You’re pregnant. Once you processed that stunning fact, one question probably jumped straight to the top of your mind: Now what?
Over the coming months, you’ll have many plans to make and things to do. But what do you need to handle ASAP? Put these steps at the top of your pregnancy to-do list:
Get prenatal care. Schedule your first prenatal appointment as soon as you suspect that you’re pregnant. Getting regular prenatal care reduces health risks for both you and your baby. Your healthcare provider can make sure everything is going well and offer personalized advice.
Review your medicines. If you take any prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, or herbal products, discuss them with your provider. Some medicines are OK to take during pregnancy, but others may be harmful to your unborn baby.
Upgrade your diet. You need more protein, iron, and calcium now that you’re pregnant. In addition, the CDC recommends taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. Most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid.
Focus on food safety. To decrease the risk for foodborne illness, skip raw fish, undercooked meat, cold deli meat, and unpasteurized cheese. To reduce mercury exposure, don’t eat swordfish, shark, marlin, orange roughy, tilefish, or king mackerel, and limit albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week.
Avoid tobacco smoke. If you’re a smoker, there’s no better time to quit. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage, preterm birth, low birth weight, and certain birth defects. Ask your healthcare provider about strategies to help you quit, or get tips here. Stay away from secondhand smoke as well.
Stop drinking alcohol. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy puts your child at risk for lifelong learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and other health issues. To prevent such problems, it’s important not to drink at all. If that proves to be difficult, talk with your healthcare provider, or look for places to get treatment.
Be physically active, after checking with your provider first. Regular exercise helps get your body into shape for later pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Plus, it’s beneficial for your self-esteem and mood.
Nix toxic exposures. Steer clear of pesticides, solvents, lead, and radiation. If you have a job that brings you into contact with these things, work with your healthcare provider and employer to protect yourself and your baby.
Keep stress in check. Your life just changed dramatically, and your body is going through lots of changes as well. If you feel a bit stressed at times, that’s not unusual. Share your feelings with someone you can count on to be supportive. Find healthy ways to relax; for example, by going for walks, pursuing a hobby, practicing meditation, or spending time with friends.
Now that you’re pregnant, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. You’re making healthy decisions for two.