During pregnancy, there are many things you can do to ensure the health of your baby and your own comfort and well-being. Ideally you should seek advice from your doctor or obstetrician before you become pregnant. They can perform examinations and tests to make sure you can achieve a healthy pregnancy and address any questions or fears you have about becoming pregnant. They will also talk to you about taking a prenatal vitamin that contains iron, calcium and folic acid. These should be taken even before you are pregnant to prevent birth defects of the baby’s spine and nervous system.
If you are already pregnant and have not seen your doctor yet, don’t worry; you can still have a healthy pregnancy.
Your First Prenatal Exam
During the first six to eight weeks of your pregnancy, you should schedule your first prenatal appointment. At this appointment the doctor will give you a full physical exam including a pelvic and rectal examination. You will find out far along you are and an estimated due date for your baby.
You will also have a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. During this test, your doctor uses a long swab to gently scrape the inside of the cervix. It may be slightly uncomfortable but it is not painful. Doctors will also collect urine and blood samples to test for other conditions such as Rh antibodies; STDs; chickenpox; measles; mumps or Rubella; cystic fibrosis; and sickle cell anemia.
After this visit you will see your provider every four weeks until your second trimester, then every two weeks until the 36th week. After 36 weeks you will be seen every week until you deliver. At each of these visits they will record your weight and blood pressure and may ask for a urine sample.
One of the most exciting visits is when your doctor performs an ultrasound. This is generally done between 18 and 20 weeks. The ultrasound technician will check that your baby’s anatomy is developing normally, and that your due date is estimated correctly. They will also be able to tell you the sex of your baby.
Lifestyle Changes During Pregnancy
While you are pregnant it is important to look after your own health. During pregnancy you should avoid smoking, alcohol, and drug use. The needs of your body will change too. You may find that you feel fatigued and need to get more sleep. You should also up your calorie intake. Doctors recommend eating an additional 300 calories a day. It is not a good idea to start a diet while you are pregnant, but it is a great time to start eating healthier foods.
You can eat nearly anything you wish while you are pregnant but a few foods may cause harm to your baby. These foods include soft or “fresh” unpasteurized cheeses like feta; unpasteurized milk, juices and apple cider; raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs; shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish (These fish can contain high mercury levels); and raw or undercooked meats.
Pregnancy also brings on many uncomfortable side effects. Although they are a nuisance, most of the aches, pains and body changes during pregnancy are normal. Your doctor can recommend ways to help you feel better. Always talk to your doctor before taking any type of medication. There are many medicines that can cause serious birth defects in your baby!
Whenever you have a concern about any pregnancy symptoms, you should seek medical advice. Call your doctor if you experience any of the following, as they could be signs that there is a problem: heavy bleeding, a sudden loss of fluid, absence of movement once the baby has begun moving, or more than three contractions in an hour.
If you follow your doctor’s advice and take care of yourself, you should have a healthy pregnancy that will give your baby a good start in life.