For my first-time mommies out there, pregnancy is an exciting and life-changing event, coupled with anxiety and so, so many questions. It’s a process, and thank goodness it is nine months! I know I certainly needed the time to adjust to the thought of having a little one, not to mention, get used to the idea that my body was changing so much. So, realize this is a tiny window into some things to focus on in your pregnancy. There are a ton of important topics to cover that I won’t be able to touch on with this post, but I wanted to highlight some things to plan for, and other things you shouldn’t worry too much about.
Plan for finding a doctor. If you don’t already have a provider you are comfortable with, now is the time! You want to gel with your OB and develop a trusting relationship. Prenatal care is essential for a healthy pregnancy.
Don’t worry about having a complete understanding of all your prenatal care and birth plan from the get-go. There is a lot to cover at your first few prenatal visits, not to mention the visits over the entire pregnancy. Your provider will guide you through everything as you go — whether that is reviewing laboratory or ultrasound results, discussing options for genetic screening, reviewing options for future contraception, or looking at your birth plan together. When I see a new OB patient at the office, I want to take plenty of time for their questions as well as address certain important counseling points. Each subsequent visit, I tailor for the patient (sure, there are some things that get reviewed with everyone), but sometimes I need to focus more on nutrition/weight gain, other times round ligament pain, or specific co-morbidities like diabetes or blood pressure problems.
Plan for evaluating your diet and other aspects of your lifestyle. Becoming pregnant is a good motivation to work on healthy living. A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein will go a long way in ensuring a more comfortable pregnancy. The things to focus on are protein, fiber, folic acid, iron, and calcium/vitamin D. This won’t come as a surprise, but you will gain weight in pregnancy. They key is not to use your pregnancy as an excuse to eat anything and everything you want. Cravings are a real thing and should be quenched (within reason!). Heathy weight gain, if you were a normal weight before pregnancy, is typically between 25-35 pounds. More important, substance abuse is a leading cause of problems during pregnancy as smoking, drinking, and drug use can all have harmful effects on your baby’s health. Seek help if you need assistance in ceasing these types of activities.
Don’t worry about being too restrictive with your diet. Sure, there are certain foods to avoid in pregnancy — like raw meat, unpasteurized dairy products, cold hot dogs/lunch meat, fish with higher mercury levels in them (tilefish, mackerel, swordfish, shark) — but most of the food in our diet is okay in pregnancy. The key point being moderation. Even caffeine is considered safe in pregnancy if it’s fewer than 200mg (one 12 ounce cup of coffee) consumed per day.
Plan for feeling uncomfortable. Growing a baby inside of you is a magical, surreal experience. It is also uncomfortable! Morning sickness, body aches, restlessness, etc., are nearly universal, and getting comfortable can be a real challenge. Discuss these issues with your doctor as they come up to make sure everything is okay and to get pointers on how to make things as comfortable as possible.
Don’t worry about laying on your belly and squishing your baby. It is fine to sleep on your stomach during your early pregnancy, but as your belly expands, it just won’t be comfortable, or even possible, to sleep on your tummy. Around 20 weeks is when I recommend sleeping on your side. Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is to make yourself a nice pillow fort! A pillow between your knees and one behind your back go a long way to helping you sleep at night, or you can try one of the many body pillows on the market now.
Plan for a drastic change in your schedule and finances. Obviously, babies are expensive and take up lots of time. Preparing for this sea of change in advance is critical, and much more important, although not nearly as fun, than decorating a nursery or perusing a baby name book. Maternity leave, paternity leave, scheduling overnight responsibilities, child care, budgeting, etc., are all important to consider. It is best to start nailing these down as soon as possible.
Don’t worry about unsolicited parenting advice from friends and family (or even strangers!). A pregnant woman is a homing beacon for unsolicited advice. For many people, despite their best intentions, conversing with a pregnant woman is an excuse to unload a litany of personal anecdotes about parenting, advice that is most likely out of date, and lots of “you’ll see”‘s: Oh, you think you’re tired now? YOU’LL SEE! Friends and family are a godsend when you have specific questions or need someone to talk to, but just remember to be confident in yourself and what you think is best for your baby.
Plan for a beautiful, challenging, amazing, frustrating, scary, enlightening, and life-changing experience. Of course, remember to discuss any issues with your OB along the way.
Originally published at Tips for the First Few Months of Pregnancy: