Disclaimer: The Better Homemaking Network does not represent any doctors nor nutritionists. This is a compilation of advice and experience only; the best advice will be to discuss everything with your doctor!
Congratulations on the new life growing within! Your brain will now be running nonstop thinking of all the things that you need to accomplish before the baby is born. You’ll also be bombarded with advice, both reasonable and absurd. Fielding the comments can be stressful, too, especially since it seems the general population lose their manners when discussing your pregnancy! There are many things to do once you find out you are pregnant, and we’ve compiled a list of the most important things to know, buy, and do right away, and a list of things to discuss with your doctor.
So what is most important to do immediately after discovering the big news? Keep yourself – and that baby – healthy! Many women – new moms, especially – have no idea that there are now foods you should avoid, exercises to modify, and other lifestyle changes that need to happen as soon as possible in order to insure the best possible outcome for both you and the new life that you are creating inside you.
1. Medications. Of course, everything should be reviewed with your doctor, but there are a few things you need to stop right away: Aspirin, Aleve, and Advil (ibuprofen); most decongestants, antihistamines, and cold medicines; fenugreek (sorry lactating moms), and many herbal supplements. Contact your doctor immediately regarding any prescription medication; he can advise you on what to do prior to your appointment. Make a complete list of all medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements that you normally take. Be sure to add ingredient labels from any herbal teas you drink, too. You are going to need this for your doctors to review. Dr. Oz suggests that anyone taking three or more pills a day runs a 90% chance of having a drug interaction! So this is good advice for anyone. Always have this list with you whenever you visit any of your doctors so they can review it, especially if you start or change medications.
2. Vitamins. Get sufficient folic acid and iron in your diet. Folic acid is the substance from which DNA is built. When that is gone, it starts grabbing whatever is there, and can cause errors in the process. This is quite scary when you think about DNA being the computer program for building your entire body! Iron is important in creating blood, and Calcium is needed to build bones, both for you and the baby. Start a vitamin regimen if you haven’t already. If nothing else, take a 400mg folic acid once a day. I personally do not take prenatal vitamins, not only because of the soy content in nearly all of them, but because the iron in them tends to make my stomach hurt. (It tends to constipate, too.) I have my OB keep an eye on my iron levels, and have promised him that if they are ever low, I will take a supplement, but it hasn’t happened yet! There may be prenatal vitamins with no or low doses of iron, and that is what I would suggest to start with. Chewable Tums are very handy; just munch on one with breakfast and dinner to supplement your calcium. In addition to this, add high-quality sources of folic acid and iron to your diet. Cook with an iron skillet if you have one. Be sure to get some red meat at least every other day. Oranges, beans, and green leafy vegetables are winners, too. It is always best to get your vitamins from the real thing, and it doesn’t hurt your tummy, either! Add a B-complex to your vitamins as well, if you aren’t taking a prenatal or multivitamin. More on that next:
3. Nausea. Help to keep nausea at bay. It can be caused by your body’s reaction to the new levels of hormones, and is different for everyone and with each pregnancy. Although it is recommended that everyone eat frequent, small meals throughout the day, this is even more important when pregnant. It helps to always have a little something in your stomach; never let yourself get hungry. Don’t eat huge meals, either; not only does this help with nausea at the beginning of your pregnancy, but you will appreciate being used to the idea when the baby is crowding your organs and reflux can be an occasional problem. So spread out your meals all throughout the day, even more so than you normally would. Spicy foods won’t hurt, but judge how you feel; your tolerance may change as time goes by. Add ginger to your diet, too; either fresh, as a spice, or herbal tea. It is a natural nausea remedy. Even ginger ale is good; find natural soda that uses real ginger, and avoid the high fructose corn syrup. Keep saltines and peppermint candy available, and have some in your purse. Getting enough B vitamins both before and during your pregnancy is said to help prevent queasiness, as well. Have some anti-nausea medication handy, too, such as Emetrol and your basic antacid.
