If you have just found out you’re pregnant, you want to make sure you do all that you can to have a healthy baby. Here are the first steps to take.
• The first and most important thing to do is to schedule an appointment with a health care provider who specializes in pregnancies, such as an obstetrician or certified nurse-midwife.
• Begin taking prenatal vitamins and minerals. Most women don’t get enough calcium, folic acid, and iron in their diets, so it is important to take supplements for you and your baby. (Pregnancy Care Centers of Chandler and Gilbert give a 6-month supply of prenatal vitamins free to every client with a positive pregnancy test.)
• Eating healthy and nutritious food and drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day, as well as getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night help to improve your chances of having a healthy baby. Moderate exercise is also beneficial.
• If you drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or marijuana, or any other drugs, STOP! They can harm the baby. Let your prenatal caregiver know if you have any of these habits/addictions and need help to quit. They will have tools that can make it easier.
Common pregnancy symptoms
• Some nausea/vomiting (morning sickness) usually over by 12 weeks • Fatigue/more tired than usual • More hungry/thirsty than usual • Minor aches/discomfort/headaches • Bleeding gums when brushing teeth • Heartburn/indigestion • Emotional/teary
What to expect at your first prenatal appointment
• You will be asked about your health and habits. Be completely honest, especially about previous pregnancies, miscarriages, or abortions you have had, as well as any surgery on your cervix or uterus.
• Write any questions you think of beforehand in a notebook and take to your appointment so you don’t forget to ask.
• Your height, weight, and blood pressure will be measured. If possible, the baby’s size and heartbeat can be measured with an ultrasound/sonogram. Usually this is done in the first trimester and repeated at 18-20 weeks. Follow-up scans may be ordered as your pregnancy progresses.
• You may have a pelvic exam, a PAP test, and a screening for STDs.
• If you aren’t already taking prenatal vitamins, you will be asked to start right away.
• Typical appointments are scheduled once a month until you are about 28 weeks, twice a month until 36 weeks, and thereafter weekly until the baby is born.
Call your prenatal caregiver right away for any of the following
• Pelvic cramping, spotting, bleeding, or vaginal discharge
• Fever, chills, stomach pain
• Shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness, or more tired than usual
• Extreme sadness, hopelessness, or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
• Blurred vision, excessive thirst or urination
• Sudden excessive swelling in your hands, face, or feet.
Healthy foods to eat
• Fresh fruits and vegetables – 5 to 9 servings
• Protein, such as chicken, turkey, pork, lean beef, eggs, nuts, beans, and tofu- 2 to 3 servings
• Whole grain cereals, breads, and brown rice- 8 servings
• Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese- 3 to 4 servings
• Healthy oils such as olive and canola, or those in foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, walnuts, green vegetables, and wild rice. (Ask your healthcare provider about eating fish during pregnancy, as there can be some concern about mercury.)
• Limit processed foods such as white bread or rice, boxed or frozen meals, fast and fried foods, and items with a lot of sugar, such as juice, soda, and candy.
• Don’t overeat. You only need about 300 additional calories per day to nourish your baby.
Things to avoid
• Hot tubs
• Cat litter boxes
• Raw/undercooked meats and eggs
• Over-the-counter medication, unless cleared by your healthcare professional
• Gases and fumes such as exhaust, paints, and cleaning supplies
• X-rays, unless ordered by a medical professional
• This is different for every woman, so consult your caregiver. A general rule of thumb would be:
• If you are at normal weight at the beginning of your pregnancy, you should gain 25-35 lbs.
• If you are underweight, you should gain 28-40 lbs.
• If you are overweight, you should gain 15-25 lbs.
Bond with your baby during your pregnancy by playing soft music, singing, reading books out loud, and talking to your baby.
Whether you are planning to parent or find a loving adoptive home for your baby, taking care of yourself during your pregnancy will give your baby the best possible start. You will feel better and enjoy a healthier pregnancy and quicker recovery time.