Now that you're pregnant, taking care of yourself has never been more important. Here's how to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Prenatal Health Care
Key to protecting the health of your child is to get regular prenatal care. If you think you’re pregnant, call your health care provider to schedule your first prenatal appointment. Many health care providers, though, won’t schedule the first visit before 8 weeks of pregnancy, unless there is a problem.
At this first visit, your health care provider will probably do a pregnancy test, and will figure out how many weeks pregnant you are based on a physical examination and the date of your last period. He or she will also use this information to predict your delivery date (an ultrasound done sometime later in your pregnancy will help to verify that date).
If you’re healthy and there are no complicating risk factors, most health care providers will want to see you:
- every 4 weeks until the 28th week of pregnancy
- then every 2 weeks until 36 weeks
- then once a week until delivery
Choosing a health provider
Throughout your pregnancy, your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure while also checking the growth and development of your baby (by doing things like feeling your abdomen, listening for the fetal heartbeat starting during the second trimester, and measuring your belly). During the span of your pregnancy, you’ll also have prenatal tests, including blood, urine, and cervical tests, and probably at least one ultrasound.
When choosing a health care provider to counsel and treat you during your pregnancy, your options include:
- Obstetricians/gynecologists (also known as OB/GYNs): doctors who specialize in Pregnancy and childbirth, as well as women’s health care
- family practitioners: doctors who provide a range of services for patients of all ages — in some cases, this includes obstetrical care
- Certified nurse-midwives: advanced practice nurses specializing in women’s health care needs, including prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care for uncomplicated pregnancies. There are also other kinds of midwives, but you should look for one with formal training who’s been certified in the field
the doctor-patient relationship needs to be effectively managed to mitigate any risks to the patient on a case-by-case basis,
Any of these is a good choice if you’re healthy and there’s no reason to anticipate complications with your pregnancy and delivery. However, nurse-midwives do need to have a doctor available for the delivery in case an unexpected problem arises or a cesarean section (C-section) is required.
tMost women 19 and older — including those who are pregnant — don’t often get the daily 1,000 mg of calcium that’s recommended. Because your growing baby’s calcium demands are high, you should increase your calcium consumption to prevent a loss of calcium from your own bones. Your doctor will also likely prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, which may contain some extra calcium.
Good sources of calcium include:
- Low-fat dairy products including milk, pasteurized cheese, and yogurt
- Calcium-fortified products, including orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
- Dark green vegetables including spinach, kale, and broccoli
- Dried beans
Because your growing baby's calcium demands are high, you should increase your calcium consumption to prevent a loss of calcium from your own bones.
Pregnant women need about 30 mg of iron every day. Why? Because iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. Red blood cells circulate throughout the body to deliver oxygen to all its cells.
Without enough iron, the body can’t make enough red blood cells and the body’s tissues and organs won’t get the oxygen they need to function well. So it’s especially important for pregnant women to get enough iron in their daily diets — for themselves and their growing babies.