Congratulations! If this is your first pregnancy, or even your second or third, the thought of bringing a new baby into the world may be overwhelming. Here are a few important steps you can take now to help smooth the way.
Let’s start by dispelling a few myths.
You may have heard that once you’re pregnant, you should “eat for two.” In truth, the amount of extra calories you’ll need each day is equivalent to a glass of milk and half a peanut butter sandwich. A word on weight gain: if you’re at a healthy BMI now, you should expect to gain around 25 to 35 pounds during your pregnancy. If you have a low or high BMI, speak with your physician for advice.
The old school of thought was that if you weren’t exercising before, don’t start. That’s changed. Even if you’ve been sedentary, you can begin a modest program based on your physician’s recommendations. Walking, using an elliptical machine, or prenatal yoga classes will help your body prepare for the extra demands of pregnancy and labor. Women who are currently active can plan to continue most of their workouts.
There’s an old wives’ tale that pregnant women shouldn’t wear seat belts and should have their airbags turned off. Not true. When worn correctly, seat belts can save your life and prevent harm to the baby in an accident. You should wear both the lap belt, nestled under your belly across your hips, and the shoulder strap, between your breasts. Leave airbags on.
Dos and don’ts.
DO eliminate smoking and alcohol right away. The research is clear. Smoking causes birth defects and increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Drinking alcohol can cause miscarriage and a host of disabilities known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
DO contact your physician as soon as possible. The first appointment should fall around your eighth week of pregnancy, so you’ll want to make sure you get on his or her schedule.
DO stay hydrated.
DO eat a balanced healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, and dairy.
DON’T eat any unpasteurized dairy or any undercooked or raw meats, such as sushi. These foods can be contaminated with bacteria or parasites. Plan to avoid eating cold cuts or deli meats because they can harbor Listeria.
DO start taking a prenatal vitamin right away. You can find these over the counter at any pharmacy. Either a pill or a gummy is fine; just make sure it says “prenatal” on the label.
DO get a flu shot if you haven’t already done so.
DON’T change or scoop your cat’s litter box. Unfortunately, those cute, fluffy critters can carry a parasite in their feces, which can be inhaled while scooping. Take pregnancy as an opportunity to pass this chore off to another family member.
DO look into both your and your partner’s medical benefits so you can plan ahead. What’s your maternity leave policy; does your partner have a medical leave policy? On that note, it’s a good idea to inquire about childcare services as soon as possible. Many have long wait lists.
Your first appointment.
This is when your healthcare provider will really get to know you and your health history, so allow plenty of time. On a first visit, your provider will typically:
• Document blood pressure, weight, and height
• Calculate due date
• Ask about family health and genetic history
• Perform prenatal blood and urine tests
• Conduct a complete physical exam
One step at a time.
Pregnancy and all its to-dos and responsibilities can seem daunting. But if you begin by tackling each step early and methodically, you’ll have more calm and control throughout the process. It’s a beautiful journey.