4. Food. Avoid cold deli meats such as salami, pastrami, bologna, and hot dogs. (If you heat them well it should be okay.) Don’t eat soft cheeses unless it says pasteurized on the label. Avoid fish high in mercury content, such as swordfish, shark, tilefish, mackerel, tuna, and albacore. (Canned chunk light tuna is fine once a week.) Avoid raw sushi from untrustworthy sources. Don’t eat raw eggs and watch out for fresh Caesar dressing. (Eating a fully-cooked egg three times a week is a good idea; there are lots of good nutrients for both you and baby.) Toss out the artificial sugars; avoid saccharin (Sweet and Low) and aspartame (Nutrasweet) entirely. Definitely avoid anything you are allergic to; you will be even more sensitive to it. It is suggested to avoid peanut butter, but there is very little proof that it causes the baby to have allergies, and it is a good protein source. Although there is no way for peanut butter to “cross over” into the baby’s bloodstream, you may want to avoid it if your husband has any extreme nut allergies. I’d probably avoid anything that he was extremely allergic to. I would consider adding some prunes to your diet; being pregnant tends to stop you up a bit! Find prunes that aren’t processed with chemicals, and munch on two or three as a before- or after-breakfast snack. Knowing where to find good-quality prunes will be handy for making baby food in a little over a year, too! Be sure you are drinking enough water; it is easy to get dehydrated when so much is being used to create fluids for your baby, and you’ll be using it to flush waste from two bodies, now!
Stop drinking, stop smoking, and stop drinking caffeinated drinks. Alcohol, even in tiny amounts, has been proven very harmful to the fetus. Caffeine can cause miscarriage and preterm labor. I won’t go into the opinions and issues here, but my advice is to stop them altogether. Dr. Oz has some great suggestions on breaking the habits in 28 days.
5. Exercise. For the most part, keep with your regular exercise program, as long as it isn’t too rigorous. Don’t scuba dive, water ski, or jump into a pool, although swimming is okay. Discontinue any contact sports, weight training, and anything that has a risk of falling. Your balance will quickly become an issue as the weight distribution of your body gets rather funky. If you haven’t been exercising, try to at least walk 30 minutes a day, do some abdominal crunches (not too many, maybe 10-20 a day), and practice pelvic tilts to strengthen the pelvic floor. Get a yoga ball, sit on it, and rock your hips back and forth. The ball will become useful for the crunches later on, when you can’t lay on your back. Try not to stand in one place for very long. Some adjustments that may need to be made: Hang onto something with any balancing exercises, avoid standing still while doing upper-body exercises (sitting is ok, the yoga ball works), and keep everything low-impact. Strength training is still okay, but never use more than 2-lb weights, and switch to 1-pound weights about halfway through your pregnancy. (Basically don’t carry anything that would hurt the baby if you dropped it on your tummy.) You can do exercises on your back and stomach until they are uncomfortable, actually, but be thinking about exercise adjustments to avoid laying flat on your back. Be sure to stretch, too, and be careful not to overdo it – being pregnant releases a chemical that relaxes your muscles and you will be able to stretch farther than you normally would. You should discuss your exercise plans with your doctor during your first visit.
6. Dental. Take care of your teeth, and be sure to floss every day. Tooth plaque has been linked with not only heart disease, but miscarriages, as well. Cancel any X-rays, and only schedule required dentist visits during the second trimester. Get your OB’s approval!
7. Chiropractor. If you haven’t found one, find a good one. It will feel good to get adjusted every month or two as hormones make your joints relax and you put more stress on your spine as your pregnancy progresses. I managed to squeak by an entire pregnancy with no back pain, largely due to regular adjustments.
