Eight Tips For Pregnancy Prenatal Care In Early Pregnancy

Congratulations, you’re pregnant! This can be an exciting, scary and magical time all at once. Once the shock wears off and you accept those two little words, “I’m pregnant,” it’s time to begin preparing for your physical and emotional prenatal care. These eight tips for pregnancy will help you on your way to a satisfying and healthy pregnancy.

1. Schedule an Appointment with Your Obstetrician (OB-GYN)

Schedule a visit with your OB-GYN as soon as you discover you’re pregnant. Your OB-GYN will make sure you’re in good health and will check on the baby as well. She will give you some basic prenatal care tips, such as what nutritional supplements to take, foods to avoid and exercise limitations. She may also recommend books or websites for you to reference during your pregnancy. Ask your doctor whether the medicines you may be taking are safe to use during pregnancy.

If you’re thinking of working with a doula or a midwife, your OB-GYN may also be able to recommend some practitioners, as well as appropriate birthing classes and support groups in your area.

2. Talk to Family and Friends in Early Pregnancy

Most miscarriages occur during early pregnancy, specifically the first trimester. This is one of the reasons most women don’t share their news until after 12 weeks. Still, it’s nice to have support, especially during the tiring–and sometimes sick–first few weeks.

While you don’t need to run out and tell your entire office the good news, you may want to share your pregnancy news with women close to you who have had babies, such as your mom, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and best friends. They could have many helpful tips for pregnancy, and you might find you feel less anxious with close friends and family to support you.

Ask your immediate family members about your family’s medical history, and if any health risks or congenital diseases run in your family that could affect you or the baby. Report any family medical history specifics to your OB-GYN–he may be able to refer you to a specialist or perform genetic testing to determine the baby’s risk for certain disorders. For example, if cystic fibrosis (CF) runs in your family, your doctor can run a blood test to see if you carry the defective CF gene. If you do, the doctor can test the baby’s father as well to further determine risk, since a person can only develop CF if both parents carry the defective gene. The more information you and your doctor have ahead of time, the more you can prepare for a successful pregnancy and birth.

3. Read About Early Pregnancy and Prenatal Care

As much as advice and support from family and friends will aid you in your pregnancy, doing your own research can be extremely valuable. Fortunately, pregnancy information is everywhere. From websites and forums to e-books and magazines, as soon as you utter the words, “I’m pregnant,” you’ll soon realize that you are in the company of millions of women just like you, sharing information, stories, tips for pregnancy and the inevitable joys and fears that come with such a huge life change.

Read as much as you can–from classic pregnancy books to basic nutrition information, recipes and, of course, baby name books. Ask your partner to do some reading about pregnancy and childbirth, too; it will benefit you both in your prenatal care and beyond. Keep in mind that some books contain a lot of information about what could go wrong in pregnancy and childbirth. If these upset you, restrict your reading to more positive tips for pregnancy, and talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have.

4. Eat Healthy in Early Pregnancy and Beyond

Ideally, you’ve been eating a healthy diet long before you got pregnant. If not, early pregnancy is the perfect time to revamp your eating habits. When you’re pregnant, your nutrition choices can have a dramatic effect on your baby’s development.

If you’re an admittedly poor eater, changing your food habits may be difficult. Give yourself some time and follow these tips for pregnancy nutrition:

  • Eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for your baby’s vision and brain development.
  • Include calcium-rich foods, such as milk, soymilk or fortified foods and drinks, to help build baby’s bones, and to prevent bone loss and high blood pressure in you.
  • Incorporate foods rich in iron, such as lean meat, fish, beans and peas, to ensure an adequate oxygen supply to the baby.
  • Take a multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid each day to help prevent birth defects.

You should also stay away from certain foods and drinks, such as:

  • Alcohol. Alcohol has been linked to birth defects.
  • Caffeine. High caffeine consumption can lead to low birth weight and growth retardation.
  • High-mercury fish. Some types of fish, such as swordfish, tilefish and mackerel, may contain levels of mercury that are harmful to your baby.
  • Soft cheeses. Some soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, and Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco and queso fresco may contain bacteria that can make you very ill.

If you focus on a variety of healthy foods and stay away from processed food devoid of nutrients, you’ll be giving your baby what he needs to grow healthy and strong.

5. Exercise as Part of Your Prenatal Care

Unless your doctor determines that you have a serious condition that prevents you from being active during your pregnancy, continue to exercise or begin an exercise program. Exercise brings oxygen deeper into your tissues and cells, which means more oxygen for your baby.

Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, making you less likely to encounter certain medical issues such as gestational diabetes (high blood sugar) and pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure). In early pregnancy, you can often maintain your current level of physical activity. In your second and third trimesters, you may have to make modifications to your routine.

Try some of these tips for pregnancy exercise:

  • Hire a personal trainer certified in prenatal fitness
  • Sign up for prenatal yoga classes
  • Take a prenatal water aerobics class
  • Walk 3-4 times a week.

Certain exercises can even help tone and prepare the uterus for childbirth. Check with your OB-GYN for referrals to specific classes and programs.

6. Get Plenty of Rest in Early Pregnancy

Pregnant or not, you need your sleep. Sleep helps your body function properly and some research has linked lack of sleep to weight gain and increased vulnerability to disease and infections. A lack of sleep can also disrupt mood, and impair your focus and brain function.

In early pregnancy, you may find that you’re naturally more tired anyway. Allow yourself at least eight hours of sleep every night. Restorative sleep is good for you and even better for your baby.

7. Stay Hydrated for Optimal Prenatal Care

Water is incredibly vital to your health! The body strains to work properly when it’s dehydrated, and you can just imagine the effect that has on your unborn baby. Drinking lots of purified water throughout the day–at least eight glasses–will enable your blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to both you and the baby.

Invest in a reusable water bottle that you can carry with you and refill wherever you go so that you’re always well-hydrated.

8. Keep a Journal During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an amazing experience, whether for the first or fifth time, and one that you will want to share with your child and your partner. Keep a journal, a video diary, take photos or draw pictures–whatever feels most natural for you throughout the experience.

Thirty years from now, you may even be able to share your journal and tips for pregnancy with your child, as she begins her journey as a mother.

Resources

American Pregnancy Association. (2007). Foods to avoid during pregnancy. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/foodstoavoid.html/

National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2010). Cystic fibrosis. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001167/

Palacios, N. (n.d.). Top tips for prenatal exercise. Retrieved April 15, 2011, from http://www.babyzone.com/pregnancy/health_wellness/fitness_food_weight/article/prenatal-exercise-tips

Somer, E. (2007). 8 dos and don’ts: Diet tips for pregnancy. Retrieved April, 17, 2011, from http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/21676984/ns/today-today_health/

Trask, L. (2011). Read the ACOG official guidelines before you exercise during pregnancy. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from http://www.dailystrength.org/health_blogs/lee/article/read-the-acog-official-guidelines-before-you-exercise-during-pregnancy