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:
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.