Deciding to have a baby is a life-changing event. You know that once you’re pregnant there will be a lot of lifestyle changes. But did you know that most of those changes should happen before you’re even pregnant? The greatest risk to a fetus is in the first trimester —often before many women know they’re pregnant. When you start to think about having a baby, consider these steps:
Go to the doctor
Make an appointment with your primary health care provider or OB/GYN to schedule a complete physical and be up to date with routine exams. Talk to your doctor about whether or not any medications you are currently taking are safe to use in pregnancy.
Stop smoking & eliminate alcohol consumption
Smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be incredibly harmful to the developing fetus. These exposures can have detrimental effects to the pregnancy and some babies may be born with physical and intellectual disabilities. We don’t know what a safe amount of alcohol is in pregnancy. Because alcohol does cross the placenta, it is recommended that any alcohol be avoided during pregnancy. Exposure to second hand smoke has also been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Eat healthy and exercise
Healthy eating habits and regular exercise can help you physically prepare yourself for pregnancy, childbirth and post-delivery activities. If you are overweight, losing weight prior to pregnancy can help decrease your risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm delivery.
Start taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid – even before you get pregnant
Folic acid can decrease the occurrence of neural tube defects in pregnancy, and women should take at least 400 micrograms a day. Your OB will let you know if you need a higher dose.
Limit your caffeine intake
Caffeine is a stimulant that causes your blood vessels to constrict, increases your heart rate and elevates blood pressure. In addition, your baby doesn’t have the ability to metabolize it as quickly as you can, so it can damage its developing cells. The March of Dimes advises women to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day.
Figure out where you want to deliver your baby — and with whom
Have you decided on a hospital? If so, make certain that your OB has privileges there and that it’s easily accessible. The closer you get to your due date, the more appointments there will be.
Look into childcare options
If you plan on returning to work after your baby is born, you’ll need to have a childcare plan. Research nannies and daycare facilities, talk to friends and visit possible locations. Some popular daycare facilities have long waiting lists. Put your name on the list as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Take a look at your medical benefits
Your insurance company might prefer specific providers and hospitals. If you prefer something different, consider the costs and whether your partner’s plan might have better coverage or access.
Think about how much time you’ll want to take for maternity leave – and find out how much your employer will offer, both paid and unpaid.
FMLA (Federal Family and Medical Leave Act) guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn if you’ve worked for your employer for at least 1,250 hours before you need the benefit. The MMLA (Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act) provides for eight weeks of unpaid leave if you have worked full time for your employer for at least three months.
Taking some time to think through these basic steps will leave you more relaxed to enjoy your pregnancy! We at Tufts Medical Center wish you all the best!
If you would like to connect with an OB/GYN from Tufts Medical Center, call 617-636-2229 or visit www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org/OB.
Posted June 2018
The above content is provided for educational purposes by Tufts Medical Center. It is free for educational use. For information about your own health, contact your physician.