When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she may be unsure about what steps she should take and changes she should make to have a healthy pregnancy. The first step she should take is contacting a medical professional for healthcare. This medical care is called prenatal care, and it is an essential part of ensuring a safe pregnancy, and a healthy baby. Another important factor to a healthy mom and baby is a healthy diet. Here is a checklist of things a women should do to give her baby a healthy start:
Find a Doctor
This is the most important step women can take for herself and baby. As soon as she finds out she is pregnant, a woman should find a doctor and make an appointment. This appointment will be the first of many prenatal care visits. At this appointment, the doctor will tell a woman how far along she is, and provide her with an expected due-date for her baby. Also at this appointment, the Department of Health and Human Services says a woman may experience the following:
- Blood pressure test
- Blood test
- Check the baby’s heart rate
- Pelvic exam to check the health of her reproductive parts
- The doctor will ask lots of questions about lifestyle, relationships, and health habits. It’s important that mothers be honest with the doctor.
- Scheduling of upcoming prenatal care visits
Go to the Scheduled Prenatal Visits
These appointments are essential to having a healthy pregnancy. According to WomensHealth.gov, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than babies born to mothers who do seek care. These appointments are done to detect and treat risk factors and early complications that may arise during the course of the pregnancy.
The Department of Health and Human Services says a doctor should be seen once each month for weeks four through 28, twice a month for weeks 28 through 36, and weekly for weeks 36 to birth. However, women with high-risk pregnancies need to see their doctors more often. High-risk pregnancies have a greater chance of complications. These can include women at a very young age or older than 35, women who are overweight or underweight, women who have had problems in previous pregnancies, or women who have preexisting health conditions.
What a woman eats will affect her, and the baby inside of her. She should make sure to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods like milk or leafy greens, and foods low in saturated fat. These foods will provide essential building blocks like protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid that will help the fetus grow. She should also remember to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Doctors will help determine a specific diet that is best for each patient as well as track a healthy weight in the prenatal exams.
According to the National Center for Farmworker Health, most doctors will recommend a woman to take a special multi-vitamin called a prenatal vitamin. Women should start taking these before she gets pregnant, while she is pregnant and even after she has the baby. Women should not take any vitamins until they talk to their doctor.
Dads Should Help Too
Pregnant women have a responsibility to take care of themselves and their babies by getting prenatal care, but they are not the only ones. Father’s should also take an active role in the care of their unborn infants. Aside from driving mom to prenatal appointments and being supportive of her in the home, dads can help support the wellbeing of their child-to-be by helping mom take care of things like finances, budget, and making adjustments to their living space in order to prepare for the new baby. According to SteadyHealth.com, men can help create a safe environment for their babies by doing simple acts like laying their hands on their mother’s belly and talking to their babies. This adds a personal and important bond which some think may help strengthen the child’s future behavior, attitude and personality.
Do Not Smoke Tobacco or Drink Alcohol
The American Cancer Society strongly states that it is very important that all family members involved in the pregnancy do not smoke cigarettes, because the baby can be harmed by smoke from the mother-to-be or second hand smoke from others near her. Expecting mothers should also not drink alcohol, caffeine or use drugs, as these can cause long-term health defects or even death. There is no known safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink while pregnant. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, alcohol can cause life-long physical and behavioral problems in children, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
Doctors can assist mothers and family members in quitting the use of drugs or alcohol during prenatal visits.
Get Help Finding a Doctor
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health says that according to Kaiser Medicine, only 42% of migrant seasonal farm worker women reported accessing prenatal care services during early pregnancy. This number is very low, and there is help for women in this group. It is important to stress that all women, even those without medical insurance or a regular doctor know that there are options to help them receive sufficient and adequate prenatal care.
To make an appointment with a doctor for a free prenatal care at a Migrant Health Center by calling the National Center for Farmworker Health to locate the nearest center at 1-800-377-9968. The office is staffed by bilingual Information Specialists Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time, and accessible 24 hours a day through an answering service and/or voice messaging. They can also be found online at www.ncfh.org.