Regardless of whether you are carrying your own pregnancy or are a gestational surrogate being prepared for a baby should begin at least three months before conception occurs. It’s kind of like scouting – “Always be prepared!” The results are better for you and the baby – healthy you means healthy baby.
This means interview and visit the OBGYN that will be following you through your pregnancy. At this time you will discuss your personal health history, your families personal health history – like how were your mother’s pregnancies, how were her deliveries, did every female in your family deliver early, or require a C-section, or develop gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. This is also the time to make sure all your vaccines are up to date, especially rubella and chicken pox. These vaccines can’t be given during pregnancy and its bad news to contract these two diseases while pregnant. Your OBGYN might talk to you about things like – if you have a cat someone else will need to change the litter due to a bug in cat poop called toxoplasmosis. If you contract that during pregnancy it can be life-threatening to little developing babies – and because of that pregnant women are advised to wear gloves when we garden and not to eat meat that’s undercooked – it won’t kill you to eat medium well steak throughout your pregnancy – honest. You might talk about potential weight gain, receive a prescription for prenatal vitamins and be advised to see the dentist before conception – this makes sure your teeth are ship-shape.
Okay so the day has come and the pregnancy test is positive – now what?
Keep it simple, and keep your stress at bay. We hear about stress all the time – how much is too much? There’s good stress and bad stress. Deciding how much is too much is a hard call. We live in a world today that requires so much out of us – careers, family demands, going to school, navigating through infertility, it all adds up. And let’s face it those of us career gals – changing careers or leaving our career to have a baby can really do a number on our stress levels. Can I hear an Amen to that?
It’s going to seem like forever before you meet your baby – we have been working towards and waiting for this goal for a very long time. But there’s a reason we don’t conceive and have a child in 7 days. Our bodies AND minds need to prepare and get ready. Things like being anxious about something as elementary as being a parent – you have 9 months to work that out. And take it from me – it’s a never ending worry – so you might as well get used to it. If you are worried about pregnancy or childbirth, again, you have 9 months to work through those anxieties, and work it out. You have 9 months to think about your career, and the other adjustments you will have to make about becoming a parent.
Most importantly we also know that chronic stress weakens our immune systems, can cause low birth weight, and in some instances can cause premature labor – so create boundaries that will work for you, stay Zen, mediate, see a therapist, lean on family or friends, but the bottom line do what you need to do to make your pregnancy as stress free as possible.
Eating right and eating well
While pregnancy isn’t the time to diet – it’s not the time to go overboard and disregard healthy eating. You have a baby on board – and the thought to always remember – what you eat the baby eats. So if you reach for the pop, candy, chips, and junk, you are feeding your baby that directly.
A balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and carbs will provide your baby with the nutrients they need to grow inside your belly. And don’t rely on just your prenatal vitamin to cover your nutritional needs – you need to combine your prenatal vitamin and a good diet to carry you through your pregnancy.
This means there are some no-no items that you should never ingest when you are pregnant. Anything that could possibly contain Listeria which is a bacteria that can cross the placenta and cause miscarriage. For instance any cheese that is NOT made from pasteurized milk don’t eat it. There are imported cheeses like brie, feta or camembert – if they are not pasteurized again don’t eat them. Read the package. Don’t eat raw eggs, raw milk, or any other kind of meat that’s raw. Steak tartar is a no-no. Leave the sashimi alone for 9 months, don’t eat homemade ice cream (raw eggs), and then there’s different kinds of fish and seafood which have high levels of mercury – you don’t eat those very often, and you read your labels.
This should be a no-brainer – do not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or use illegal or recreational drugs. When you smoke your baby smokes. When you drink your baby drinks. Now the jury’s out on coffee – we know that caffeine does go right to the baby’s blood stream lots of women continue to drink coffee throughout their pregnancy. Check with your doctor to learn what he or she thinks is an okay amount to drink.
Here is my PSA on water – 96 ounces of water a day keeps pre-term labor away. Dehydration is the leading cause of pre-term labor. Water is the body’s transportation system. It transports vitamins, nutrition and a whole bunch of other great things to your baby during pregnancy. So drink your water, eat water filled fruits and vegetables – watermelon, cucumbers, celery. Drink caffeine free herbal teas cleared by your doctor – and drink low fat milk. Just stay hydrated.
Let’s talk about over the counter meds for second
Before you start reaching for the Tylenol, allergy meds, or ibuprofen check with your doctor first. Again whatever you ingest goes right to the baby. I am sure you are wondering which medication is safe during pregnancy. Well here’s the deal – there’s no easy answer to all of this. The FDA labels the safety of prescription medication with the labels of A, B, C, D, or X. (Category A medications have not shown any risk to the fetus. Category B medications, which include ibuprofen, also are not believed to pose a risk to the fetus. Category C medications may cause complications for a baby in utero but haven’t really been studied in people. Category D medications, which include chemotherapy agents, present distinct health risks but may still be used in some instances. Category X drugs are known to cause birth defects and should never be used during pregnancy)
When in doubt call your OBGYN and ask.
Move that body of yours.
Once you get the green light from your doctor to exercise – like Nike says “Just do it” – not only is it safe it’s a fabulous idea! Why? Because 30 minutes of exercise each day really does help annoying things like constipation, backaches, it helps you sleep better, it improves your mood, and helps with fatigue. All of those common complaints of pregnancy. When we work out during pregnancy we are helping improve our strength and our muscle tone. This not only helps you with labor and delivery which is the equivalent of a half marathon it helps us pace ourselves, cope with the pain of the above and cuts our recovery time in half from delivery. In some cases exercise can help alleviate morning sickness.