8. Cats. Stop cleaning the litterbox. Okay, make sure it GETS cleaned, but avoid doing it yourself, unless you wear a mask and gloves. Toxoplasmosis is carried in cat feces and can cause birth defects. No, you don’t have to get rid of the cats! (I have fourteen!) As long as you are reasonably careful, there is very little risk, especially if your cats are kept indoors. My OB runs a test for immunity, and seeing as how I have had cats all my life and have participated in kitten rescue for seven years, we expected that I would have it. (Normally humans who are exposed just develop antibodies and never know or need to worry about it.) Amazingly enough, I have never been exposed! As a matter of fact, with the thousands of cats that come through our rescue, we’ve only had one case, and he wasn’t one of my fosters. So even though there is little worry about a rare occurrence, it is best to be safe, and assign litterbox duties to your husband for the next nine months. What has helped us is the Cat Genie, which is an automatic litterbox that hooks up to your plumbing. All I have to do is push a button! (You can use code F18914 for an extra $30 off.)
9. Miscellaneous. Avoid hot tubs and saunas, and limit your warm baths to 100 degrees. If you paint your house, use water-based paint and ventilate well. Try not to pump your own gas.
10. Shopping. You won’t need to worry about baby clothes quite yet, but it is good to get some things done now to be prepared. During the first trimester you may feel like someone has thrown your emergency brake without telling you; this is the period to concentrate on items you need for your own comfort. Don’t worry about the baby supplies just yet; if you have fatigue, it should likely dissipate during the second trimester, when you will have more energy to prepare for the new arrival. Here is our suggested shopping list for the first trimester:
- Body Lotion – get something you really like, and start using it after your bath or shower, both on your tummy and breasts. There are mixed opinions on whether this helps prevent or reduce stretch marks, but any moisture and elasticity you help your skin retain has to be a benefit!
- Yoga Ball – very useful for low-impact exercises, stretching, crunches off the floor, and pelvic tilts.
- Body Pillow – you’ll start needing props to stay comfortable at night, especially if you’re not used to sleeping on your side. You might end up needing two if Daddy starts confiscating it!
- Parenting Book for Dad – we like The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be – it is lighthearted, funny, and loaded with good info for dads, written by a dad.
- Pregnancy Book – there are a lot of books out there; our favorite is The Pregnancy Journal: A Day-to-Day Guide to a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy – it doesn’t get into scary what-if scenarios, and gives a good detail on what to expect and what is going on with the baby. Great fun to read a daily update for the entire family, and has places to take notes, too.
- Pregnancy Journal – get a diary or program and keep track of how you feel, ideas you have, and anything else that comes to mind.
- Tub or Pool thermometer (for making sure your baths aren’t too hot)
- Prunes (chemical-free and no added sugar; you may need premium or organic varieties)
- Ginger Ale (real ginger)
- Anti-Nausea medication (Emetrol)
- Tucks (or other medicated wipe with witch hazel) – useful now and after birth.
- Prenatal or other vitamins (pending your doctor’s advice)
- Maternity pants – find a couple of cute pairs now, before you have to leave the house in sweatpants or pajamas!
11. Doctor’s appointments. Again, with the doctor! Have we convinced you that this is important, yet? Call your family doctor and schedule a checkup and an official pregnancy test as soon as possible. Find out when your Obstetrician wants to see you for the first time. You’ll want an ultrasound at around six weeks to be sure all is well; ask your Obstetrician about scheduling this to comply with your insurance. You’ll get a pretty accurate due date from this, too.
If you have any belly pain at all, especially at this early stage, call your doctor immediately. It could be a sign of a tubal pregnancy or other complications.
Have a notepad in your purse or a special place on your phone to write down questions as you think of them, and review this list during every visit. Print this article out and highlight any questions you may have, but be sure to discuss the following items right away, both with your family doctor, then with your obstetrician:
- Medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements: what are you currently taking, what changes should be made.
- Exercise; discuss what you do currently and what changes you’d like to make.
- Alcohol drinking, smoking, caffeinated drinks.Foods to avoid; foods to eat!
- Nausea concerns and recommendations.
- Dental appointments.
- Add to your list the date of the first day of your last period; everyone will ask this!
Hopefully this has helped to enlighten your mind, alleviate some stress, and allowed you to concentrate on the most joyful process of creating a new life!