If you’re pregnant or suspect you might be, your to-do list is probably lengthening at an exponential rate. With only nine months to prepare for the arrival of your new baby, it’s common to feel like every time you cross one thing off your list, several others pop up in its place. Along with the fun aspects of planning for a child — choosing names, enjoying your baby shower — there are a number of critical prenatal care steps to take in the months leading up to birth.
Why Prenatal Care is Important
Taking the proper steps now can help smooth your transition into the first few months after birth and make a positive impact on both yours and your child’s health from the moment of conception onwards. Prenatal care involves early and regular medical care during your pregnancy to monitor your health and your child’s development and is linked to good outcomes: Mothers who don’t receive prenatal care are three times more likely to have babies that have a low birth weight, and mortality rates for this population are significantly higher as well.
Seeing a doctor for prenatal care will provide you with options to prevent, treat, or manage any health issues you and your child may experience. Your first appointment will establish a baseline for your pregnancy, which is why it’s important to have one as early as possible so any future variations are caught and dealt with immediately. The first visit usually involves going over your full medical history and completing a physical to assess your current state of health.
Your doctor will want to know about your family history, past births, and any other relevant health issues. After your first visit, it’s a good idea to schedule regular check-ups to ensure everything is progressing as it should. These follow-ups will be shorter and will likely focus on checking your blood pressure, weight gain, and the baby’s growth and heart rate.
All of these prenatal preparations can be overwhelming, to say the least. Fortunately, there are tools to stay organized and on top of things. While your doctor can help you figure out great ways to do this, we’ve put together a checklist here to complement the advice you receive in office. We hope this helps you feel more organized as you begin this journey.
These steps are important to take if you’re planning to have a baby. They will help ensure you’re in optimal health from the moment conception happens:
- Compile your gynecological, reproductive, and general medical history
- Ensure all of your vaccinations are up-to-date
- Make an appointment with your doctor
- Inform your doctor of any current medications and supplements
- Stop smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol
- Start taking 400-800 mcg of folic acid
- Avoid toxic or hazardous materials in your home and at work
If you’ve already conceived, these are the steps to take to ensure the rest of your pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible:
- Make an appointment with your doctor to confirm your pregnancy and perform a physical
- Get tested for any STIs or other infections
- Consult with your doctor about any needed medication changes
- Get the flu shot (if during flu season)
- Avoid abdominal X-rays
- If you haven’t yet, start taking a prenatal vitamin with 400-800 mcg folic acid
- Eat a healthy diet that’s rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron
- Avoid foods with a high risk of toxoplasmosis or listeria, such as uncooked or undercooked meat, poultry, and fish; raw cheese; or unwashed fruits and vegetables
- Don’t consume fish that are high in mercury, like swordfish or fish found in certain sushi
- Avoid insecticides, rodents, cat feces, and secondhand smoke
- Monitor your weight gain to ensure it’s healthy — pregnant women typically gain between 2-4 pounds during the first trimester and 1 pound per week going forward
- Engage in two to three hours of moderate exercise a week, if approved by your doctor
- Avoid hot baths, saunas, and hot tubs
- Ensure you get plenty of quality sleep and rest
- Read up on how to have a healthy pregnancy
- Enroll in prenatal care and birth classes — some are even available online!
The most important item on this checklist is the first: If you want to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and birth, make an appointment with your doctor straight away. Every woman and every pregnancy is unique, and only a qualified medical professional with a strong understanding of prenatal care can help you determine how to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
Tri-City Medical is honored to serve San Diego and provides pre- and post-natal care, labor and delivery services, and more. We’d love to assist you on your prenatal journey — contact us today!