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. It can take a while to find a doctor, so start to look early. You will want to have a doctor for your baby before the birth. 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. Everyone is different, and everyone has different nutrition needs, so talk to your doctor about how much weight to gain. 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 to see if you qualify.
Other Healthy Habits to Start Now
Get help to quit. Smoking, drinking or using drugs can cause serious health problems for you and your baby. Many women find that pregnancy gives them powerful reasons to quit. Visit MotherToBaby for information about the effects of medicines and other substances during pregnancy. Contact the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline for help to quit smoking. For help finding a drug or alcohol treatment program, visit the Arizona Substance Abuse Prevention website.
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
- You may feel very 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 high- protein foods, like yogurt and cheese.
- If morning sickness makes you vomit, rinse your mouth with fluoride mouthwash. Vomiting softens the outer layer of your teeth, 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. © 2018 The Regents of the University of California. Additional video, graphic and other content © 2018 First Things First. All rights reserved.