Whether you've been trying to get pregnant or were shocked to see the two lines show up on the pregnancy test, one thing remains: You're about to embark on an amazing and wild ride! Buckle up and enjoy every last second of your pregnancy. And if it's your first go-around, here are eight things every newly pregnant woman needs to know.
Call your OB/GYN.
Just so we're all on the same page, “OB/GYN” stands for obstetrician (i.e. a doctor who specializes in pregnancy, childbirth and female reproductive health) and gynecologist (i.e. a doctor who specializes primarily in female reproductive health). If you have a relationship already established with a gynecologist, you'll want to start there. If you happen to be new to town and haven't yet established a relationship with an OB/GYN, start by asking trusted friends, doing some online searching and reading the reviews, and perhaps even lining up an appointment or two to meet the doctor you're considering.
If you have your OB/GYN, then call their office and let them know you're pregnant. They'll likely ask you a few questions — when was your last period, is this your first pregnancy, what's your insurance information, etc. — and then they'll schedule an appointment typically for when you're around six weeks pregnant.
Take prenatal vitamins.
If you're not yet pregnant but are planning or trying, you should start taking a quality prenatal vitamin about a month before you plan to become pregnant. If you're newly pregnant and haven't yet started taking a prenatal vitamin, you'll want to start taking one right away. The first trimester is a period of immense fetal development, so taking a prenatal vitamin that is rich in iron and folic acid plays a critical role in that development. Folic acid helps with neural tube development, while the iron boosts your blood supply to help with fetal and placenta development. (Source) Other things to look for in your prenatal vitamin include Vitamin D and calcium, which help with bone and teeth development, as well as vitamins C, B, A, and E, and zinc and iodine. If you have questions about which prenatal vitamin is best for you, consult your OB.
Check your healthcare benefits.
Pregnancy is perhaps the first lesson in “Kids Aren't Cheap 101.” Whether you're planning to have a home birth, a hospital birth, a midwife or doula, or any other specific type of delivery or childbirth accommodation, you'll want to know what sort of healthcare coverage you have so you can plan for any and all out-of-pocket expenses. Some doctors may require upfront payment of your deductible at your first appointment. Review what is covered, what your deductible amount, and find out which doctors and hospitals are in- or out-of-network so you can get your financial house in order as early as possible. And if the healthcare coverage looks like a foreign language, make an appointment to meet with your HR manager or insurance representative, who should be able to break it down into the simplest of terms so you're clear on everything.
Prepare for morning sickness.
Each pregnancy is different, so whether this is your first pregnancy or your third, you may experience morning sickness. Some women do, some women don't — there's no right or wrong experience. If you do experience morning sickness, however, you will DEFINITELY want to be prepared to deal with it. Some common tips many moms recommend include keeping some crackers on your bedside table so you can have a few before you even get out of bed in the morning. Or, keep some ginger chews on hand to help stave off nausea. The most important thing, though, is to ensure that you are actually eating. It may seem counter-intuitive, but NOT eating when you have morning sickness (which, by the way, can strike anytime!) will actually make things worse. And make sure you're staying well-hydrated. If you DO vomit or you find the nausea debilitating, call your doctor, who can prescribe some anti-nausea medication to get you through the worst of it. Hang in there, sister. It gets better — promise!
Quit drinking (and smoking).
This may seem pretty obvious, but once you're pregnant, you'll want to back off the booze. And if you smoke, use this gift of pregnancy as the perfect time to quit for good. According to the CDC, there is no safe time to drink alcohol while pregnant. It can lead to facial abnormalities, low birthweight, and poor development of the central nervous system. Smoking while pregnant can lead to fetal abnormalities and low birthweight as well. Use this time to kick the habit and never go back to it!
Eat this, not that.
The best diet for a pregnant woman is one that has a good balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats. You'll want to consume the recommended daily amounts of fresh fruits and veggies to get your nutrients from their natural sources. Opt for complex carbohydrates, which are found in starchy vegetables like potatoes, for optimal fiber intake, and steer clear of refined carbs like those found in pasta and bread. Protein is a must to aid with the incredible growth of the little person growing inside you. Find protein in chicken, fish, and eggs; plant-based protein can be found in things like tofu, lentils, and nut butters. In terms of fats, opt for polyunsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids — fatty fish, seeds, nuts, etc. (Source)
In terms of foods to avoid, steer clear of soft cheeses, which can contain listeria bacteria. Listeria can lead to miscarriage in early pregnancy, and later in pregnancy, it can cause damage to the mother. (Source) So cheeses like brie, feta and even (gulp!) queso should be passed up until after Baby arrives. Additionally raw and undercooked meat should be off-limits as toxoplasma may be present in these foods, which can lead to blindness and mental impairment in children later in life who were infected in utero. (Source) And raw fish commonly found in sushi is also a no-no as they can contain parasites and bacteria that are harmful to your unborn child. Unpasteurized milks and juices should be on your “skip” list as they, too, can harbor bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. And finally, opt out of anything that contains raw eggs — homemade Caesar salad dressing, raw cookie dough, etc.
Listen to your body. Always!
Suffice it to say that your body is not going to feel like your own for the foreseeable future — and that's the magic of pregnancy. It's doing to change and behave in ways completely unfamiliar to you — that's to be expected. But you still have a lifetime of knowledge — and a gut sense — about what's “normal” and what's not, even while pregnant. If you feel something's not quite right or you're concerned about a symptom, do not hesitate to reach out to your healthcare professional. They are there to guide you through this time and ensure that you and your baby are both safe and sound. There are no silly questions or concerns — perhaps now more than any other time. So listen to your body — and if you think you need to pick up the phone and call your doctor, DO IT!
Finally, be excited! Yes, pregnancy can be overwhelming — there's a lot to do and plan and take care of, all while growing a human being inside of you. But there are few other times in your life that are quite like this, so embrace it and enjoy every last second of it. That may be tough to remember when you're clutching your ginger chews and dashing for the bathroom, but soon enough, you'll be holding your new baby and embarking on an entirely new journey.
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