10 Things You Must Do Before You Have Children

There are things you owe it to yourself, not to mention to your marriage, to do before you have children.

8. Get Over Your Childhood Woes

Therapists see it all the time - you have a child yourself, and suddenly all your unresolved issues are unearthed. Childhood, notes Evans, is often full of unfinished business. If you had a difficult childhood that included alcoholism, abuse, divorce or the death of a parent, consider therapy before you have a child.

"If you don't work through those issues, you are in danger of repeating what was done to you in the past," says Tessina. "I hear bewildered parents say it to me all the time: ‘I can't believe I just did that; that's what my mother used to do, and I swore I would never do that to my own children.'"

9. Assess Your Lifestyle

Many couples don't "decide" to have a baby — it just happens. Other times, couples simply throw the condoms in the trash and caution to the wind. But that approach can potentially expose a baby to unnecessary risks. Better, if you can, to plan. Many obstetricians recommend that couples undergo a prenatal health screening before trying to conceive. Reviewing family history and undergoing some simple tests can indicate increased risks for genetic disorders and inherited birth defects, says F. Sessions Cole, M.D., an expert in prenatal care and director of the division of newborn medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Couples also need to evaluate their lifestyles and cut out behaviors and habits that can threaten their chances of having a healthy baby. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and high stress levels can all adversely affect your ability to conceive and can compromise the health of a growing fetus. "Planning ahead does not mean making a doctor's appointment for Wednesday and then getting pregnant on Thursday," says Dr. Cole, who recommends making lifestyle changes at least six months before trying to conceive. "You need to make sure you optimize your chances for a healthy baby."

10. Get a Financial Plan

If every couple waited until they were completely financially secure before having children, the world's population would be significantly smaller. And if you're waiting to be rich, forget it: A child does not need wealthy parents so much as he needs loving, capable and supportive parents. Besides, you can reach your loftiest financial goals, have a child, and then watch it all come crashing to the ground tomorrow. That said, you should at least put a financial plan in place before little Johnny or Josie arrives. When you make your first appointment with your obstetrician, also think about calling a financial planner to help you establish some goals.

Expectant parents should devise a "baby budget" that lists current expenses as well as anticipated first-year expenses such as child care diapers, nursery furnishings, toys and clothing. Having a kid can cost nearly $200,000 over 18 years  and that's not including college! So start saving now — right after you pay off that dream trip to Ireland.

Next: Ready or not? Five signs you're prepared to be a parent ►