So many pregnant women worry about their health, their finances and their relationships. Our seven tips can help you turn around that mindset.
When you're expecting, there's plenty of stuff to worry about: Is that cheese pasteurized? Will my baby be healthy? What if I'm not a good mom? While fretting is normal during such an important time in your life, the best thing for you and your baby is to try to accentuate the positive.
"Excessive worrying and negative feelings take a physical, mental and emotional toll on a pregnant woman," says Irene E. Aga, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "A woman with a positive attitude can focus on eating well, sleeping enough and staying active. She is also able to focus on the miraculous changes within her body and on the developing relationship with her unborn infant."
Having a positive attitude doesn't mean burying your head (and your negative feelings) in the sand. You experience a lot of changes during pregnancy, many of which understandably cause stress. "It's not possible for a pregnant woman to ignore these issues," Aga says. "She can, however, control how she handles stress. Exercise, prayer and meditation are all helpful. I also encourage women to discuss their concerns with their partners, families and doctors and to seek the support they need."
So ditch the negative thoughts—I can't do this, I'm afraid of that—and adopt a glass-half-full attitude. Our seven positive affirmations and expert advice will help you overcome a negative mindset and empower you to have a healthy, happy and successful pregnancy.
Ditch the negative: "I'm already pregnant, so it's too late to change my unhealthy habits."
Adopt the positive: "It's not too late to give my baby the healthiest start possible."
How to make it happen: A study conducted at Kaiser Permanente Northern California found that pregnant women who received treatment for cigarette, alcohol or drug use early in their pregnancies achieved the same outcomes, in terms of their babies' health and their own, as women with no substance abuse problems.
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"Quitting smoking and drinking alcohol at any time all benefit the pregnancy as well as your long-term health," says Eva K. Pressman, M.D., director of obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine at the University of Rochester in New york. If you need help, ask your doctor for a referral to a tobacco-, drug- or alcohol-cessation program or, if junk food is your vice, a registered dietitian.
Ditch the negative: "I don't have lots of family or other support, so I'm on my own."
Adopt the positive: "I'll start building a support network now so I'll have the help I need before I give birth."
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How to make it happen: Pregnancy, delivery and new motherhood are so much easier when you have a "tribe" behind you. If you don't have the built-in support of family and friends, start working now to put one in place.
"There are several places and ways a pregnant woman might find support and possibly new friends," says certified nurse-midwife Tina London, C.N.M., a clinical faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh. Open up to people in your prenatal yoga, breastfeeding and childbirth education classes, your neighborhood and church. "Many communities have organizations with spaces dedicated to parents mingling and children playing," London says. When you find other women who are short on support, reach out and start building a network.
Ditch the negative: "I had lousy parents who were bad role models, so I'm going to be one, too."
Adopt the positive: "I will be the parent I want to be."
How to make it happen: If you're feeling unnerved about becoming a parent, relax—it's normal. "You probably will be overwhelmed by motherhood—all the best moms are," says Aga. If you're not sure how to be a good parent, educate yourself. get trustworthy childcare information from authoritative books and classes, and spend time with the real experts—people whose parenting style you admire. "Don't be afraid to ask for help," Aga adds. "Talk to other new mothers. It's comforting to hear how others have dealt with the difficulty of being a new mom."
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Ditch the negative: "I'm broke now. how can I cover the expenses of having a child?"
Adopt the positive: "With smart planning, I will figure out a way to get my finances in order."
How to make it happen: One of the best money savers is buying or borrowing secondhand baby clothes, toys and equipment instead of new. You can also mix pricey items with more affordable picks. But here's what you need to do now:
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Buy life insurance A 20-year term policy is a great choice, says Liza Weiman hanks, author of The Busy Family's Guide to Estate Planning (Nolo). "You lock in the best rate when you're young and healthy." Aim to buy enough insurance so that the interest on the principal will cover your expenses, make sure both parents are insured and don't count on workplace insurance because jobs end.
Create a will You need to think ahead and designate guardianship of your child. To save on attorney fees, try using Quicken WillMaker software.
Check out a 529 college savings plan Most states allow small deposits, and your money grows tax-free.
Check your insurance policy Read the fine print and don't assume that your baby will be covered.
Ditch the negative: "My weight or health problems are going to make my pregnancy difficult."
Adopt the positive: "With my doctor's help, I will manage my health and have a healthy pregnancy."
How to make it happen: If you're overweight, sedentary or have a pre-existing health condition such as diabetes or thyroid disease, talk with your doctor right away about addressing these concerns. Overweight women can safely gain as little as 15 pounds with smart eating and exercise habits, obese women even less.
Don't believe the old thinking about not starting an exercise program during pregnancy. "It would probably not be wise to begin a very aggressive aerobic regimen, but light walking is always a good idea if the pregnancy is uncomplicated," says Edmund F. Funai, M.D., professor and associate dean of obstetrics and gynecology at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. "Your body is very good at telling you when you are doing too much."
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As for any pre-existing medical conditions you may have: Make sure you're getting the care you need, for your and your baby's sake. "It is important to be followed by an obstetrician who manages high-risk pregnancies," says Linda Szymanski, M.D., assistant professor in the division of maternal-fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. "Dialogue and co- management among the obstetrician and other care providers during pregnancy is critical."
Ditch the negative: "I just know something's going to go wrong with the pregnancy and baby."
Adopt the positive: "I will have a healthy (and happy) pregnancy and baby."
How to make it happen: Pregnancy complications and birth defects are every pregnant woman's nightmare. But the truth is that both are relatively rare, particularly if you eat right, exercise, take prenatal vitamins and get good prenatal care. "The majority of all pregnancies—better than 90 percent—go on to a healthy outcome once you pass the first trimester," says Funai. "And for the other 10 percent or so that are complicated, there have been some great advances in the care of problems such as hypertension and diabetes, so that most of these women do well, too." As for birth defects, only 1 out of 33 babies has one, and many are very minor and can be ignored or corrected.
Ditch the negative: "If I end up having to get an epidural or a Cesarean section, my dream of having a meaningful delivery will be ruined."
Adopt the positive: "I will have a positive delivery experience even if things don't go exactly as planned."
How to make it happen: You probably have very specific ideas about where and how you want to labor, whether you want pain medication and how you want to deliver. Labor nurses, midwives and obstetricians try hard to honor these preferences. But complications sometimes arise, and even the best-planned natural delivery can go high-tech faster than you can say, "Gimme an epidural!" It's normal to feel disappointed if you require an unexpected pain blocker or a C-section; but rather than thinking of it as a failure, consider it an alternate path to a safe delivery.
Deliveries cannot be choreographed ahead of time, no matter how much you plan, explains Tracy Flanagan, M.D., director of women's health for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. "How a woman's labor will progress and how the baby is doing inside the womb can change at any time during labor," she says. "Having a discussion about these possibilities with your care provider ahead of time can help you prepare."
Regardless of how it transpires, you can still feel great about your baby's birth. Focus on flexibility, prepare yourself for the possibilities that might materialize and remember the goal—a healthy baby.