A pregnancy can be filled with many joys and wonders as well as concerns and fears. It is important for the mother to take care of herself and her baby too, with prenatal care.
Most pregnant women are otherwise healthy and prenatal care is aimed at monitoring the baby’s growth and the mother’s well-being. Any concerns or if the woman has previous health conditions will be carefully managed with both the mother’s and the baby’s health in mind.
After becoming pregnant, it is recommended the mother visit with her doctor for a prenatal visit. The first visit covers medical history, how the mother is feeling, basic information such as weight and blood pressure and a head to toe physical exam including a pelvic exam to check the size and shape of the uterus and a Pap smear to check for any abnormalities of the cervix.
Urine and blood tests will be taken during the first visit (often at the initial visit with a registered nurse) as well as at other visits scheduled by the doctor. Future visits include tests to check for diabetes of pregnancy, anemia and vaginal group B strep. Some women choose to have testing done to look at the risk of certain genetic abnormalities. Some physicians do urine tests at each visit to check for sugar and protein.
A well-balanced diet is very important for the health of the mother and the development of the fetus. Raw or undercooked meat, eggs or fish should not be eaten. Lunch meats (deli meats) and hot dogs can be eaten after they have been heated until steaming. Soft cheeses should not be eaten. It is recommended mothers not eat more than two or three servings of fish, including canned, per week. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables and keep cutting boards and dishes clean. Eat four or more servings of dairy products each day, which provide calcium.
Try to minimize caffeine intake. One to two 8-ounce servings of coffee or caffeinated soda per day is probably ok but the amount of caffeine varies between products so check the labels and discuss with your doctor how much of the product is safe to consume.
It is recommended mothers-to-be take a prenatal vitamin daily, which includes folic acid. Folic acid can help prevent problems with your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Tylenol can be taken for headaches or mild pain according to the package instructions but the mom should check with her doctor about taking any other medicines, including over-the-counter medicines.
Unless the mom-to-be has problems in her pregnancy, she can probably do whatever exercise she did before you got pregnant but discuss this with her doctor. Exercise can help ease discomfort during pregnancy. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. If the mom was not exercising prior to pregnancy, starting a walking program gradually is a good way to start. Swimming is also a good choice. It is not recommended to start exercising vigorously during pregnancy if she was not prior to pregnancy. If she has pain, cramping, blurry vision, dizziness, vaginal bleeding or leaking of vaginal fluid while exercising, she should call her doctor. Patients should talk to their doctor about any special conditions they may have. They should drink plenty of water so that she doesn’t get dehydrated. It's best to avoid anything that could cause a fall, such as water skiing or rock climbing. Also avoid contact sports such as basketball or soccer. Some women say exercising during pregnancy makes labor and delivery easier.
Common discomforts include morning sickness, tiredness, leg cramps, constipation, hemorrhoids, urinating more often, varicose veins, moodiness, heartburn, yeast infections, bleeding gums, stuffy nose, retaining fluid and skin changes.
Call your doctor if you have:
- Blood or fluid coming from your vagina
- Sudden or extreme swelling or pain in your legs
- Headaches that are severe or won't go away
- Nausea and vomiting that won't go away
- Dim or blurry vision
- Pain or cramps in your lower abdomen
- Chills or fever
- A change in your baby's movements
- Less urine or burning when you urinate
- Difficulty breathing
- Any illness or infection
- Regular contractions before you are 37 weeks pregnant
- Anything that bothers you
Getting to know a woman during her pregnancy, delivering the baby and then caring for both of them, and the rest of the family, over time are some of the most enjoyable aspects of being a family physician.
By Jennifer Steinhoff, MD, ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca