prenatal care
prenatal care

Get Ready For Your Pregnancy With These Prenatal Care Tips

Posted on April 14, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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Whether you've been planning a pregnancy or it comes as a surprise, it's natural to wonder "what should I do?" when you find out that you're expecting.

"Pregnancy is an exciting time that's full of tremendous changes," says Nicole Dolan, D.O., an obstetrician/gynecologist at Henry Ford Health. "But it's also a time when your body is more vulnerable and may need a little extra attention."

Newly Pregnant To-Do's

During the early days of pregnancy, a lot is happening for both you and your baby — the most critical time of development for your baby is between 8 and 15 weeks. So it's important to become aware of your pregnancy as early as possible so you can take steps to safeguard your baby's health and your own. Here's how:

 

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  • Start taking prenatal vitamins. Ideally, you’d start taking prenatal vitamins a few months before conception. But if you have a surprise pregnancy, don't fret. Just start taking prenatal vitamins immediately. During the early weeks of your pregnancy, your baby's most important structures, including the heart, are forming. You need to make sure you and your baby are getting the nutrients you both need to thrive.
  • Make an appointment with an obstetrician. In a perfect world, you'd have an established relationship with an OB/GYN before you become pregnant. If that's not the case, get on board with an OB as soon as you realize you're expecting. "We like to see newly pregnant patients as early as 6 to 8 weeks for a first visit, including prenatal labs, physical exam and a first ultrasound," says Dr. Dolan. "'Late prenatal care is a risk factor for pregnancy, so it's important to establish care with a physician and attend your scheduled follow-up visits."
  • Drink more water. Expecting moms should drink at least eight glasses of water daily (each 8 ounces). The goal is to ensure your urine is clear, not yellow or brown. "In addition to supporting the extra blood volume required of your body during pregnancy, drinking sufficient fluids can help alleviate nausea, headaches and other pregnancy symptoms," Dr. Dolan says.
  • Cut out alcohol. It's not uncommon for newly expecting women to recall drinking alcohol in the days and weeks before they discovered they were pregnant. The same holds true for medications that are not recommended during pregnancy (Nyquil, we're looking at you!). "The truth is, small or infrequent exposure to these substances before a woman realizes she's pregnant will rarely cause lasting problems," Dr. Dolan says.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking and vaping are associated with a variety of ill effects for both moms and babies. Babies born to smokers are more likely to suffer from low birth weight, prematurity, even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). And smoking doubles moms' risk of abnormal bleeding during pregnancy and delivery. If you're a smoker, contact the National Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) — and stop immediately.
  • Limit caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. It can also cross the placenta, keeping both you and your baby awake. Health authorities from the American Pregnancy Association to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend limiting caffeine to no more than 200 mg daily (about the amount in two cups of coffee).
  • Developing A Healthy Lifestyle During Pregnancy

    No matter when you discover you're pregnant, it's important to implement certain lifestyle changes that will support your growing body. In general, women require about 300 extra calories per day during pregnancy, preferably from nutrient-rich sources, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.

    "Your doctor will give you handouts about what to eat and what to avoid during pregnancy," Dr. Dolan says. "You'll learn why it's important to avoid alcohol and limit caffeine, and you'll discover which foods are off-limits, such as certain types of fish and cheese, raw milk and lunch meat."

    In addition to eating a whole foods diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, it's important to exercise, particularly during the first trimester, and attend all of your prenatal appointments.

    Pay Attention To Risk Factors

    Whether your pregnancy is low- or high-risk, there are plenty of supports in place to help you achieve the best birth possible. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor for referrals to lactation specialists (you can meet with them well before delivery), doulas (to help with the birthing process, particularly if you're hoping for a "natural birth") and nutritionists (to ensure your diet is up to snuff).

    "Pregnancy can be a confusing and emotional time for women," Dr. Dolan says. "It's a major life change." Working with a mental health professional who specializes in pregnancy can help women feel more in control during a time when their bodies and minds are changing.

    Think you may need special attention? Certain factors may place you at increased risk of a complicated pregnancy, including advanced maternal age. While health authorities commonly cite 35 as the age when pregnancy becomes riskier, that number is arbitrary. "We start to get concerned when women are over 40, often because they're at higher risk of pre-existing conditions," Dr. Dolan says.

    Other risk factors include:

    • Pre-existing diabetes
    • Pre-existing high blood pressure
    • A history of complicated pregnancies
    • Carrying multiple babies

    "Contact your physician, even before your first prenatal visit, if you are taking prescription medications," Dr. Dolan says. "In some cases, your medications may not be safe during pregnancy and your doctor will change your prescription."


    Dr. Nicole Dolan is an OB/GYN who sees patients at Henry Ford Macomb Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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