10 Steps to Take for a Healthier Pregnancy
Birth2Work Curriculum Director, mother, grandmother
You are pregnant. You have tested and retested in order to confirm that you are having a baby. Your husband and family are thrilled. Your mind begins racing and you are wondering, “What do I do now?” It’s important to take care of yourself to make sure that your baby is born healthy. Your physical and emotional health are top priorities now!
You will increase your chances of having a healthy baby and a problem-free pregnancy if you are aware of some simple steps.
Get early prenatal care
It’s essential for you and your baby! Call your healthcare provider to schedule your first prenatal visit. You will be evaluated and screened for conditions that could lead to problems in your pregnancy. Tell your doctor if you are taking any medications or have any medical concerns about your pregnancy.
Ask your doctor or caregiver to recommend a good prenatal vitamin. Prenatal vitamins contain more folic acid and iron than standard multivitamins. Ask your doctor if you also need calcium or iodine.
Pay close attention to your diet
You may have people telling you that now you’re “Eating for two.” You will only need about 300 additional calories a day in the first trimester and up to 450 calories a day in the third trimester. That’s about the same as 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with 6 ounces of skim milk. That is not a lot of extra food.
You may also need up to 70 grams of protein a day with a nutrient-rich diet full of healthy fruits and vegetables. Here are some great choices for foods that contain much needed elements for you and your baby:
Folic acid—helps healthy development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord by preventing some birth defects that could attack those areas. Some foods with folic acid are:
- Leafy green vegetables (like spinach), citrus fruits, beans, rice, cereals, and pasta.
Calcium—a growing baby needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps to develop a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles. It’s also good for moms because it can reduce her risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy. Some foods that are calcium rich:
- Nonfat milk, almonds, kale, broccoli, and bok choy.
Iodine—is critical for the optimal development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. It also regulates the baby’s metabolism and regulates the mother’s thyroid gland. Foods with iodine:
- Cranberries, strawberries, potatoes, and iodized salt.
Iron—your body uses iron to make extra blood for your baby. It helps move blood from your lungs to the rest of your body … and to your baby’s. Here are some iron-rich foods:
- Leafy green vegetables (like spinach), dairy, eggs, lentils, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and iron-fortified oatmeal.
Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is very important in pregnancy. Pregnancy can make moms queasy, dizzy, and very thirsty. Water also supports healthy blood circulation in your tiny developing baby.
Get plenty of rest and sleep
You will feel very fatigued in the first and third trimesters, so try to take it easy. Your body needs rest during these stressful times. Steal naps whenever you can during the day. Relaxation techniques such as stretching, deep breathing, and yoga are great ways to fight stress and relax your muscles to help you get a restful sleep at night.
Regular exercise can give you strength and endurance to carry the weight you gain in pregnancy, helps you improve the circulation in your legs and feet, and helps to level your emotions to handle the stresses of labor. Try some pelvic floor exercises to strengthen and gain endurance for labor. Be sure to walk briskly for 30 minutes every day.
See your dentist
Now that you’re pregnant your oral health is very important. Hormonal shifts can cause your gums to react differently to bacteria. This may result in swollen, tender gums which could make you more susceptible to gingivitis and gum disease. See your dentist early for a cleaning and a checkup.
Take time to care for your physical and emotional health
Many women find that they have mood swings at some time during pregnancy. Changes in the hormone levels in your body can cause this. You may feel a little down or anxious which is a relatively common condition during pregnancy. If these feelings begin to interfere with your daily life, talk to your doctor or caregiver about it.
Find your tribe – your support team
Pediatricians encourage their pregnant patients to ask friends or family members to help. They may offer to help with the laundry or dishes or may even offer to help out with an hour or two of childcare to give you a much-needed break. This is important because stress during pregnancy has been linked to preterm births and low birthweight in babies.
Reach out and ask others for help. You may be surprised how many of your family and friends are happy to help you.
Birth2Work can show you how to create your own values-based support team in our course, Leading Your Child to Success.
Get a flu shot
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology recommends a flu shot for all pregnant women. Why? Because changes in your immune system, heart, and lungs make you vulnerable to complications from the flu, like pneumonia, which can be very serious. If you get the flu while you are pregnant it also raises your risk of preterm labor and delivery.
Get informed about your maternal medical history
If you are blessed enough to still have your mother and grandmother, talk to them about their pregnancies and their experiences to research your family history for any pregnancy-related health conditions such as pre-eclampsia.
Take notes so that you have this information with you at your prenatal checkup to share with your doctor. Keep this information and you may be able to share it with your daughter when she is anticipating motherhood.
Remember that the best thing you can do for your baby is to take care of its mother. You are this baby’s best hope of a strong and healthy life!
Congratulations to you and welcome to motherhood. I hope you will cherish each day.
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