Over the next nine months you can expect a lot of changes in your body and your life. Here, we help you to navigate those new feelings and to ensure you don't miss any important pregnancy tips along the way from week one to delivery.
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Speak with your doctor about adding a prenatal multivitamin to your morning routine. At least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day can help prevent certain birth defects that affect your baby's brain, heart, and spinal cord, especially if you take it before you conceive and in the early weeks of your pregnancy. See that your supplements contain added goodies like calcium, iron, and Vitamin B12 as well.
Right now, you're just dying to find out: Am I pregnant or not? Unfortunately, you'll need to stick it out a bit longer. About four days after your egg is fertilized, it begins producing a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which pregnancy tests can detect in about another week -- first in your blood (via a test at your doctor's office) and then in your urine (which an at-home screening would spot).
Get yourself a good doctor -- pronto! Having a healthcare provider you like and trust is key. After all, this is the person who will guide you through your entire pregnancy, labor, and delivery, along with the millions of questions, tests, and emotional ups and downs along the way. If you don't currently have an ob-gyn you love, ask friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations or research practices until you find someone you feel comfortable with. And, hey, your choices are not limited to regular obstetricians. You might also want to investigate alternative or additional types of care -- including midwives or family physicians.
Don't be surprised if your doctor doesn't schedule an appointment to see you until your 8- to 12-week mark. Many healthcare practices have potential mommies-to-be come in for a blood test with a nurse first to confirm pregnancy and then wait until you're far enough along to better estimate your due date through an ultrasound test.
No matter how you're feeling, remember that getting enough sleep is a sure mood-booster. Eight hours or so of shut-eye can make a world of difference. And right now, you might feel like dozing off all the time -- at work, in front of the TV, in mid-sentence -- thanks to soaring progesterone levels, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and increased blood volume.
Granted, it's hard to focus on other people's feelings right now -- what with having to tend to your own tummy issues -- but there's a rather selfless question you'll want to ponder: How is your partner taking all of this? Some partners are super-supportive and ecstatic, while others may feel overwhelmed by the slew of changes taking place. It's perfectly normal for yours to suddenly obsess over the family finances or fixate on the idea of moving to a bigger home. (Just call it the male version of the nesting instinct.) Chat up your guy to feel out any of his worries or concerns. Goodness knows you're going to be counting on him to do the same for you.
Do something for yourself this week! It's easy to put all the focus on your baby these days -- and friends and family are probably doing the same thing. Indulge in some Me time before your baby arrives -- get a pedicure, immerse yourself in a good book, or take your dog for a long walk. Consider it part of your mama-to-be job to treat yourself. (Anything stress-relieving is good for you and baby, right?) No matter what, don't feel guilty about these occasional indulgences. If they make you feel good, they're totally worth it.
Start thinking about what you would do if your doctor suggests any sort of genetic test like CVS or amnio. They can bring up a round of questions. First, of course, is whether the benefits of having the test outweigh the possible health risks. It may take a long talk with your doctor or genetic counselor and plenty of mental wrangling on your own to decide. Other things for you and your partner to consider: Would you end your pregnancy if you discovered that your baby had a serious birth defect? If not, would it help to have this information in advance so you can prepare for a child with special needs? Odds are you'll never need to act on the answers to these questions (90 to 95 percent of pregnancies result in the safe delivery of healthy babies), but you may decide you're better off being prepared than caught off guard.
You'll finally get a peek at your baby this week! Your upcoming prenatal visit will include your first ultrasound. Your doctor will be able to point out fingers and toes, and you'll hear your baby's heartbeat. At this time, you may also need a nuchal translucency test, which can assess risks of Down syndrome, other chromosome abnormalities, and congenital heart problems.
Hello, cleavage! Spurred by the hormones progesterone and estrogen, your breasts (and the milk-producing glands inside them) may soon strain the buttons of your blouse. In fact, it may soon be time to shop for new bras. If you plan to breastfeed, we suggest heading straight to the nursing section. You'll need the easy access after the baby arrives, so you'll get more wear out nursing bras than you would regular maternity bras.
Many couples decide to break the news around the end of the first trimester. If you're not ready to spread the word yet, start thinking about how you'll spill the beans and get ready to tell your boss that you're pregnant. Handle it like any other important discussion: Set up a one-on-one -- and be prepared. Know your company's maternity leave policy beforehand. Reassure her that you'll be on top of things until you leave, that you'll help train whoever will be taking over your responsibilities, if possible, and that you'll be back at your desk before she knows it. Whatever you do, don't apologize or feel guilty for taking the time off that you deserve.
Now that you're regaining energy; take the opportunity to fit in exercise. Light-to-moderate exercise, if your doctor approves, can actually help your growing baby (it boosts circulation so she gets oxygen more quickly), and it can even cut down on many of those annoying pregnancy side effects such as varicose veins, backaches, bloating, and swelling. For healthy, active women, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends aiming for 30 minutes of moderate exercise (that means taking a walk, not training for a triathlon) on most, if not all days of the week.
Along with being known as the "feel good" trimester, trimester two is also considered the sexiest. Some women experience a boost in libido due to a hormonal change, and increased blood flow can also rev up arousal and improve orgasms. So unless your doctor has advised you against it, go ahead and indulge -- it's perfectly safe for your baby-to-be.
Even if you didn't experience constipation in the first trimester, you could experience it now as the hormone progesterone relaxes smooth muscle tissue throughout your body including your gastrointestinal tract which slows down digestion and also leads to gas, bloating, and burping. In fact, constipation affects about half of all pregnant women. Laxative pills or mineral oils aren't a good idea during pregnancy, but lots of fluids and fiber can help. To help remedy your stomach woes, it's a good idea to cut back on foods that make gas worse, such as beans, cabbage, and dairy products.
Wondering whether it's safe to eat fish? Your baby-to-be can benefit big-time from brain-boosting omega-3-rich fishes such as salmon. But some varieties should be avoided due to high levels of mercury, a pollutant that can affect baby's developing brain and nervous system. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advise pregnant women not to eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. In fact, most types of fish contain traces of mercury, so you'll want to limit your weekly consumption of safer varieties, too. According to the newest guidelines from the FDA, you can enjoy up to 12 ounces a week (roughly two average meals) of lower-mercury fish such as salmon, catfish, pollock, shrimp, and canned light tuna. Of those 12 ounces, only 6 should come from canned albacore tuna, chunk white tuna, and tuna steak combined, which tends to contain more mercury than light tuna. If you're eating fish caught in local waters, check online with your state's department of health for advisories.
Unfortunately, hemorrhoids are a common occurrence during pregnancy. The varicose veins in your rectum can swell up and cause discomfort. If you have them, talk to your doctor about over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams that might bring relief. And to keep them at bay, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, combat constipation with added fiber, and avoid straining when you go to the bathroom.
Pay attention when you pee, since moms-to-be are at an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs). These occur when bacteria builds up in your bladder, which is more likely to happen now because of hormonal changes. If you find yourself urinating much more often than usual or if it burns when you do, call your doctor. A dose of antibiotics should nip symptoms in the bud. Know you're prone to UTIs? Start sipping a daily glass of pure unsweetened cranberry juice; it contains bacteria-fighting compounds that may help head off infections.
Wacky, scary, vivid, and unsettling dreams are all totally normal during pregnancy. These dreams may be spurred by anxieties you have about motherhood or labor, along with insomnia, or trouble falling asleep. You can let your imagination run wild with these nightmares... or you can take a deep breath when you wake up and talk about your dreams with your partner or friends. If you rationalize your fears as they're surfacing in your subconscious, you can let go of some of your worries.
Feeling stressed? Be sure to take time to unwind, get enough sleep and fit regular exercise into your schedule now. Chronic high levels of stress and anxiety can have adverse effects on your pregnancy, including premature birth and low birth weight. Don't get too worried about worrying, though. Major life events such as a death in the family are more likely to have an impact on the baby than, say, getting stuck in traffic.
Tired of taking a back seat to your bump? The days of chatting about yourself or your favorite TV shows may seem long gone. Now all your friends want to talk about is your due date, the nursery, and baby names. If you're sick of dishing about your pregnancy, have a few hot conversation topics ready for your next dinner party.
Sleeping may be tough now and chances are it'll only get tougher as your belly grows. If you're struggling with insomnia, experiment with a few natural sleep remedies such as meditation, hot milk before bed, or with your doctor's okay, more exercise during the day to wear yourself out by bedtime.
Ease heartburn symptoms by tweaking the foods you eat and how you eat them. Stick to five or six smaller meals instead of three large ones -- less food in your tummy makes it easier to digest. Avoid fatty, fried foods, which take longer to break down, as well as things that are spicy, citrusy, or carbonated. Try to drink between meals instead of during them to avoid overloading your stomach. And stop eating a few hours before bed to prevent indigestion during sleep. If none of these strategies eases the discomfort, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter remedy. Antacids are generally safe for pregnant women, and some brands (such as Tums) deliver an extra calcium boost.
Edema -- aka the swelling of your hands and feet -- may make it hard to get your rings on and your shoes off these days. In fact, 75 percent of pregnant women experience this side effect. The excess fluid in your body often causes your hands, legs, ankles, and feet to swell. Be sure to drink lots of water to try to flush everything through your system. Support stockings can also help prevent swelling.
If your ever-growing bump is starting to get in the way of your fitness routine, take your workout to the pool. A big belly can make jogging or aerobics uncomfortable, but swimming will likely feel soothing as you move weightlessly through the water.
Prepare for the unexpected. Even though you've written your birth plan and have a vision of how your labor will go, very few deliveries are perfect. Knowing the signs of pre-term labor can help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with delivering early.
Do you know who'll be in your labor room? Some women decide to hire a doula to help support them during labor. More cheerleader than doctor, your doula's there to encourage you no matter what, though she won't actually deliver your baby. Many will also offer postpartum care (help with breastfeeding, swaddling, diaper-changing, and all those other baby basics that definitely take some time to master), which many new moms say is invaluable. Interested? Check out DONA International (www.dona.org) or the International Birth & Wellness Project (www.alace.org) for more info and to find one near you.
If you tap on your belly, your baby may kick or poke back at the same spot you touched. So neat -- you can play with your baby well before he's born! When he kicks, try rubbing your tummy and talking softly or singing -- you might just find that it calms him down.
Strangers on the subway reach out and touch your belly. A woman at the grocery store wrongly warns you against having sex ("It will make you go into early labor!"). Your neighbor asks if you're planning on circumcising your little boy (and clearly has strong opinions on the subject). Sound familiar? Now that your belly is front and center, chances are it'll attract a lot of attention and unwanted pregnancy advice. Just laugh it off and try not to let the comments worry or sway you. Your opinion and your doctor's are the only ones that matter; simply deem the rest amusing distractions.
As your due date approaches, it's a good idea to learn the signs of early labor, just in case. These include your water breaking (which could result in a gush of fluid or just a trickle), not-too-painful tightening of the uterus, period-like cramps, vaginal bleeding, increased pressure in the pelvic area, and diarrhea. With the exception of your water clearly breaking, don't worry too much if you experience one of these symptoms, since they don't always result in premature labor. But, to be on the safe side, do let your doctor know of your symptoms.
Nervous about working right up until your due date? Propose working from home a day or two during the last few weeks prior to taking off. It will help you ease into your leave without eating into your actual sanctioned time off. Oh, and don't forget to factor in any remaining vacation or sick days when you sit down with the calendar to hammer out your exit strategy; many companies will let you count them toward your time off.
Can't sleep? Regular exercise can help you snooze more soundly, so schedule a daily neighborhood stroll. Buy a body pillow to snuggle up to for extra support when you're side-sleeping. If heartburn's your big sleep stealer, try eating an earlier dinner -- minus heartburn triggers likes spicy, citrus, or carbonated food and drink of course. And you'll cut down on those six-times-a-night bathroom runs if you nix the water guzzling for at least an hour or two before you go to bed.
If you have a dog or cat, you'll need to help it adjust to the baby. You can try taking a new baby blanket to the hospital. Wrap your baby in it for a few hours so it has his scent. Then have your partner bring it home to let the dog get used to the baby's scent before you and Baby come home from the hospital. You'll also want to make sure your pets are up-to-date with vaccinations. And if your pet has picked up some bad habits, like biting or pouncing, use this time to break him of these habits before the baby arrives.
You've probably been wondering how you will know when it's actually, really, truly time. When you feel light twinges or cramps that are regular and strong and coming every four to five minutes for one to two hours, call your doctor. Another signal is a painless leaking of fluid -- it means your water broke (actually your amniotic sac rupturing). Even if you don't start having contractions immediately, your baby will need to be delivered in the next 12 to 24 hours to reduce the chance of infection.
Your baby could arrive any day now. Exciting, sure. Terrifying? Yes, definitely. But no matter how scared you might be, you're way better off knowing as much as you can about D-day. So remember: No one knows exactly what sets off the big event, but somehow your body knows when your baby's fully cooked, so it starts releasing chemicals (called prostaglandins) that thin, soften, and dilate your cervix. When produced in large amounts, these prostaglandins will trigger your uterus to start contracting, or making involuntary muscle movements to push your baby down and out. (At some point, your water will break, too, but this is more like a side effect of labor than an actual trigger.)
Many moms-to-be may find themselves in full-on nesting mode right now. Cleaning and straightening up is a great way to stay busy during the end-of-pregnancy waiting game, but make sure you don't overdo it -- hello, you're nine months pregnant! Save up some of that energy -- you're gonna need it for labor!
Even if you've been imagining for months how your labor will go, chances are it won't go anything like you've planned. For example, your water might break, but if you're not having any contractions, you might need to be induced. Or maybe your labor will progress so fast that there'll be no time for an epidural, even though you were planning on getting one as soon as you set foot in the hospital. Be prepared to go with whatever unfolds. And know that even if you do experience a little delivery-day drama it will all become a cherished and oft-recounted part of your baby's birth story.
Once you get to the hospital, a doctor will check things out down there to see how much your cervix has dilated. Once you reach 3 or 4 centimeters, you'll likely be offered an epidural to help manage the pain. (According to the many women who swear by them, the needle prick of the local anesthetic going in before they give you the epidural may be the most painful part of your entire labor.) Or, you may be set on delivering drug-free. No matter what you've planned or imagined, it's perfectly fine to change your mind at the last minute. It happens a lot!
When you think about what labor and delivery might be like, odds are you're not exactly fantasizing about having a C-section. (It is major surgery, after all.) So you may feel upset or disappointed if your doctor recommends one -- or seriously freaked if you're suddenly whisked into the operating room after hours of labor. While it's completely normal and valid to have these feelings, remember that what matters most isn't how you deliver your baby, but that he arrives healthy. It might help to discuss all those burning what-ifs with your doctor now, so you're at least somewhat prepared and know at what point or under what circumstances she'd consider performing one. The more informed you are, the easier your mind will rest.
Waiting beyond your due date can give you lots of time for thinking and stressing about everything that could go wrong. Keep your mind occupied by reading up on baby care instead. Once baby does decide to make an appearance, you'll be busy, so you'll thank yourself if you already know how to give him his first bath, how to prevent cradle cap, and more.
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