So you are going to take the plunge. I think it is fantastic.  There is nothing I have done as moving and rewarding as having children.  Pregnancy is hard on the body.  Common changes occur.  Here is a brief overview of some things to do before you get knocked up.

1. Exercise.  A healthy body does better with pregnancy.  A lot of the women I see with great figures after pregnancy had them before pregnancy.  So improve your muscle tone, particularly your core muscles (especially the rectus muscles and oblique muscles which you use to do pilates/the plank/sit ups).

2. Healthy skin.  The “rosy skin” of pregnancy sounds great. And many women do get it.  They also get a lot of pigmentation.  The sun spots, age spots, freckling- call it what you will- worsens with pregnancy.  So prior to pregnancy, try to reverse any skin pigmentation you have.  Hydroquinone and Retin A are great for pigmentation, but they are NOT baby safe.  There are products with Vitamin C and E which are okay while pregnant and breast feeding.  And the key to pigment? SUNSCREEN and the big floppy sun hat. You should apply sunscreen daily.  Try to find a moisturizer or makeup base with sunscreen in it.  When doing activities in the sun, apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside, reapply every 45 minutes in water, reapply every 2 hours regardless, and use sunscreen less than a year old.  I am a fan of the clear zinc based sunscreens.  They are mechanical blockers, not chemical, so they are likely less absorbed in the skin.  Very effective and thought to be a little more baby safe.

3. Ideal weight.  You will gain weight with pregnancy.  (Oh my!? shocking.) The amount of weight you gain varies, but the usual recommendation is 25 pounds.  There is a correlation with weight gain and body changes- stretch marks, loose skin, diastasis, and higher post pregnancy weight.  There are studies which link obese children to mothers who were obese before pregnancy.  (The amount of weight gain has been revised to 11-20 pounds for women with a BMI of 30 or more.)

4. Stop smoking.  I could go on for ages on this one.  It affects every body system; increases your chance of heart attacks, stroke, and cancer; along with sun exposure it is the biggest ager of the skin, and does things I can’t fix with products and peels; no surgeon will do a tummy tuck or a breast lift on a smoker, so you might as well stop now; it is expensive; you can’t do it in restaurants; it yellows your teeth.

The health effects on the baby: it lowers the amount of oxygen they get in utero, increases heart rate, and increases rate of miscarriage and low birth weight.  There are other studies indicating after birth these babies have issues with asthma, behaviorial issues, and higher SIDS. For more information go to: http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/common/smoking.html.

5. Surgeries. The one surgery I like before pregnancy is liposuction.  If you have a discrete problem area, like “my outer thighs,” or are an exaggerated pear or apple shape, your shape will not improve with pregnancy.  Particularly for those women who are teeny tiny up top and carry all their weight in their thighs/hips, when you put on baby weight it will all go there.  Fast forward: you are now 10 years older and have stretched that skin more, for a longer time, and your skin is older- it won’t bounce back after liposuction like it would at age 25. Skin tone is key to liposuction, and young skin is better.

I do not like to do abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) or breast surgery right before babies.  If your breasts really bother you and you will not have babies for 5-10 years, then it may be worth it to do now. But pregnancy and breast feeding affect the belly and the breast the most.  If you can, wait to fix up those areas until after you have kids.

So,

Exercise. Wear sunscreen. Eat well/be your ideal weight. Don’t smoke.  Sounds simple, eh?

Now go get practicing to have that baby.