A pregnancy is both exciting and scary for a first-time mother. Her body and emotions are going through changes that she might not understand. A thousand questions and concerns for the expectant mother, including what to eat, how much weight is safe, exercise, fetal development and labor. It helps to ask questions from trusted friends and family as well as an obstetrician.
Find a Doctor
Many gynecologists are also obstetricians; however, if your gynecologist does not deliver babies, ask him for his recommendations of obstetricians. Ask your friends for recommendations as well. Make a list of what is important to you in a obstetrician. You will want to consider: What tests does she require; will she allow a doula in the labor room; what is her stance on natural childbirth? If you have a condition that might make you high risk–such as diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition or are over 35 years old–you need a doctor who is skilled in treating high-risk pregnancies.
Call these doctors’ offices and ask your questions. When you have narrowed down your list, schedule an appointment to meet the doctor in person. Beyond skill, it’s important to feel comfortable with your obstetrician.
During pregnancy, regular prenatal checks allow your doctor to monitor your health as well as your baby’s health. The first prenatal visit will be more extensive and include a complete history of the mother and her family, blood work, urine test, physical exam and pelvic exam. The doctor will discuss optimum weight gain, diet, exercise and any other concerns he or the mother might have. Subsequent visits will be briefer and involve less until the visits beginning at week 36, when the doctor will begin checking to see whether the mother’s cervix is dilating.
For low-risk pregnancies, obstetricians generally schedule prenatal visits every four weeks up through week 28. From weeks 28 through 36, these visits increase to every two or three weeks. Beginning with weeks 36 until birth, the visits are once a week. Depending upon her–or the baby’s–condition, a doctor might decide to see a woman with a high-risk pregnancy more frequently.
A pregnant woman needs a well-balanced diet with extra protein, calcium and iron. Many obstetricians prescribe a prenatal vitamin to ensure that pregnant women get the required nutrients. If you were at a healthy weight prior to pregnancy, you will need an additional 300 calories a day, according to the University of Oregon. If you were overweight, your doctor will discuss your diet requirements.
Exercising during pregnancy helps the woman feel and look better; it prepares her body for labor and aids in recovery after giving birth. To determine which exercises to use depends on the woman’s health prior to pregnancy as well as her condition during pregnancy. Walking and swimming are good exercises for pregnant women. Call your local gym or fitness center to see if they offer exercise classes for pregnant women. Discuss your exercise choices with your doctor.
Things to Avoid
Because many chemicals cross through the mother’s bloodstream into the baby’s, certain things should be avoided. You should not take any medication–either over-the-counter (OTC) or previously prescribed–without first consulting her obstetrician. You should stop smoking, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs. Avoid contact with strong or toxic chemicals. Excessive heat can harm your baby. Avoid hot tubs, saunas and steam baths.
Myths and Old Wives’ Tales
Pregnant mothers are magnets for unsolicited advice that might leave the first-time mother confused and scared. Will lifting her arms above her head really wrap the umbilical cord around the baby’s head? Will eating strawberries give the baby a red birthmark? As medical science advances, things that were once considered true are now recognized as old wives’ tales. Even if it sounds reasonable, before following someone’s advice, always check with your doctor.
- pregnancy #11 image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com