This interview is with Heidi Murkoff, whose What to Expect Before You’re Expecting will be published by Workman.

PW: What has accounted for the phenomenal popularity of the original What to Expect?

HM: I didn’t expect the popularity, and of course that’s not why I wrote it. As a first-time expectant mom, I wasn’t able to find the support I needed in the stack of pregnancy books I’d run out to buy. I was determined to write a book that would help expectant parents sleep better at night than I and my husband had—I was a mom on a mission, not a mom with a business plan. And maybe that’s one of the reasons for What to Expect’s popularity. It was the first book written by moms for moms (and dads), and let’s face it: nobody gets it like a mom. Every parent wants to know what to expect—they want answers to their questions, and What to Expect is about getting those answers in a fun-to-read, reader-friendly format. But at its heart, the book is about an emotional bond that all moms-to-be and moms (and dads) share—that feeling of “I know what you’re going through, because I’ve been there, I’ve done that.

PW: Is What to Expect Before You’re Expecting the first book on the topic of pre-pregnancy? In what ways do you see it helping couples?

HM: There probably are a few other books on preconception, just as there were a pile of pregnancy books out when I first wrote the first What to Expect book. The idea [for the new book] was to create a baby-making blueprint—a complete preconception plan for couples who are hoping to conceive. I see it helping in many ways. First, it can help you fast-track your fertility—which means that taking a few months to plan and prep for pregnancy can save you time in the long run by helping you get pregnant faster. So many factors in a couple’s lives factor into their fertility: weight; lifestyle --how well you eat, how much you exercise, how much alcohol and/or caffeine you drink, what medications you take and much more. It makes sense to modify what needs modifying and overhaul what needs overhauling. Second, some savvy preconception strategies can help ensure a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy and, most important, a healthier baby. For instance, taking a prenatal vitamin for up to a year before conception can reduce your risk of delivering prematurely. And third—because there’s an entire section of the book devoted to the art and science of making a baby, getting to know your cycle and getting up-close-and-personal with your fertility can help give you a leg-up on conception—so you’re not shooting in the dark, so to speak.

PW: Have scientific advances in the area of pregnancy, childbirth, etc., affected your approach to, and writing of, the new book?

HM: We decided to write the book soon after we heard that the CDC was launching an initiative on preconception. A fast growing body of research has shown that a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby don’t begin at conception, they begin before you’re expecting—before sperm meets egg. And while we’ve always thought of pregnancy as a nine-month process, the CDC, other major health organizations and doctors in general are now strongly recommending that couples consider adding another three months to that time-honored timetable. Three months meant to be spent getting ready to become pregnant—getting both your bodies into tip-top baby-making shape before baby-making begins. And while this planning and prepping can have an impressive effect on a couple’s chances of conceiving soon, and having a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby, there’s a significant public health upside to it, too: fewer pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, rates of which have risen to alarming proportions, with serious ramifications for the country’s future health and health care costs. All those recommended guidelines are included in the new book, along with the latest info on fertility tracking, not to mention the good part, the logistics of effective baby making sex.

PW: Can’t couples just get pregnant without all of this preparation and planning?

Yes. You can just toss your birth control and get busy, or take the “oops” approach to pregnancy. But research shows there are so many potential benefits to adding a preconception prep period to your pregnancy, and that’s why major health organizations are urging couples to plan if they can. It’s definitely time well spent.