10 Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy
1. Plan for Pregnancy
Just as you make life plans for things like career and finances, consider your reproductive plans in young adulthood. Thinking about when you want to have a family, spacing pregnancies and how many children you might want should be on your radar well before you have a baby. This way, you can maintain reproductive health and make informed decisions. Regular physicals and dental appointments, good health habits and control of any ongoing medical conditions can be part of that plan.
2. Get Prenatal Care Early
As soon as you learn you are pregnant, or even before if you are trying to conceive, choose the right practitioner for screening tests, medical care and counseling about your pregnancy. Particularly for women with risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, genetic risks and prior problem pregnancies, early medical care is essential. An obstetrician and your family medical doctor may be the right choice. For women with low risk factors, a certified nurse-midwife or professional midwife with obstetrician back up may be right. Get recommendations from family and friends to find a comfortable fit.
3. Take Prenatal Vitamins
It’s not easy to keep perfect eating habits in our modern world. That’s why most physicians recommend a daily multi-vitamin to maintain optimal health. This is especially important during pregnancy, particularly where nutrients such as iron, calcium, iodine and folic acid are concerned. Prenatal vitamins ensure that the needs of your growing baby are met. Adequate folic acid levels are extremely important in the development of baby’s brain and spinal cord in the first trimester. Look for vitamins with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Your doctor may recommend more.
4. Manage Expectations
You’ll reduce stress levels if you can manage both your own expectations as well as those of others. Each pregnancy is different and all moms are different. There is no such thing as a perfect pregnancy, so decide early that your nine months are unique to you. Try not to compare how you or your body handles pregnancy with anyone else’s experience. Likewise, let your loved ones know things like whether or not you want company and when, or who you want in the birthing room with you. Make a plan in advance with your medical team to address items such as how you want to deliver and pain management. And try to remain flexible. Pregnancy can also be unpredictable and plans can change.
5. Check finances to allow you to stay at the hospital or with care at home as long as required
Review your health insurance so you know what types of tests, prenatal care, delivery and postpartum care are covered. An early discharge from the hospital or birthing center may not be the best thing for you and your baby. Three days is a typical recommended stay, with longer stays for C-section births or deliveries with complications. Have a good idea of how much you will need to cover costs not paid by insurance. Include expenses such as prepared meals or extra household help for the first week or two you are home. Saving up to meet the costs of optimal prenatal and postpartum care reduces stress and provides a good start for you and your baby.
6. You’re not sick, you’re pregnant – know what to watch for
If you are in good health when you conceive, your doctor will probably tell you not to worry and to continue with your daily life per norma. Only recommending to adjusting a few things like diet, exercise, schedule or medications to fit your pregnant state. Twinges, aches, upset stomach and gas are common. However, there are some symptoms for which you should seek immediate medical attention. If you experience cramps, pain or contractions, call the doctor. Vaginal bleeding, fluid, or discharge is a red flag. Swelling in your feet, legs or joints (edema) can be serious. Dizziness, palpitations or shortness of breath also call for medical care. While morning sickness is also common, it usually passes after the first trimester. If you have continuous and severe nausea or vomiting, seek medical treatment. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t seem right, call your doctor.
7. Eat Well
Eating a balanced and varied diet that delivers good nutrition goes without saying. Also cut out extra salt and processed sugar. Feed cravings with fresh fruit instead. Get plenty of water and fiber. Your growing baby is putting a lot of pressure on your digestive system, and constipation can be an issue. Don’t deprive yourself. A little indulgence is fine. Just keep it under control. Gaining too much weight — or even too little — during pregnancy is unhealthy for both of you.
Stay away from unpasteurized dairy products such as some cheeses as well as unpasteurized juice. Stay away from herbal teas, too. Fish is a great source of protein, but avoid larger fish such as swordfish, shark or mackerel due to mercury levels. Keep albacore tuna to less than six ounces per week, although canned light tuna is fine. Don’t eat any raw or undercooked seafood, poultry, pork, beef or eggs. Food borne illnesses caused by pathogens such as salmonella or listeria can cause severe complications. These include miscarriage, premature labor and infant death or developmental disabilities. Moreover, be extra careful with food hygiene and preparation during pregnancy.
8. Exercise Correctly and With Moderation
It’s important to maintain good muscle tone and strength, particularly in your core. Thirty minutes of daily exercise such as walking or swimming (skip the scuba diving) will keep you aerobically fit. You’ll need that heart and lung power. Talk to your doctor about exercises designed to keep your stomach, back and pelvic floor in optimal condition for delivery and recovery. Exercises like crunches, sit-ups, deep knee bends or leg raises are not good for you during pregnancy. Also avoid contact sports, high impact activities (moderate running or jogging may be OK in the first few months) and activities where you could fall, like horseback riding. In your last trimester, you may notice some balance issues, so be aware of any limitations in your movement to be safe. Always discuss exercise options with your doctor before starting any routine.
9. Be Good To Your Feet
Those 4-inch-heel showstoppers need to sit out your pregnancy in a place of honor in your closet. Invest in a few pair of cute, comfortable low-heel shoes with cushy, non-slip soles and plenty of room. You will very likely experience some swelling in your feet and ankles. This can make your pre-pregnancy shoes pinch, rub and restrict circulation. Higher heels throw your weight and balance off, putting additional unwanted pressure on your lower back and knees. Pregnancy is a great excuse to go shoe shopping, so go!
10. Be Good To Yourself
This is the time to indulge in a bit of pampering, whatever that means to you. Don’t volunteer to take on new projects at work and don’t create new projects at home unless they’re manageable and make you happy. Let the little stuff go. Give yourself permission to be tired, cranky, or impatient. Keep up with your doctor visits and get plenty of rest. Surround yourself with a positive support system and tell yourself how beautiful you are every day.