Choosing to expand your family is a life-changing decision. Being ready to welcome another pregnancy and baby is not just an emotional and psychological issue, but a physical one as well.
According to Dr. Brad Imler, PhD, President of the American Pregnancy Association (APA), women contemplating a second child should maintain healthy eating habits that include well-balanced meals to maximize fertility. They should also use exercise to keep the body in good shape in preparation for a new baby as well as throughout their pregnancy.
"These women should also begin taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid and other essential B vitamins because the neural tube forms during the first few weeks," Dr. Imler suggests. "In addition they should obtain a gynecological wellness check with their healthcare provider; particularly if the woman is older or experiencing any health concerns."
Is Your Timing Right?
According to Dr. Machelle M. Seibel, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, how long to wait to have another baby depends on many variables, including the mom's biology, her nutrition, health, support mechanisms, and finances.
"Assuming all of the above factors are in order, one to two years is probably ideal. This gives the mom's body time to recover and to wean the first baby over the course of a year if she is breastfeeding. This also assumes three to five months to conceive and nine months to carry," he says.
Dr. Seibel points out that breastfeeding can naturally suppress ovulation for a year or so, although it is not a foolproof method of contraception. "If the woman is older, say late thirties or has had a problem conceiving, she might want to try sooner so she doesn't run out of time. Also, if she and her partner are considering a third, it's best not to wait extended windows between pregnancies," he says.
Are You in Shape?
"The better shape a woman is in, the better able she will be to handle pregnancy and labor," says Lisa Druxman, owner and founder of Stroller Strides, a fitness program that combines power walking with the stroller and body-toning intervals.
While it's ideal that you give your body time to recuperate from the first pregnancy, childbirth, and even breastfeeding, Druxman recommends that if you're already pregnant, you should continue to be active without straining. "Exercise should be stress reducing, not stress promoting. Virtually every ache and pain associated with pregnancy is lessened, if not alleviated, by exercise," she says. (Test your pregnancy fitness IQ with our quiz.)