Personal & Compassionate Care in a Difficult Time
During pregnancy it is especially important that you start taking care of yourself, both physically and emotionally. For the majority of women, pregnancy can be healthy and uncomplicated. The baby is rapidly developing inside of your womb and depends on you for three things: oxygen, nutrition, and protection. Only YOU can provide your baby with these things. Your chances of having a healthy, problem free pregnancy and a healthy baby will increase if you follow these helpful tips.
- Get early prenatal care – If money is a concern, we have resources that can help you get medical insurance at no cost to you. We also have a list of doctors and can help you choose one that is right for you. Schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Be sure and take a list of questions and concerns along with you.
- Get tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections – STIs can harm an unborn baby if you do not get treatment. If there is any chance at all that you might have been exposed to an STI, let your doctor know immediately and get tested.
- Stop using harmful substances – A baby is most vulnerable during the first few months after conception. Illicit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes should be avoided at all costs. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause your baby to have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS suffer from mental and growth retardation, behavioral problems, heart defects and facial defects. Smoking increases your risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, abnormal placental implantation, premature placental detachment, vaginal bleeding, premature delivery and infant death. Smoking 20 or more cigarettes per day during pregnancy have been linked to babies born with cleft lip or palate.
- Watch what you eat – Practicing good nutrition early on in your pregnancy significantly reduces the risk of certain birth defects and pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and a low birth-weight baby. You will need to increase your protein and calorie intake as well as key nutrients such as folic acid, iron, calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Stay away from undercooked eggs and meat, unpasteurized milk and juice, raw seafood, and soft cheeses to avoid ingesting bacteria that could harm your baby.
- Take prenatal vitamins – Talk to you doctor about choosing a vitamin that is best for you. It should contain folic acid, iron and calcium along with many other nutrients.
- Engage in regular exercise – Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. Getting a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week can help you maintain a healthy pregnancy. Great pregnancy exercises include brisk walking, swimming and stationary cycling. Some exercise cautions include: avoid getting overheated, do not let your heart rate exceed 140 beats per minute, avoid heavy lifting, do not let your self get exhausted, you should be able to talk without being out of breath and avoid contact and hazardous sports.
- Cut back on caffeine – High intake of caffeine during pregnancy has been linked to a decrease in birth weight and may also increase the risk of miscarriage. If you must have caffeine, limit yourself to 1-2 cups per day.
- Get plenty of rest – Listen to your body. If you are tired, take a nap, or relax and put your feet up. You need to rest, stay hydrated, get enough food, and simplify your life as much as possible.
STIs in Pregnancy
Most doctors routinely screen for HIV and syphilis during an early prenatal visit. Ask your doctor about getting tested for these other STIs. Even if you have been treated in the past for a STI, when you are pregnant, you should be tested again. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginosis, syphilis and trichomoniasis can be treated and cured with antibiotics during pregnancy. However, there is no cure for viral STIs. These include genital herpes and HPV, hepatitis B, and HIV. Sometimes symptoms can be controlled with medications. It is very important to receive early prenatal care. Your doctor will discuss all of your options with you. Call your doctor immediately if you suspect that you may have a STI or if you have had sex with a partner who may have a STI. This way you can make sure you are treated promptly for your health and the health of your baby.
Chances are that this was not a planned pregnancy. You are probably going through many emotional and physical changes. Here is an opportunity to bring good out of this situation. You can have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby. If you are already far along in your pregnancy, it is never too late to start taking of yourself and your baby.
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Trends in Reportable Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States, 2005. December 2006.)
Lowdermilk, D., & Perry, S. (2003). Maternity Nursing. St. Louis: Mosby.
Focus on the Family. (2003). Healthy Pregnancy (1st ed.).
Watson, S (2006). 8 steps to a Healthy Pregnancy. Retrieved December 9, 2008, from www.happyhealthypregnancy.com.
CDC, (Oct. 5 2005). ABCs of a Healthy Pregnancy. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, retrieved Dec 12, 2008, from www.cdc.gov.