We live in a world where information is readily available. However, when it comes to pregnancy, the information can be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. Here are the top five physician tips for a healthier pregnancy.
1. Plan your pregnancy. Planned pregnancies are healthier pregnancies. Planning allows for:
• Time to get your body ready and healthy for pregnancy.
• Spacing between pregnancies.
• Discussion of your unique risks in pregnancy and how that will affect you and your baby.
• Change of medications to those that are safe in pregnancy.
If you are thinking of getting pregnant within the next year, let your healthcare provider know. On the other hand, if you do not want to get pregnant in the next year, talk to your provider about what birth control options may be right for you.
2. Seek care early. If you suspect you might be pregnant, take a home pregnancy test. If you have a positive test at home, or are concerned, see your healthcare provider as soon as you can. This is particularly important if the pregnancy is unexpected.
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Early prenatal care expands on topics that may (or may not) have been covered before pregnancy. Early prenatal visits are also chances to discuss what to expect during pregnancy. Your healthcare provider will help you understand what is or isn’t normal and offer routine screening for complications. Early pregnancy care also gives time to find a provider who is a good fit for you.
3. Stop (or reduce) any substance use. Avoiding or stopping the use of alcohol, tobacco/nicotine, marijuana and illegal drugs can help prevent complications in both mom and baby. If you are struggling to quit, talk to your healthcare provider. Tobacco cessation and other addiction treatment options are available.
4. Eat a healthy diet and take a prenatal vitamin. Eating a balanced diet before and during pregnancy supplies your body and a growing baby with needed fuel. During pregnancy, this is not as straight forward as “eating for two”. Excess calories can cause extra weight gain and lead to other complications. Most pregnancies only need about 300 to 400 extra calories a day starting after 14 weeks to support a growing baby.
Certain vitamins and minerals become more important in pregnancy. One of the most important is folic acid because it builds a baby’s brain and spine. The brain and spine develop very early in pregnancy. Start taking folic acid several months before getting pregnant. Iron is also important to help support healthy blood counts since anemia is quite common in pregnancy. Both folic acid and iron are standard in most prenatal vitamins. If you are planning to get pregnant in the next year, start taking a prenatal vitamin.
5. Keep your body moving. Start moving your body before pregnancy and keep moving throughout pregnancy. Regular exercise not only helps keep your body strong but can also help reduce risks of complications. A strong body is better prepared for delivery and post-partum recovery. Some activities are more dangerous in pregnancy, but many are safe. As with any exercise, you should talk with your healthcare provider about what is OK for you to do.
Make your plan now for a happy, healthy pregnancy.
Dr. Ruth Chadwick, a family physician at RiverStone Health Clinic, can be reached at 406-247-3306.