A healthy baby starts with a healthy pregnancy
By: Thomas Osborne, M.D.
The choice to become a parent may be one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make. And, if you are like most people, you'll want your child to have the best start possible. Making this a reality starts long before you bring your baby home from the hospital. In fact, ensuring a healthy start for baby should start even before you become pregnant and continue all the way to your child's birth and beyond.
Preparation for pregnancy involves making healthy lifestyle changes and choices such as eating a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, taking a daily prenatal vitamin, exercising regularly, limiting stress and getting adequate sleep. If you smoke, now is the time to quit.
It's also a good idea to get routine dental work and other medical issues resolved before you get pregnant. This should include a review of your immunizations to make sure they are up-to-date. If you don't have a regular physician, now is also the time to choose a health professional who will follow you through your pregnancy and beyond.
If you suspect that you may be pregnant, you should make an appointment with your health care professional. Good prenatal care includes regularly scheduled exams with your health care professional throughout your pregnancy. At each visit, your doctor will check your weight, measure your abdomen and check your blood pressure and urine. Keeping track of these benchmarks helps to assure that your pregnancy is progressing normally. Other tests will most likely be recommended, depending on your individual situation.
The first trimester
Once you are pregnant, you will probably find that your condition impacts just about every aspect of your daily life. Typical first-trimester signs of pregnancy include fatigue, breast tenderness, increased urination, a feeling of fullness in the stomach and morning sickness. If you are overly tired, do your best to get extra rest. If you experience morning (or all-day) sickness, try eating small amounts frequently throughout the day. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
The second trimester
For many women, the morning sickness and fatigue experienced during the first trimester disappear during the second. They may be replaced by other symptoms, however, and include leg cramps, back pain, pelvic and hip pain, hemorrhoids, constipation, heartburn, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, stretch marks and other skin changes. You may find that you have a larger-than-normal appetite and that food tastes better than before you were pregnant. This is just nature's way of making sure that you get adequate nutrition for you and for your baby.
The third trimester
Because your baby is growing larger, he or she has less room to move around, and you may detect less movement during the last two months of pregnancy. Still, you should detect kicks, flutters and rolls regularly throughout the day (except when your baby is sleeping).
The symptoms experienced during the second trimester often continue into the third. In addition, you may have a more difficult time sleeping and finding a comfortable position. Because your uterus is taking up more space, breathing may be labored. You may have mild swelling of the feet and ankles. Many women experience sporadic uterine contractions, which don't occur on a regular basis and disappear when they move or change positions.
You may want to enroll in childbirth classes during your third trimester. During class, you will practice breathing and relaxation techniques to help ease you through labor. Many times, classes will provide you with information on hospital procedures and services.
It's impossible to completely anticipate every aspect of labor and delivery, but many expectant parents choose to write a birth plan that details their preferences for their baby's birth. When writing your plan, you'll want to consider your preferences for comfort measures, pain relief, medical procedures, fetal monitoring and your first few hours with your baby. It's likely that your health care professional will provide valuable insight and information for your birth plan. He or she can answer your questions about medical procedures and pain relief options.
Having a baby – a healthy baby – is no small endeavor. Pregnancy impacts just about every instance of your daily life, and at times can feel grueling. But, if you survey experienced parents, they will tell you that engaging in a healthy lifestyle and rolling with the punches (or kicks) that the symptoms of pregnancy can deliver is a small price to pay. All it will take is one look into your baby's eyes to know that drinking all that milk and eating your vegetables for the last nine months was definitely worth the effort.
Dr. Osborne is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic.