Pregnancy Health Care

Choosing a Healthcare Provider

Choosing the person or clinic that will provide your healthcare is an important decision. You and your partner may have specific ideas about how you want your pregnancy and labor to be, and you should select a healthcare provider who shares your philosophy. You want your pregnancy to be as comfortable as possible, both physically and emotionally, so choosing a healthcare provider who you trust and feel comfortable talking to is a healthy first step.

Your Pre-Pregnant Visit

It is a good idea to have a thorough physical examination, in which your healthcare provider checks your uterus and cervix, before you try to conceive. During this visit, you and your healthcare provider should talk about any previous or current medical conditions that could affect your pregnancy. You should also map out a basic plan for becoming as healthy as possible to prepare your body for pregnancy.

Your Prenatal Visit Schedule

Typically, in a pregnancy with no complications or special concerns, you will have healthcare appointments once a month until late pregnancy, twice a month during your seventh or eighth month, and every week after that until delivery. At these visits, your healthcare provider will check your weight, blood pressure, and urine. Your abdomen will be measured periodically to see how much your baby has grown. Pelvic exams and blood work are not usually done at every visit.

Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

Although we all hope for safe and healthy pregnancies, sometimes problems do arise. You can help yourself and your baby in the case of a problem if you are prepared for it. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Sharp or prolonged pain in your abdomen or severe cramping
  • Frequent uterine contractions
  • Any amount of bleeding from the vagina, rectum, nipples, or lungs (coughing up blood)
  • Absence of or decrease in the amount of fetal movement
  • Sudden gush of fluid from the vagina
  • Sudden significant weight gain
  • Severe or continuous headache
  • Vision problems: seeing spots or flashes of light; dimmed or blurred vision
  • Swelling of the face or hands or severe swelling of the legs
  • Severe or continuous vomiting
  • Chills or fever

You know your body best: if you feel that something is wrong, even if it isn’t on this list, contact your healthcare provider.

Nutrition During Pregnancy: Eating for Two

Nutrition is important before, during, and after pregnancy to ensure your and your baby’s health. All the nutrients your baby needs while in the womb come from you and the food you choose.

Eating for two does not mean eating two times the amount of food—your recommended intake of calories is only slightly higher (by about 300 calories a day) when you are pregnant, so it is important to make wise food choices. The goal is to eat highly nutritious foods while avoiding excessive calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.

Your New Nutritional Needs

The following nutrients are especially important for your baby’s growth and development in the womb:

  • Calories for extra energy
  • Protein for your baby’s new tissue growth
  • Calcium for building bones
  • Iron to develop your baby’s blood
  • Folate and B vitamins for cell growth
  • Zinc for cell growth and development
  • Fluids for increasing your blood supply to provide for your baby’s blood supply

Daily Serving Sizes

  • Meat & Meat Alternatives: 3–4 servings: 2–3 oz of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish; ½ cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 oz of lean meat
  • Vegetables: 3–5 servings: 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables; ½ cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw; ¾ cup of vegetable juice
  • Grains: 6–1 servings: 1 slice of bread; 1 oz of ready-to-eat cereal; ½ cup of cooked cereal, pasta, or rice
  • Fruits: 2–4 servings: 1 medium apple, banana, or orange; ½ cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit; ¾ cup of fruit juice
  • Milk & Milk Products: 4–6 servings: 1 cup of milk or yogurt; 1 ½ oz of cheese; 2 oz of processed cheese

Exercise

Being pregnant does not mean giving up all the physical activities you enjoyed before you conceived. In contrast, studies show that moderate exercise 3–4 times a week while you are pregnant:

  • Increases circulation.
  • Increases energy levels.
  • Eases leg cramps and backaches.
  • Helps relieve constipation.
  • Helps prepare your body for labor and birth.
  • Helps you get your figure back sooner after delivery.
  • Low-impact exercises like walking and no-impact exercises like swimming are best during pregnancy. Any exercises that involve bouncing or carrying weight can be harmful to you and your baby. Also refrain from engaging in any activity in which you could fall or suffer an impact, such as water or snow skiing, ice skating, diving, horseback riding, or rock climbing.

If you are not normally active, consult with your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program. All pregnant women, whether or not they exercised before their pregnancies, should avoid strenuous workouts or activities that put them in danger of falling or being hit. Below are some additional exercise guidelines:

  • Always warm up before you exercise and cool down at the end of your workout.
  • If you get tired, begin to feel dizzy, or get too hot, stop exercising. Don’t exercise if you are sick or have a fever.
  • Check your pulse frequently—if it gets above 140 beats a minute, quit exercising.
  • Stop exercising immediately if you experience any pain.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your workout.

Rest & Relaxation

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting and important times in your life. You are nurturing a new life, and sustaining that life requires a great deal from your body. Your hormone levels are fluctuating throughout your pregnancy. Your lungs are 30–40% above normal capacity, and your heart is pumping up to 50% more blood volume. By the time you deliver your baby, your ribs will have expanded 2–3 inches to allow for increased growth.

With all this activity inside your body it’s no wonder that you are probably exhausted! Make rest a priority during your pregnancy-resting is just as important for your body as getting enough exercise.

To Do List

  • Get enough sleep at night. Most pregnant women require about 8 hours of sleep each night, although your needs might be different.
  • Take frequent breaks, especially if you work on your feet all day. Sit or lie down and elevate your feet.
  • If possible, take a nap each day to replenish your energy.
  • When resting, use several pillows or a long body pillow to get as comfortable as possible. Some pregnant women find it easiest to sleep with pillows supporting their head, belly, back, and knees.
  • Practice relaxation and breathing techniques. These are particularly useful because you can do them almost anywhere.
  • Let other people help you! Accept offers from family and friends to help with housework or errands.

Sex During Pregnancy

Normally, sexual intercourse during pregnancy can’t hurt your baby or cause infection. Your healthcare provider may put restrictions on your sexual activity in early pregnancy if you have a history of miscarriages or in late pregnancy if you have a history of premature births.

Keep in mind that it is typical for pregnant women to undergo changes in how they feel about sex throughout their pregnancy. At times your sexual desire may increase; other times it may decrease.

Ask your healthcare provider if there is any reason you should restrict sex during pregnancy. Also be sure to stop having sex and to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you experience painful intercourse, bleeding, or signs of infection, or if your water breaks prematurely.