Prenatal Health Care
It is very important for women who have found out that they’re pregnant to get prenatal health care. Prenatal health care is especially important at the very beginning to be sure everything is alright with the baby and that there are no problems. Then, regular follow-up visits are important to see if the baby is growing and developing right inside the mother’s body. Your health care provider will be able to let you know how many weeks pregnant you are and will be able to determine when your delivery date should be. The health care provider will then set up a schedule of visits for you:
- Every four weeks until the 28th week of pregnancy
- Every two weeks until the 36th week of pregnancy
- Once a week until the due date
All through your pregnancy, your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure. Your baby’s growth and development will be checked and the fetal heartbeat from the second trimester. Your visits will also include different tests like blood, urine, cervical, and ultrasound.
If you prefer, you can choose to see an obstetrician who is board certified and cares for women during their pregnancy. You can choose a family practitioner whose expertise includes obstetrical care or a certified nurse-midwife who has formal training and certification in women’s health care needs.
Nutrition and Supplements
Once your pregnancy has been established, it is important to keep a healthy diet that will benefit both you and the baby. During your pregnancy, it is important to get about an extra 100 calories per day. Your health care provider will be able to determine your needs according to how much you weighed before you got pregnant, and if you are overweight, will see that you consume fewer calories. All throughout your pregnancy, it is important that you get your calories from foods that will provide nutrition and sustenance for your baby so that it can grow and develop properly.
Your healthy, well-balanced diet should include lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, and low-fat dairy products. You can treat yourself to such nutritious snacks like healthy oatmeal cookies and coconut flour cookies.
You’ll need to make sure that you’re getting more of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, and folic acid. Your health care provider will make sure to prescribe prenatal vitamins to be sure your baby gets all the nutrients it requires. These prenatal vitamins are a supplement to the well-balanced diet you’re eating during pregnancy.
A growing baby’s demands for calcium are high, and pregnant women must increase their calcium intake. This will be both beneficial for the baby and for you to make sure your bones don’t lack calcium at this time. Good sources of calcium in your diet include low-fat dairy products like milk, pasteurized cheese, and yogurt. Other products that are fortified with calcium include orange juice, soy milk, and cereals. Be sure to eat plenty of dark, green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli. Other foods that provide calcium are tofu, dried beans, and almonds.
Pregnant women require about 30 mg of iron each day. Iron is required to produce hemoglobin which carries oxygen to the red blood cells. The body needs plenty of iron so that it can create plenty of red blood cells and provide oxygen for the tissues and organs in the body. Since, during your pregnancy, you need iron not only for yourself but also for your baby, you need to make sure you eat iron-rich foods like:
- Red meat
- Dark poultry
- Enriched grains
- Dried beans and peas
- Dried fruits
- Dark leafy green vegetables
- Blackstrap molasses
- Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
You can snack on some delicious apple cookies.
Foliate (Folic Acid)
It is important for women who are of childbearing age and those who are planning to get pregnant to get about 400 micrograms or 0.4 milligrams of folic acid supplements per day. The sources for folic acid are multivitamins, folic acid supplements, and the folic acid found in different foods. Tests have shown that, by taking folic acid supplements one month prior to and during the first three month of pregnancy, will decrease the risk of neural tube defects. The neural tube in the body forms during the first several weeks of pregnancy and will become the developing brain and spinal cord for the baby. It needs to form properly so that there is no danger of neural tube defects like spina bifida.
It is important for your health care provider to make sure that any supplements you’re taking provide the right amount of folic acid to meet your nutritional requirements during pregnancy.
During your pregnancy, it is important that you drink plenty of fluids, especially water. During this time, the blood volume increases and drinking water every day will help to overcome such problems as dehydration and constipation.
It is recommended that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. It is important to begin this if you were not doing any exercise before your pregnancy or to keep up with your workouts if you were as long as your health care provider agrees. Regular exercise during your pregnancy can help:
- Reduce excess weight gain
- Reduce such problems that occur during pregnancy like back pain, swelling, and constipation
- Improve sleep
- Increase energy
- Boost your mind
- Prepare your body for labor
- Lessen recovery time after you’ve given birth
The best choices for low-impact, moderately-intense exercise are such activities as walking and swimming. You can also try yoga or join a Pilates class, or use apps that offer exercise videos for pregnant women. Make sure that you avoid any sports activities that can cause the risk of falling or abdominal injury. You must be aware of how your body is changing as it makes a hormone known as relaxin, which helps prepare the pubic area and the cervix for the birth. It loosens your bodies ligaments and makes you less stable so you’re more prone to injury. Always make sure that whatever activity you participate in, you’re safe and never overdo it. Make sure you stop or slow down if you feel that you’re getting short of breath or you start to feel uncomfortable.
During your pregnancy, it is important the you get plenty of sleep. Of course, with time, as the baby grows, you’ll be feeling more tired and it will be difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in. One of the suggested and most comfortable positions is lying on your side with your knees bent. This will also make it easier on your heart since it will keep the baby’s weight from putting pressure on the large blood vessel, carrying blood to and from your heat and your feet and legs. By lying on your side, you can also help prevent or reduce varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and swelling in your legs. There are doctors that recommend pregnant women sleep on their left side since one of the big blood vessels is on the right side of the abdomen, and sleeping on the left side helps to keep the uterus off it. By sleeping on the left side, you’re also helping the blood flow leading to the placenta and to your baby. Ask your health care provider for suggestions. Other things that can help you get a good night’s sleep are propping pillows between your legs, behind your back, and underneath your belly.