Prenatal Health Care
Key to protecting the health of your child is to get regular prenatal care. If you think you’re pregnant, call your health care provider to schedule your first prenatal appointment. Many health care providers, though, won’t schedule the first visit before 8 weeks of pregnancy, unless there is a problem.
At this first visit, your health care provider will probably do a pregnancy test, and will figure out how many weeks pregnant you are based on a physical examination and the date of your last period. He or she will also use this information to predict your delivery date (an ultrasound done sometime later in your pregnancy will help to verify that date).
If you’re healthy and there are no complicating risk factors, most health care providers will want to see you:
- every 4 weeks until the 28th week of pregnancy
- then every 2 weeks until 36 weeks
- then once a week until delivery
Throughout your pregnancy, your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure while also checking the growth and development of your baby (by doing things like feeling your abdomen, listening for the fetal heartbeat starting during the second trimester, and measuring your belly). During the span of your pregnancy, you’ll also have prenatal tests, including blood, urine, and cervical tests, and probably at least one ultrasound.
Nutrition and Supplements
Now that you’re eating for two (or more!), this is not the time to cut calories or go on a diet. In fact, it’s just the opposite — you need about 300 extra calories a day, especially later in your pregnancy when your baby grows quickly. If you’re very thin, very active, or carrying multiples, you’ll need even more. But if you’re overweight, your health care provider may advise you to consume fewer extra calories.
Healthy eating is always important, but especially when you’re pregnant. So, make sure your calories come from nutritious foods that will contribute to your baby’s growth and development.
Try to maintain a well-balanced pregnancy recipes that incorporates the dietary guidelines including:
- lean meats
- whole-grain breads
- low-fat dairy products
By eating a healthy, balanced pregnancy recipes you’re more likely to get the nutrients you need. But you will need more of the essential nutrients (especially calcium, iron, and folic acid) than you did before you became pregnant.
Good sources of calcium include:
- low-fat dairy products including milk, pasteurized cheese, and yogurt
- calcium-fortified products, including orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
- dark green vegetables including spinach, kale, and broccoli
- dried beans
Healthy pregnant women need about 30 mg of iron every day. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. Red blood cells circulate throughout the body to deliver oxygen to all its cells.
Although the healthy recipes can be found in various kinds of foods, iron from meat sources is more easily absorbed by the body than iron found in plant foods. Iron-rich foods include:
- red meat
- dark poultry
- enriched grains
- dried beans and peas
- dried fruits
- dark leafy green vegetables
- blackstrap molasses
- iron-fortified breakfast cereals
Folate (Folic Acid)
Again, your health care provider can prescribe a prenatal vitamin that contains the right amount of folic acid. If you’re buying an over-the-counter supplement, remember that most multivitamins contain folic acid, but not all of them have enough to meet the nutritional needs of pregnant women. So, be sure to check labels carefully before choosing one and check with your health care provider.
Exercising during pregnancy has been shown to be very beneficial. Regular exercise can help:
- prevent excess weight gain
- reduce pregnancy-related problems, like back pain, swelling, and constipation
- improve sleep
- increase energy
- boost your mood
- prepare your body for labor
- lessen recovery time after the birth
It’s also important to be aware of how your body changes. During pregnancy, your body makes a hormone known as relaxin. It’s believed to help prepare the pubic area and the cervix for the birth. The relaxin loosens the ligaments in your body, making you less stable and more prone to injury.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, make sure to take lots of breaks and drink plenty of fluids. Slow down or stop if you get short of breath or feel uncomfortable.
Sleep It’s important to get enough sleep during your pregnancy. You’ll probably feel more tired than usual. And as your baby gets bigger, it will be harder to find a comfortable position when you’re trying to sleep.
Some doctors specifically recommend that pregnant women sleep on the left side. Because one of those big blood vessels is on the right side of your abdomen, lying on your left side helps keep the uterus off of it. Lying on your left side helps blood flow to the placenta and, therefore, your baby.
Some Things to Avoid
When you’re pregnant, what you don’t put into your body (or expose your body to) is almost as important as what you do. Here are some things to avoid:
Alcohol is easily passed along to the baby, who is less equipped to eliminate alcohol than the mother. That means an unborn baby tends to develop a high concentration of alcohol, which stays in the baby’s system for longer periods than it would in the mother’s. And moderate alcohol intake, as well as periodic binge drinking, can damage a baby’s developing nervous system.
Recreational Drugs If you’re pregnant and using drugs, a health clinic such as Planned Parenthood can recommend health care providers, at little or no cost, who can help you quit your habit and have a healthier pregnancy.
Pay highly attention on your food and health for your baby, now that you are two you should really take care yourself.