Thousands of women will become pregnant this year for the first time. Pregnancy can trigger thoughts of the future and making plans for when the baby arrives. It also can be a time to take inventory of personal health to make changes that will benefit expecting mothers and the children growing within them. Prioritizing overall health is a great way to increase your chances of a safe and healthy pregnancy.
• Visit an obstetrician or midwife as soon as possible. Once the pregnancy test comes out positive, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the course of the pregnancy and what can be done from the start. Doctors may schedule blood screenings and estimate due dates. They also will go over nutrition and care guidelines, which will usually include a regimen of prenatal vitamins.
• Discuss age and risk factors with the doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that there has been a societal shift in the age at which most women become pregnant, with many waiting until later in life to start their families. Whereas ages 20-24 used to be the peak time for pregnancy, many women in North America now become pregnant for the first time between the ages 25 and 29, while many more wait until their 30s. Waiting longer to become pregnant for the first time may increase a woman’s risk for certain conditions during pregnancy. Your doctor can answer any questions you may have and let you know about additional testing that may be necessary.
• Don’t overeat. Eating right is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the baby. Anything you put in your body can affect the baby, so prioritize a healthy diet. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to eat for two. During the first few months, you may not have much of an appetite. The fetus does not require many additional nutrients until the end of the pregnancy. Only then will an increase of 200 calories or so be adequate. Speak with your physician about what constitutes healthy and unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy.
• Choose healthy foods. Avoid undercooked foods and soft cheeses that may harbor bacteria. Some seafood, such as tuna or shark, may contain high levels of mercury. Lean meats, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and dairy products can fuel your body and keep the baby growing.
• Continue to exercise. Unless there are complications during your pregnancy, you likely can continue to exercise. However, don’t overdo it with exercise, and call your doctor if you experience any adverse side effects during or after exercise sessions.
• Avoid drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Smoking, taking drugs or drinking during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for the baby. Miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and SIDS are just a few of the potential side effects of drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco or taking drugs while pregnant, advises Baby Center. Avoid these behaviors and always check with a doctor before taking any over-thecounter or herbal remedies as well.
• Get educated. Pick up a book from a reputable doctor or author so that you can better understand your pregnancy. It can save you stressful moments and keep your pregnancy on a healthy track.