When you are pregnant, your body will change, and you will have many new feelings. Taking good care of yourself becomes more important than ever. Start getting health care as soon as you can. Research shows that the more you are cared for during pregnancy, the better you can care for your newborn.
Get Prenatal Care as Soon as You Can
As soon as you think you are pregnant, you should start getting regular medical check-ups. This is known as prenatal (before birth) care. Prenatal care is for both you and your baby. You can see a family practice doctor, or a doctor who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth (obstetrician-gynecologist). Or you can see a nurse midwife or nurse practitioner. For free and low-cost prenatal care, contact AHCCCS (Access).
Prenatal Health Care Visits
- At each visit, your doctor or other health care provider will check your health and your baby’s heartbeat and growth.
- She will test your blood for low iron, hepatitis B, diabetes and other problems. She can also test for HIV, tuberculosis and certain rare birth defects. Many of these problems can be treated.
- Ask about getting flu and Tdap vaccines. Tdap guards against whooping cough. These vaccines are safe during pregnancy.
- Tell your provider all the medicines, vitamins and herbs you take. Ask if they are safe to take during pregnancy.
- Say if you have back strain or are exposed to any chemicals or radiation at work.
Eat Right for Your Baby’s Health and Yours
Eating well helps keep you healthy. It is also important for your baby’s growth and development. For information on eating well while you are pregnant and breastfeeding, see the Choosemyplate.gov section for new mothers.
Prenatal vitamins provide extra folic acid, as well as calcium, iron and other vitamins and minerals that help your baby develop. Folic acid is a form of vitamin B. It helps prevent serious spinal problems. You can buy prenatal vitamins at a drugstore or ask your doctor to prescribe them
Help with Healthy Eating
WIC (Women Infants and Children) offers free classes on healthy eating and gives coupons to help you get healthy food. It is for women with low to middle incomes. Contact WIC or visit Arizona Self Help to see if you qualify.
How Much Weight Should I Gain?
It is dangerous to gain too much weight in pregnancy. It increases C-sections, high blood pressure and diabetes. Your baby is more likely to be obese and have diabetes. If you had a healthy weight before becoming pregnant, you should gain 25 to 35 pounds. Overweight women should gain less and underweight women should gain more. Talk to your doctor about how much weight to gain.
Other Healthy Habits to Start Now
Get help to quit. Smoking, drinking or using drugs can cause your baby to be born with serious problems. Many women find that pregnancy gives them powerful reasons to quit. Contact the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline for help to quit smoking. To find alcohol or drug treatment programs, try National Alcohol & Drug Information’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
Do gentle exercise. Activities like walking and swimming can help you stay healthy and have more energy. Ask your healthcare provider what kinds of activities are safe for you.
Take extra care of your gums and teeth. Gum disease may cause your baby to be born too early and too small. Try to see a dentist early in your pregnancy. Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day. See AHCCCS if you need help paying for dental care.
THINGS YOU CAN DO
- It’s normal to be tired, especially in the first trimester (first 13 weeks). Rest when you can.
- If you have morning sickness, eat something before you get up. Drink broth, herb tea or water with lemon. Eat small meals throughout the day. Eat foods rich in protein, like yogurt and cheese.
- If morning sickness makes you vomit, rinse your mouth with fluoride mouthwash. Vomiting softens tooth enamel, so it’s good to wait 30 minutes before you brush your teeth.
- If you have heartburn, eat small meals. Do not lie down after eating.
- Wear flat shoes with good support.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects.
- Try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees. In the third trimester, lie on your left side to help with blood flow to your baby.
Call your health care provider right away
- If you bleed or spot from your vagina or have strong cramps.
- If you suddenly gain a lot of weight or have swelling or strong headaches.
- If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant and have any signs of early labor: your uterus tightens, you feel pressure in your pelvis or you bleed or leak fluid from your vagina.
The First Things First Parent Kit was developed in partnership with Health Research for Action/UC Berkeley. © 2016 The Regents of the University of California. Additional video, graphic and other content © 2017 First Things First. All rights reserved.