Planning a Family
It's never too early to start planning for having a baby, whether it's your first or you've already started your family. There's a lot to consider, such as the timing, your health (and your partner’s health), your lifestyle and career, and any concerns you have.
At El Camino Health, our mother-baby experts are here to help. We offer complete care and services, from preconception planning to delivery, postpartum care and support, and much more. We can help you get prepared for a healthy pregnancy and help you create the birth experience you want.
Find a Trusted Healthcare Partner
If you’re thinking about getting pregnant — even a year from now — it’s not too soon to discuss it with your health provider. The first step is to find someone to partner with for your preconception, pregnancy and postpartum care. At El Camino Health, you can choose a doctor or a certified nurse-midwife. They will play a big role in your pregnancy, so it's important to find someone you feel comfortable with.
As you choose your care provider, these are a few of the things you might consider:
- Male or female
- Office location
- Language or cultural background
If you need help, call the El Camino Health Line, at 800-216-5556, to get a referral.
Why Pre-pregnancy Care Is Important
A preconception checkup is more than just a physical exam to determine your health before you conceive; it’s a great way to gather information and make sure you and your partner are physically and emotionally ready to have a baby. Use our personal assessment questionnaire to help you think about what’s important to you and get the information you need to plan for a healthy pregnancy.
Your doctor or midwife can answer questions, offer resources, and educate you to help you make informed choices.
When you're healthy before you get pregnant, it gives your baby the best possible start. Your care provider can give you personalized advice to improve your health, based on your personal history and lifestyle. Before you get pregnant, you should:
- Eat a healthy diet and take supplements recommended by your doctor or midwife. They can help you maintain good nutrition that incorporates your dietary preferences — whether you’re vegetarian, you need tips for eating well during international travel, or you want healthy modifications you can make to cultural dishes you love.
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol, and avoid secondhand smoke, harmful chemicals or other toxic substances.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Learn your family health history, and discuss it with your doctor or midwife to determine whether blood tests or genetic testing are appropriate.
Your doctor or midwife will make sure you:
- Have appropriate screenings, such as a Pap test (for cervical cancer) or sexually transmitted disease screening (when appropriate).
- Are up-to-date with immunizations (vaccinations), such as tetanus, rubella, chickenpox and others.
- Begin taking prenatal vitamins three months before you become pregnant, as well as any other supplements (such as folic acid your doctor recommends.
Know Your Risks
Your health history and lifestyle affect the health of your baby, so it’s important to discuss your concerns with your provider to prevent illness or complications. Talk to our doctor or midwife about:
- Health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or others.
- Previous pregnancy problems or other factors that may put you or your baby at higher risk for developing health-related problems.
- A family health history that could affect your health or your baby’s health.
- International travel, which could increase your risk of exposure to the Zika virus or other health concerns.
We’ll create a personalized care plan to help minimize health risks and provide expert oversight throughout your pregnancy.
Improve Your Chances of Conceiving
When you’re trying to get pregnant, timing is important. Your doctor or midwife will educate you and your partner about fertility and all the factors that affect getting pregnant — including tips for improving your chances. In addition, we offer fertility evaluation and treatment for couples having difficulty conceiving.
You’re most fertile the few days around ovulation when your ovaries release an egg for fertilization). That’s why it’s helpful to know when you’re ovulating, so you can have sex during that time. There are a few ways to predict when you’re ovulating:
- Take your temperature daily. During ovulation, your temperature rises. When you take your temperature every day for a month, it can pinpoint the time during your cycle when your temperature is highest.
- Check cervical mucus. A few days before and during ovulation, the residue from your vagina is clear with the consistency of an egg white. Before ovulation, the residue on your underwear may be white and sticky; after ovulation, it may be yellow and pasty.
- Use an ovulation predictor kit. Before ovulation, you have a brief, sudden surge in the level of luteinizing hormone (LH). These over-the-counter tests allow you to test your urine for LH levels.
Download our a basal body temperature chart to track your daily temperature and cervical mucus, as well as when your LH level rises if you’re using a predictor kit. This information can help you determine when you're most fertile.
Develop a Birth Plan
A birth plan outlines your wishes for the birth of your child, including cultural preferences or how you want to manage labor pain. We can help you create a birth plan based on your preferences. These are just a few of the things you might consider as you develop your plan:
- Who do you want to be there?
- Do you prefer a certain position to give birth?
- Do you want to listen to music or have other comforts during labor?
- What will you do for pain relief (medication, massage, guided imagery, etc.)?
Although birth plans are helpful, it's important to remember that the ultimate goal of any delivery is a healthy mom and baby. Try to be open to changes that may occur, should you or your baby be at increased risk.
Get Pregnancy Resources
We offer a wealth of resources, experts, services and classes to help you as you plan for pregnancy, childbirth and beyond, including:
- Preconception Resource Guide (PDF) – Offers a comprehensive listing — developed by doctors and nurse-midwives — of services and resources for pre-pregnancy planning and pregnancy at El Camino Hospital and in the community.
- GROW app – A free app for your smartphone that lets you track all your health data and get relevant information for every member of your family, right at your fingertips.
- Childbirth and parenting classes – Including childbirth preparation, wellness after childbirth, breastfeeding support groups and more.