Congratulations! You’re pregnant! You probably have dozens of questions: What physical symptoms will I experience? How often should I see my doctor? What can I eat? How much weight should I gain during pregnancy ? This article will answer these as well as any other questions you may have regarding your pregnancy.

Am I Really Pregnant…?

First of all, you will want to be certain you are in fact pregnant. You should take a pregnancy test, followed up by a doctor’s visit if you experience the following symptoms

  • tender or swollen breasts and darkened nipples
  • nausea and vomiting
  • spotting and cramps
  • fatigue
  • food cravings and heightened sense of smell
  • frequent need to urinate
  • missed period
  • frequent mood swings
  • dizzy spells and fainting
  • constipation
  • headaches and back pain

How Often Do I Need to See My Prenatal Doctor?

Once you have confirmed that you are pregnant you should select a prenatal care provider and schedule your initial appointment. You should then follow-up as scheduled by your doctor. The average prenatal appointments are usually scheduled as follows:

  • once a month during the first six months
  • every two weeks during the seventh and eighth months
  • once a week after that until the baby is born.

If you are considered a high risk pregnancy your doctor will want to see you more often. High risk pregnancies are not always a cause for panic. Your doctor will discuss what precautions you need to take and make sure that you are getting the proper tests and care. Factors that contribute to high risk pregnancies include:

  • Higher maternal age: If you are 35 or older the pregnancy risks are higher and you will need to take extra precautions
  • Poor lifestyle choices: extensive smoking, drug use and drinking are high risk factors during pregnancy
  • Medical History: complications during previous pregnancies, family history of problem pregnancies or miscarriages and family history of genetic conditions
  • Preexisting or Underlying Health Issues: high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, anemia, epilepsy, or mental health issues could classify you as a high risk pregnancy
  • Multiple Pregnancies: if you are carrying twins or multiples you are considered high risk
  • Complications during your pregnancy: your doctor will perform frequent tests during your pregnancy to determine if you have problems with your cervix, placenta or uterus as well as keep an eye on your amniotic fluid levels. You will be informed of any abnormalities and how they will be treated.

What Steps Can I Take To Ensure My Baby Is Healthy?

  1. Maintain a Proper Diet
  • eat plenty of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and asparagus
  • only eat lean meats that are cooked thoroughly
  • avoid unpasteurized dairy or meats and raw eggs
  • avoid fish that contains mercury such as king mackerel, shark, tilefish and swordfish, you may also want to avoid eating sushi while pregnant
  • eat no more than 12 ounces of seafood a week that is low in mercury but high in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines and trout
  • try to eat foods that are high in iron such as beans and lentils
  • eat healthy snacks such as low-fat yogurt, fruit and nuts
  1.  Exercise
  • 20-30 minutes of low to moderate aerobic exercise three to four days a week is beneficial for both you and your baby
  • exercises such as swimming, dancing, power walking, yoga and stretching are safe during pregnancy in moderation
  • discuss your exercise regimen with your doctor to determine any potential pregnancy concerns
  1. Avoid Stress
  • learn how to manage your time
  • avoid difficult and unnecessary stressful situations
  • find a good support network
  • ask for help when needed
  • don’t push yourself
  • seek professional help if you feel over-anxious or depressed
  1. Take Prenatal Vitamins
  • ask your doctor which prenatal vitamins would be most beneficial to you during your pregnancy.
  • it is recommended that you take prenatal vitamins that are high in folic acid, iron and calcium to promote fetal health and development
  1. Get Plenty Of Rest
  • pregnancy can often cause or contribute to loss of sleep or sleep disorders so it is important that you make sure you are getting enough sleep and proper rest during
  • take daytime naps if you are not getting enough sleep at night
  • don’t overburden yourself. Stop and rest if you are tired.
  1. Cut Out Drugs, Alcohol, Caffeine and Cigarettes
  • this is obvious as all of the above could lead to birth defects and even miscarriages
  1. Maintain A Healthy Pregnancy Weight
  • generally you should gain about two to four pounds during the first month and about 1 pound per week during the duration of your term. If you are expecting are having a multiple birth you should gain an average of about 1 ½ to 2 lbs per week
  1. Inform Your Doctor Of Any Health Concerns Or Complications
  • excessive bleeding or cramping
  • severe nausea and vomiting
  • early contractions
  • severe headache, visual problems and severe abdominal pain
  • flu-like symptoms
  • noticeable decline in your baby’s activity level
  • if you water breaks prematurely

Should I Make A Birth Plan?

A birth plan is a clear and concise one page document in which you state your preferences for your baby’s birth. You should give a copy to anyone who is directly involved in the birth so that they are aware of  your intentions and desires for your delivery.

Your birth plan is specific to you and your needs so you want it to contain pertinent information like medical history, your special circumstances, your pain management plan and general information pertaining to the details of your birth. You can also include information like who you want present at the time of the birth, what position you would like to give birth and under what circumstances, if any, would you allow for an episiotomy. You can include any information that you feel is relevant to the labor and delivery of your baby, as well as for newborn care. You will want to provide copies to your partner, family members, close friends and your doctor and/or midwife.