweight, you could be at risk for serious health problems and increased complications during pregnancy. Chat with your provider about an ideal weight range or BMI (body mass index) for your body prior to getting pregnant—and then focus on a lifestyle change!

If you are overweight, try to be more physically active, and eat the recommended amount of calories each day for weight loss (your provider can help you with a calorie goal as well). If you’re underweight, be sure to eat foods that contain a good amount of healthy fats, and that you’re consuming more calories than calories burned throughout the day.

Minimize Stress

While it’s up for debate as to whether stress can affect your chances of getting pregnant, feeling stressed can impact other behaviors that definitely affect your overall health and well being. Higher levels of stress can negatively affect your sleep, diet, and even use of alcohol. Another thing that could be impacted? Your sex drive. Which is, of course, an important part of getting pregnant for many couples.

While everyone has different ways of dealing with stress, some ideas to decrease your stress levels include:

  • If you follow a vegan, vegetarian, Paleo or special diet, ask your doctor whether you should also consider a nutritional supplement
  • Deep breathing and meditation
  • Moving your body (stretching, going for a walk, and moderate exercise are great stress relievers!)
  • Writing down your thoughts or journaling
  • Taking time to yourself to read a book, listen to music, or another activity you find calming
  • Avoiding stressful environments or relationships when possible

Stop Using Unhealthy Substances

Substances such as tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs and prescription drugs taken for a non-medical reason can cause problems during pregnancy for you, mama—not to mention an increased chance for your baby to be born prematurely or with birth defects. If you’re having trouble quitting, contact your provider or local treatment center for assistance—they’re there to help!

If your partner uses any of these substances, encourage them to quit, too. Secondhand smoke can expose you (and your future baby) to toxic chemicals—and if you have a male partner, the use of these substances can damage their sperm cells, making conception more difficult and potentially having harmful effects on the fetus as it develops.

Another seemingly innocent substance that should be kept in check? Caffeine! While it’s recommended to avoid caffeine intake over 200 mg a day (about two 8 oz cups of coffee), the less caffeine you consume the better. Check the labels on your coffee, tea, and even chocolate.

Chat with Your Provider

It’s always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your provider to chat about your health history and any medical conditions that could affect a pregnancy prior to conceiving. Your provider will also go over any medications you’re currently taking to ensure they won’t have any harmful effects on a potential pregnancy. Some medications can cause serious birth defects (including prescription, over the counter, and even dietary/herbal supplements), so be sure to disclose all of your medications. Your provider will also ensure that your vaccinations are up to date.

Taking these steps are some of the best ways to prepare your body (and mind) for carrying your future little baby. Good luck as you set off on your journey into parenthood—we’re rooting for you, mama!