Congratulations! You’ve recently found out you’re pregnant and you’re overcome with joy – and maybe a little anxiety too. Healthy snacks, relaxation techniques and power naps will all be staples of the coming months. As you begin to navigate this exciting and life-changing time, this helpful guide can keep you on track.
First things first: Make an appointment to see your doctor and settle on your primary maternity care. Your prenatal caregiver will guide you through your pregnancy. Whether you opt for an obstetrician, family physician or midwife as your first resource, make sure you find a good match for your values.
During your early visits, you will find out your due date and check on your vaccination history. This is also a good time to research any genetic conditions in you or your partner’s family history and, if necessary, pursue prenatal screening.
2. Embrace Your “Baby Body”
Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. Some will feel like their usual self until the day they deliver, others may wonder how else their body could possibly change. Your belly and breasts will naturally begin to show and a reasonable weight gain is all part of the happy process.
You’re likely expecting the morning sickness, mood swings and unusual cravings, but your body may respond in all sorts of ways to pregnancy hormones. Don’t be concerned if you experience fatigue or the need for frequent bathroom breaks. Some women even notice thicker hair, darker skin and swollen ankles.
If you’re worried you’re experiencing something irregular such as severe pain or bleeding, check with your doctor or midwife about serious warning signs.
3. Beat Bad Habits
Now is the time to finally kick those unhealthy habits. Join a program to quit smoking, abstain from alcohol and discuss any prescription or over-the-counter drug use with your doctor. You may also want to cut down on caffeine and salty foods. Focus instead on a healthy and nutritious diet for you and your growing child. In many cases, these lifestyle changes will not only benefit your baby, but provide a more enjoyable pregnancy experience.
Also consider your budget: you may want to plan for additional expenses before and after you have your child. This can include everything from shopping for maternity clothing to setting up a savings account for your kid’s college tuition.
4. Acknowledge the Emotional
In the exciting early days after you’ve learned you’re pregnant, you’ll be faced with a few big emotional decisions. Namely, how and when you tell your loved ones. It’s a personal decision for you and your partner, but most couples will tell family and friends after seeing a heartbeat on the ultrasound at approximately 6-8 weeks.
Pregnancy brings a range of emotions, and not all are positive. More than half of women will feel anxious or depressed during pregnancy. If you’re feeling stressed or unwell, you’re not alone. Talk to your doctor about emotional wellness during pregnancy.
As your pregnancy continues, take the time to make notes of your best memories and record your favorite – and even least favorite – parts of pregnancy. Keep it light and look back on how far you and your baby have come in the future!
5. Eat Twice as Well
A healthy diet will be one of the most important components of your pregnancy – and one you have the most control over! Much like those lifestyle shifts, a new baby is a great instigator for getting your eating habits in order. Cravings are to be expected – and allowed – but you’ll want to make an effort to keep your diet as balanced as possible. Even though you’re eating for two, your weight gain should stay reasonable – 25-35 pounds is appropriate if you’re an average weight.
Small nutritious changes like choosing nonfat milk, fruit and lean cuts of meat can help you get the nutrients you need. Avoid undercooked meat, soft cheese, hot dogs and smoked seafood. Protein, folate, calcium, fiber and fat should be essential parts of your diet. You may also want to talk to your doctor or midwife about prenatal vitamins and supplements.
6. Settle into New Sleep Patterns
Your sleep habits are bound to change even before your new baby arrives. Women will often experience tender breasts and throbbing headaches during the first trimester. An inability to get comfortable and calf cramps tend to occur in the second and third trimesters. Hot showers before bedtime, acetaminophen with your doctor’s permission and smart pillow placement can help you get the rest you need. Sleep disruption is part of your body preparing for the baby – and sleep deprivation can help you prepare too!
7. Safely Stay in Shape
Exercising during your pregnancy offers a number of benefits: It can improve your heart health, give you energy and boost your self-image. Regular exercise can also reduce lower back pain and may shorten labor time. Try 30 minutes of moderate exercise three to four days a week, and stick to safe, low-impact workouts like walking, swimming, yoga and weight training.