If this pregnancy is your first, you probably feel a wide range of emotions. You might feel excited, nervous, and afraid all at the same time. You recognize that maintaining good health is extremely important—not just for you, but for your baby as well.
The following important health tips are a good place to start.
1. Set an Appointment With a Medical Professional
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, set an appointment with a medical professional in your area. The medical professional will want to see you for the first time about eight weeks after you become pregnant.
You can expect an appointment schedule like the following one:
- Monthly visits until 28 weeks pregnant
- Twice monthly visits until 36 weeks pregnant
- Weekly visits from 36 weeks until birth
Most women see an obstetrician, or OB. An obstetrician has attended medical school and received training in caring for mothers and babies. Alternatively, some women choose to see a certified nurse midwife. A certified nurse midwife is a registered nurse who has earned an additional degree in midwifery.
Your OB or midwife can help prepare you for the different stages of pregnancy and can treat any health problems that may arise. He or she will watch over you during your pregnancy to protect the health of both you and your baby.
2. Take Prenatal Vitamins
Now, more than ever, you and your baby need the nutrients vitamins provides. Prenatal vitamins are specifically formulated to provide women and babies with the nutrients needed during pregnancy.
Some of the most important nutrients during pregnancy are folic acid, iron, and calcium. Folic acid prevents developmental problems in the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Iron is crucial for blood health, and calcium is important for bone health. Seek your doctor’s advice about choosing the right prenatal vitamin.
3. Eat a Nutritious Diet
Before you were pregnant, you might have gotten away with a diet of soda and fast food. However, now you and your baby both need nutrients found in foods like:
- Whole grains
- Lean meat
Avoid foods that may contain harmful bacteria. These foods include raw and undercooked meat like sushi and steak, processed meat like hot dogs and lunch meat, and soft cheeses like feta cheese.
You should also cut back on caffeine, which is found in coffee and soda. Caffeine increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which can be dangerous during pregnancy. It can also affect your baby’s movement and sleep pattern.
4. Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Remember that everything you take in can now affect your baby as well. Alcohol and drugs can cause birth defects and other serious health problems in growing babies. Many babies exposed to alcohol and drugs grow up with behavioral, memory, and concentration problems.
If you struggle to give up alcohol and drugs, talk with a doctor or counselor. He or she can help you take steps to overcome your addiction.
5. Exercise Safely
Exercise can help you maintain good health during pregnancy and can even prepare your body to give birth. It might also reduce common pregnancy symptoms like backaches and low energy.
Keep in mind that pregnancy is not the time to start an intensive weight loss program. Avoid high-impact exercises that pose the risk of falling, getting injured, or getting overheated. Walking, yoga, and swimming are all good fitness choices during pregnancy.
6. Seek Knowledge
The more you know about pregnancy and childbirth, the more prepared you’ll be. Along with asking your doctor questions, you can also find helpful information about pregnancy in books such as:
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
- Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
You could also join a pregnancy class or support group, which is often offered by medical professionals.
7. Schedule Counseling
Along with your physical health, you need to protect your mental and emotional health as well. Pregnancy can be hard on women because the hormone levels in their bodies are changing. They are also coping with a completely new scenario and all the difficult decisions and changes that come with it.
Pregnancy can be especially difficult if it comes unexpectedly. Perhaps you’re considering whether or not to keep your baby. To help you during this time, seek the help of a counselor. A counselor can help you cope with your emotions and struggles. A licensed adoption agency may even offer free counseling.
This experience is a new and exciting time for you, but it can also be a difficult time. Some women experience health problems during pregnancy that they didn’t expect. Following basic health guidelines may not prevent every complication, but it does significantly reduce the risk of health problems.
Follow these health tips to protect both you and your baby during your pregnancy.