I can’t take time out right now to have a baby, and I want to keep my fertility options open. What can I do?

If, based on your current life circumstances (career, education, relationship status, finances, other commitments), you can’t take the time out right now to become a parent, but you want to keep the option open, you might want to see your doctor about having your current fertility tested. And if you are with a partner with whom you hope or plan to have children in the future, she/he also should have her/his fertility tested. See our section on fertility testing. If the results indicate that you are still fertile, then you should consider preserving your fertility to improve your chances of a successful pregnancy a few or several years from now. See our section on fertility preservation.

On the other hand, if the fertility testing results raise concerns about your current fertility or your partner’s fertility, you may want to see a fertility specialist to talk about these test results and the available treatment options that might help you have a child. If faced with this situation, you’ll need to revisit your decision to postpone having children, and factor this new information into your choice.

Now that we’ve decided to start a family, are there things we need to consider before trying to get pregnant?

Before trying to get pregnant, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor for a preconception visit. The doctor will go over your medical history and review any medications you are on. Some medications may be harmful during pregnancy, so your doctor will need to discuss the risks and possible alternatives, before you conceive.

You may also want to begin taking folic acid several months prior to trying to conceive. Both you and your partner should consider limiting your alcohol intake and smoking, to enhance your fertility. There is also some evidence that too much or too little weight can be a problem for women who are trying to conceive. Excessive weight also increases the risk of complications during pregnancy. So if weight is an issue for you, it might be worth consulting a nutritionist and trying to get your weight under control before you start trying to get pregnant.

You and your partner will also want to consider financial matters, such as your health insurance coverage and maternity benefits, and plan accordingly.

How do we/I prepare for becoming parents/ a parent?

It is important to know that you can never be fully prepared for everything that being a parent involves and for all the changes and challenges you’ll face!
In some ways it is impossible to fully prepare for making the transition to parenthood. The thing about having kids is that it’s difficult imagining what it will be like, and what kinds of accommodations you’ll have to make once you become a parent. But once you’re a parent and you get through the adjustments and challenges of the first few months of dealing with an infant (e.g. sleep deprivation), and you find your rhythm, you’ll likely get to a point where you can’t imagine not having this little person in your life.

You certainly can plan some things in advance, like who will take time off work, and how you might accommodate your schedules to be sure you meet your work, family, and relationships demands. You can also check out local daycare centers and even put your hoped-for child on the wait-list for a spot, if there is a long waitlist for the center of your choice. Financial planning is also important if you are going to be going from two incomes to one for a while.

A striking reality about the transition to parenthood is that while you can know your partner as a friend and lover, unless he/she had kids before, you can’t really know how they’ll be as a parent until you have kids together – just as you can’t know how you’ll be as a parent until you become one. We bring into our roles as parents and partners, the beliefs and values that we grew up with. Sometimes our past experiences make us want to be a different kind of parent than our parents were to us. Other times if our childhood experiences were good, we try to emulate our parents. Whatever the case, your relationship with your partner will inevitably change as you transition from being partners to parents. So start talking now – about your beliefs and values regarding childrearing (e.g. discipline, sleeping) and about your expectations for parental roles and responsibilities (e.g., will you share all the domestic and childcare responsibilities or will these be split down gender lines?). The more you can sort out and talk out these beliefs and expectations now, the easier this transition will be.

Also consider your social support network. In truth, it really “takes a village” to raise a child. So start taking your social inventory now. What kind of support might you need in making this transition, and who in your world might be able to provide this support? This piece will be particularly important if you are making the transition to sole support parenthood.

Some people find it useful to read books to help them prepare for this type of life-altering transition. Some possibilities are:

What to Expect when You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel (2012).

Towards Parenthood: Preparing for the Changes and Challenges of a New Baby by Jeannette Milgrom, Jennifer Ericksen & Bronwyn Leigh (2009).

Here Comes Baby! The Survival Guide for the Transition to Parenthood by  Michelle S. Brenner (2001).

There are some resources on the web about preparing for parenthood and the transition to parenthood, which can help you prepare for this new role. A few to check out: