If you’re planning to get pregnant or your home pregnancy test gave you a happy plus sign, the first thing you need to do is schedule an appointment with your doctor. Proper prenatal care (before birth) is important for your health as well as your baby’s.
Ideally, prenatal care should start at least three months before you begin trying to conceive. Once you are pregnant, it becomes even more important.
Prenatal care involves treatment and training to ensure a healthy pregnancy, and labor and delivery of a healthy baby.
It helps reduce the risks of complications during pregnancy. Regular prenatal visits allow your doctor to identify any problems or complications before they become serious.
In fact, lack of prenatal care increases the chance of your baby having a low birth weight, which also increases the risk of infant death.
Here are some important prenatal care tips that every mother-to-be should know.
1. Visit Your Doctor Regularly
When you are pregnant, do not make the mistake of missing any appointments. There will be several appointments with your doctor before your due date.
Usually, you may have to visit your doctor every month during the first six months of pregnancy, every two weeks in the seventh and eighth months, and every week during your ninth month.
During these visits, your doctor will check your health and the health of your baby by monitoring your blood pressure, measuring your weight gain and monitoring the baby’s growth and heart rate.
You doctor may also do routine tests and screenings, such as a blood test to check for anemia.
When visiting your doctor, feel free to talk about your health problems or concerns and anything that you may want to know about pregnancy and childbirth.
2. Take Your Supplements
During the prenatal stage, your doctor may prescribe certain supplements. These supplements are essential and you should take them as directed by your doctor.
During pregnancy, your body needs a lot of nutrients that a healthy diet cannot meet. Hence, supplements are recommended. Usually iron or folic acid supplements as well as prenatal vitamins are prescribed.
Folic acid is necessary to prevent neural tube defects, and iron supports the baby’s overall growth. A proper iron level improves birth weight and reduces the risk of low birth weight.
A 2011 study published in Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology suggests that periconceptional folic acid supplementation protects against fetal structural anomalies, including neural tube defects and congenital heart defects. The study also suggests it may protect against preterm birth.
Another 2011 study published in Epidemiology reports that women who reported not taking a daily prenatal vitamin immediately before and during the first month of pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder as compared to women who did take the supplements.
Take supplements as prescribed by your doctor, and do not take over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies without first consulting your doctor.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
The food you eat during pregnancy can affect your child’s health even decades later. The focus of your diet plan should be to ensure that the life growing within you is healthy and fine.
It should fulfill all your requirements as well as the nutritional requirements of the fetus. A healthy diet supports normal birthweight, improves fetal brain development and reduces the risk of many birth defects.
At the prenatal stage, your diet should be a wholesome one with a proper amount of green leafy vegetables, fruits, lentils, dairy products along with fish and meat, so that your body gets protein, vitamin C, calcium, iron and adequate fats.
But bear in mind that there is no need to eat for two when you are pregnant. It is best to follow the diet plan suggested by your doctor.
Along with a good diet, keep your water intake healthy. Dehydration is very common during pregnancy and may cause urinary tract infections and even affect the baby. Along with plain water, enjoy coconut water, barley water or fruit-and-herb infused water.
4. Keep a Pack of Crackers by Your Bed
Crackers can be a boon for mothers-to-be suffering from morning sickness. They help soothe an unsettled stomach and relieve the feeling of queasiness.
Being high in starch, crackers help absorb excess gastric acid that contributes to feeling of nausea and vomiting. In addition, they are easy on the stomach because they are bland and easy to digest.
A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health notes that simple dry carbohydrates like the ones found in crackers and biscuits before getting out of bed in the morning can help control morning sickness.
Eat a few crackers in the morning as soon as you get up to help prevent morning sickness; an empty stomach can worsen your nausea. Also, avoid triggers such as strong smells and foods that make you feel queasy.