Things like yoga, walking, and swimming help with blood pressure. Regardless of the kinds of exercise you choose to do whether you are a runner, or a weight lifter don’t overdo it – and check with your doctor.
Speaking of over doing it – we know when we are pregnant we don’t turn into these fragile flowers that will crumble the moment we break a sweat. But this isn’t the time to become “She-Ra” either. We know that just because we are pregnant life doesn’t just stop and say “Okay we will wait until morning sickness and fatigue are over” and many of us begin to make those “to do” lists and tackle those things we’ve been putting off. Regardless of what project you decide to take on, whether it be decorating a new nursery, cleaning out closets, reorganizing, or moving your house around learn to recognize when you are over doing it. For instance, if you being to feel faint or dizzy – STOP AND REST – HELLO? When that happens your body is telling you it needs more of that all-important oxygen rich blood because your body isn’t keeping up. Some of us get short of breath because the baby takes up space and our lungs squish – but if you have to catch your breath then you need to ease up on your activity level. The Mayo Clinic says don’t let your heart rate go above 140 beats per minute, and rest until it returns to normal.
And above all – STAY HYDRATED. If you are thirsty it’s your body’s way of saying “I am dehydrated!” So drink up.
Let’s talk about cravings
We all get them – they are a necessary evil of pregnancy! For a lot of pregnant women cravings of food that’s not wonderful for our body happens. You know the kind – stuff with lots of fat, rich foods, loads of sugar, high in carbs and salt? This isn’t a time to feel guilty – give in once in a while and indulge yourself with a treat. It’s really okay to have that chip, or cake, or macaroni and cheese –but make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet first.
When is a craving not a craving but something to talk to your doctor about? Sometimes women who crave ice cubes are really anemic. While ice cubes don’t do a thing for anemia many women who crave ice cubes are anemic. If you want salt it’s because your body is balancing the extra fluid it’s creating to host a pregnancy. If you crave non-food stuff like dirt, toothpaste, chalk or charcoal that’s something called “Pica”. This means that your body might be not getting enough of a specific vitamin or a mineral. Don’t give into those kinds of cravings – so don’t eat the above, talk to your doctor and see if you can troubleshoot the problem.
Get your Zzzzzz’s
The first trimester of pregnancy is infamous for exhaustion. We could easily sleep round the clock and then some. And rightly so – our body is going through so many changes, and let’s not forget about those pesky hormones. So sleep early and often – or when your body says to sleep, sleep.
During the second trimester we get a reprieve – albeit a small and brief one, but we do get a reprieve. While you may feel like you can conquer the world during this trimester, still bank on 8-9 hours of much needed sleep each night because by the time you hit the third trimester you are going to find that sleeping is harder to do especially during long stretches of time. For instance if you were a stomach sleeper, you can forget that. Now it’s on your right or left side – as sleeping on your back won’t work either because of the Vena Cava that runs down the underside of your uterus. Compressing that cuts off the blood supply to your baby and can make you feel dizzy or faint. Side sleeping is what you will need to do.
Insomnia is typical during pregnancy, our body is preparing to feed a new life every 2 hours. So Mother Nature was brilliant in designing our bodies to wake up frequently during the third trimester to prepare. That means you might be more tired and fatigued during the day. Rest anytime you can – nap during your lunch hour, or after work, or whenever – your body and mind will thank you later.
It’s okay to complain – no really it is.
It may have taken something short of a miracle to conceive but now that we are pregnant it doesn’t mean that we feel great all the time. It’s really feel thankful AND complain. The #1 ranking complaint – heartburn. This bad boy strikes any time during pregnancy but it will rear its ugly head as your belly gets bigger. Progesterone is a hormone that loosen the ligaments in our body to help our pelvis and uterus to expand to accommodate the baby. This also hormone also slows down digestion causing constipation, it also loosens the valve that keeps your stomach acids from coming back up through the esophagus causing GERD.
Keeping heartburn at bay we find that eating small meals during the day, sitting upright for an hour after a meal helps. Medications that your doctor says are okay help. If heartburn happens at night use extra pillows to prop your body up and allow you to sleep in a reclined position.
How about those leg cramps? Don’t you just love them – Not! These happen during the second and third trimesters the most. The reasons for leg cramps are vast – however, dehydration as well as the baby growing and putting pressure on our spine is the #1 cause. You can combat leg cramps with a preemptive strike — stretching, but don’t point your toes because that can cause a cramp. Walking helps, massaging your legs help, heating pads can help, so can a warm bath (but not too warm).
If your back hurts you – check out your foot wear. I know that high heels are cute, but get rid of them at least during your pregnancy. Wear a shoe that’s supportive. Now may also be the time to hit your partner up for a new bed. This would also be a great time to keep your posture in check, don’t sit at your desk for too long, stretch, walk around, move your body and circulate your blood.
During pregnancy we can be moody – with a capital “M”. We cry more easily, we are often anxious, overwhelmed and sometimes things just don’t make sense. This is the time when we need to be reaching out to friends, family, our care providers and those we trust for help.
Just remember – there are those before you who have gone through the same thing, and there will be those after you going through the same thing. You are not alone – you can do this – you are doing this – and whether you are a gestational surrogate or a first time mom – what you are experiencing is an amazing rite of passage – embrace it and savor it because you are amazing!