College of DuPage Nursing Student Ana Dedescu wrote for Healthy Lombard that whether it’s a “surprise” or a planned pregnancy when the decision to have a baby becomes final, congratulations are in order! The first step is to schedule a prenatal visit with a healthcare provider. This is the longest visit so adequate time for it is necessary; it includes an interview, a physical examination, and laboratory tests. It is probably a good idea to write down questions or concerns to ask the doctor. Some questions that are relevant for a prenatal visit include:
- What medicines can I take during pregnancy?
- When should I start taking a prenatal vitamin? What kind is best?
- What foods to avoid eating?
- How much folic acid do I need to take each day?
- How can I prevent or reduce swelling?
- How much weight should I gain while pregnant?” (familydoctor.org)
After the first visit, the health care provider will set a regular schedule for visits to occur monthly before 28 weeks; every 2 weeks between weeks 28 and 36, and weekly from weeks 36 to delivery (www.nichd.nih.gov).
A primary concern is that of birth defects. Questions such as, what causes them and what can be done to prevent them are important to consider. To answer these questions, several factors such as a history of chromosomal abnormalities are necessary to consider. For example, is Down Syndrome, Edward’s Syndrome in the family. Other intellectual disabilities should be considered such as, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may contribute to birth defects, and developmental and behavioral complications, and may be associated with genetic factors and age (mother is too young, i.e., 15 years of age, or of older age, i.e., 35+ years). Many things depend on your nutrition, and medical conditions such as the size of the fetus or blood type incompatibility.
It is important to take care of the body during pregnancy. Some of the things that can be done to improve bodily health include:
- Eating healthy and nutritious foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy.
- Folic acid: 400 mcg daily prevents major birth defects like spina bifida or brain development issues.
- Prenatal supplements: Consult with a doctor for more information regarding your specific needs.
- Stay hydrated. Pregnant women should drink 64 to 96 ounces each day.
- Limit caffeine. Daily intake should include up to 200 mg each day.
- Avoid alcohol. No safe amount or type of alcohol has been determined during pregnancy.
- Marijuana and other drugs. Avoid street drugs or over-the-counter drugs and consult the pharmacist or the doctor before self-medicating.
- Secondhand smoke increased the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, low birth weight, and other health problems.” (www.familydoctor.org)
- Mental and emotional health. Ask for help when needed as pregnancy results in many body changes; physical and emotional. Hormonal changes influence feelings and may cause discomfort or sleep deprivation, anxiety, and contribute to financial and social stress. If the excitement about pregnancy is lacking or eating or sleeping becomes difficult, it may be time to ask for an evaluation (Ask the Obstetrician: Pregnancy and Mood).
- Exercise regularly. Moderate exercise will help the birthing process to be easier. (Preventing Birth Defects, 2020)
- Don’t change the cat’s litter box. Toxoplasmosis may result from contact with cat litter and contribute to preterm labor, poor growth, and severe eye and brain damage in the fetus. While the mother (pregnant woman) remains asymptomatic, the infection can be passed on to the developing baby (kidshealth.org).
- Sleep is essential during pregnancy. Self-care is necessary for the health of the mother, which impacts the infant’s health. Consult with a healthcare provider to find out everything that needs to be known about the upcoming pregnancy; when to seek medical care, what to do if illness occurs, what symptoms to watch for, and what to do if pain occurs. Discuss taking any medications before taking them, and seek non-pharmacological solutions when experiencing pregnancy discomfort when possible.
NIHCD. (2017). What Happens During Prenatal Visits? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preconceptioncare/conditioninfo/prenatal-visits
AWHONN. (2015). What I Wish I’d Known About Alcohol & Pregnancy. https://awhonn.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/what-i-wish-id-known-about-alcohol-pregnancy/
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Commit to Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/prevention.html
Cone Health. (2020, January 14). Planning for a Baby: 6 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy. [Video] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epIg4LsYSh8
Familydoctor.org American Academy of Family Physicians. (2020, February 6). Taking Care of You and Your Baby While You’re Pregnant
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). (2013, April 13). Ask the Obstetrician: Pregnancy and Mood [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPcPKhp8X50
Kids Health. Ben-Joseph, Elena Pearl, MD. (2018, June). Staying Healthy During Pregnancy.