Finding out you’re pregnant can leave you feeling a roller-coaster of emotions: the highs of happiness and anticipation mixed with the lows of worry and anxiety. With all the changes quickly taking place inside your body, there’s a lot you need to do in order to ensure the best pregnancy possible for both you and your baby. Finding a care provider, attending your prenatal appointments and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will all help you segue into the next chapters of your pregnancy until you reach the final goal: a healthy baby.
Finding a Caregiver
The most important step you can take to ensure your health and your baby’s health during your pregnancy is to find a trusted care provider. If this is a subsequent pregnancy, the decision of which caregiver to choose might be as simple as selecting the person who provided care during your last pregnancy. However, circumstances might warrant choosing another. Whether you opt for a family physician, a midwife or an obstetrician to deliver your care, it’s important to make that decision as soon as you suspect you’re pregnant. If the choice is overwhelming, ask a few trusted female friends for a recommendation.
Once you have established a relationship with your caregiver, schedule your first prenatal appointment. If at all possible, have your partner attend the appointment with you. This first appointment will generally be the longest, as you and your care provider will have a lot to do and talk about. He or she will perform a physical exam, which will include an assessment of your height, weight and blood pressure. She will also take a urine and blood sample, and perform pelvic and breast exams. From your calculation of the first day of your last menstrual cycle, your care provider will be able to establish a tentative due date. Once that is complete, she will discuss with you the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. Finally, you will discuss any family history of genetic abnormalities or disease.
If ever you were looking for a reason to give up those midnight runs through the drive-thru or afternoon espresso breaks, being pregnant is the greatest motivator to do so. The next 9 months, and longer if you plan to breastfeed, will require you to think carefully about everything you eat and drink, as your developing baby will receive everything you put in your mouth. Your care provider will prescribe for you a prenatal vitamin and may even suggest folic acid and iron supplements, if needed. The best thing you can do is to eat a wide variety of good-for-you foods, including grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and dairy.
Rest and Exercise
Even before you discover you’re pregnant, you’ll likely feel exhausted. Be sure to listen to your body and get plenty of sleep. If possible, take a nap during the day to energize your body. Your care provider will also advise you to adopt a low-impact exercise regime to keep your body physically in shape as it changes. Walking and swimming are especially beneficial. Avoid high-impact exercises and activities that might cause you to fall, such as skiing or ice skating.
Once you find out you’re pregnant, there are things your care provider will advise you to give up that could be potentially fatal to your unborn baby. Above all, you should abstain from using any illegal or recreational drugs, including tobacco products and alcohol. If possible, cat litter should be changed by another family member, as a cat’s feces can harbor a harmful parasite called Toxoplasmo gondii. The infection, known as toxoplasmosis, can also be spread by raw or undercooked meat, or by fruits and vegetables that have not been properly washed. You should also avoid processed luncheon meats, hot dogs, soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk, which all can cause lysteriosis, a type of food-related illness caused by bacteria called lysteria. According to the Centers of Disease Control, nearly 27 percent of the 2,500 people who become sick with lysteriosis each year are pregnant women.
During your first trimester, you will meet with your care provider only two or three times. However, you should call him or her at any time should you experience a bloody or fluid-like discharge or if you feel painful cramps or lower-back pain. These signs could indicate there is a problem with you or your baby, and your care provider will likely want to perform a physical evaluation right away.