You just found out you are pregnant. It is exciting but, at the same time, can be very overwhelming news. Whether it is your first or fourth pregnancy, the worries are all the same – how do I ensure my baby is healthy, how much folic acid should I take, and what things should I avoid?
Here are some helpful recommendations and tips to encourage a healthy pregnancy and baby:
Folic acid is your best friend.
Ideally, women who are trying to conceive should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for about three months prior to becoming pregnant and during the first three months of pregnancy. Neural tube defects occur early on in a pregnancy, often before many women realize they are pregnant. Studies have shown that folic acid greatly reduces a baby’s risk of major birth defects affecting the brain and spine.
Early prenatal care is extremely important.
You may be tempted to delay prenatal care due to the pandemic, but prenatal care in the first trimester is important to establish your due date. Your care is dependent on this date being as accurate as possible. It is also important to identify high-risk conditions because early interventions may greatly increase positive outcomes.
Trust your healthcare provider.
Talk openly with your doctor or midwife about your family medical history, symptoms (each pregnancy is different, so it is important to know what your normal symptoms are), and any medications you are taking. There are benefits to continuing certain medications throughout your pregnancy; however, it is best to consult your doctor or midwife before deciding to start or stop any medications.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Being over or underweight can increase the risk of pregnancy complications. A rule of thumb for the amount of weight to gain during pregnancy is if you are at a normal weight, you should gain about 25 to 35 lbs., but remember one size does not fit all. If you are above or below the normal range, the recommended amount you should gain will change.
Try incorporating a bit of light exercise into your routine and adding healthy food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein into your diet. Avoid sugars, starches, sweet drinks, but be sure to tank up on water! Stay away from undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, and soft cheeses. Make sure you wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.
Steer clear of harmful substances.
It goes without saying, pregnant women should avoid alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, drugs, and other harmful substances. Exposure to these substances can result in lifelong physical and mental disabilities for your baby.
Keep up with vaccinations.
For pregnant mothers, being up to date with all vaccines can protect against many infections and diseases that can impact the health of your baby. If you are currently pregnant, inactive vaccines such as the flu and Tdap (whooping cough) vaccines are highly recommended because they provide immunity for your baby’s first few months of life.
Should pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is not enough data to determine the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine on pregnant women.
For now, the best ways to protect yourself and your baby from COVID-19 are to take precautions such as wearing a mask, practice social distancing, washing your hands frequently, and using hand sanitizer. Also, limit long in-person interactions with others, and avoid high-risk situations where you may come in contact with people who may have been exposed. Encourage friends and family members to get vaccinated for COVID-19 (when available) to provide less risk that you would be exposed to the virus.
Prenatal care visits are important.
Your provider will monitor your blood pressure, weight gain, growth of your baby, and be vigilant for developing problems. Today, there are also many free apps such as Count the Kicks that educate parents about the importance of monitoring important changes in their babies’ movement to promote a healthy delivery.
Following the above recommendations can help increase the chances of your baby developing strong and having a healthy pregnancy; however, not all birth defects are preventable. Visit your doctor or midwife for regular check-ups and create an open dialogue with your care team. Trust your gut and notify your provider if something feels wrong.
Prepare for Your Baby by Selecting a Pediatrician
While taking steps to ensure your baby is healthy, it’s important to prepare for after the pregnancy by establishing a relationship with a pediatrician that will care for you baby after birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends setting up a meeting with a pediatrician in your third trimester. Meeting a pediatrician before the baby is born can help parents (first time and beyond!) get ready for the baby’s arrival and answer any questions. A pediatrician can also help anticipate issues like postpartum depression. Generally less than 40% of first-time parents take this important step.
At Healthcare Network, establishing a trusted relationship with a pediatrician is easy, with pre-natal care and children’s care in the same location.
About the Author
Written by Healthcare Network’s Communications Coordinator, Abigail Jose, with subject expertise from Certified Nurse Midwife, Denise Henning, CNM
Jan 27, 2021 | Women’s Care