Pregnancy is exciting for both parents. Get ready for the baby by making smart choices.
create a good foundation for your baby
Did you know that only about 60% of women in Texas get prenatal care during the first trimester (before the end of week 13 of pregnancy)? Getting prenatal care too late can cause problems for mother and baby.
When you find out that you’re pregnant, call your doctor or midwife right away to make an appointment. They may not be able to see you until week 10 or 11, but it’s important that you be seen before week 13. Critical development happens during those early weeks and getting into prenatal care early creates a solid start for future care.
prepare with care
Tell your provider at your first prenatal visit if you’ve previously had a premature baby. It’s important they know your entire medical history. There are medications that can help prevent some women from going into early labor again, if their providers know their history. Talk to your clinician about any medications you’re taking to ensure they’re safe to take during pregnancy.
Make sure your immunizations are up to date. Immunizations for Pertussis (Tdap) and flu are very important. Your partner, the baby’s grandparents and anyone else who will be around the baby need to be immunized to reduce the chances for infection. Your baby’s body won’t be ready to fight off these infections just yet, so do what you can to make sure he or she doesn’t have to.
benefits of breastfeeding
Start thinking about your breastfeeding plans now. Talk to your partner and your provider about your plans and do your research. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to have digestive issues, asthma and other problems. Mothers who breastfeed regain their pre-pregnancy figure more quickly because they’re burning an extra 600 calories per day.
For each 12 months of breastfeeding, the mother’s risk for breast cancer goes down by 4.3 percent. With each pregnancy, that risk goes down by 7 percent. Breastmilk is also free and most insurance companies now pay for breast pumps.
no alcohol is safe during pregnancy
Do not drink alcohol during pregnancy. It will put chemicals into your baby’s body and mind that they can’t handle.
If you do drink during during pregnancy, your baby can be born with many problems, including mild learning disabilities, behavioral problems, heart defects and lifelong developmental disabilities. Stay away from alcohol during your pregnancy and ask your partner, family and friends to support you.
where to give birth
Early in your pregnancy, it’s important to make good choices about who will deliver your baby and where you will deliver your baby. The Childbirth Connection has plenty of useful information to help you through this decision.
The following are positive signs to look for when choosing a place of birth:
- They offer care based on the health needs of you and your baby.
- They make sure the process of labor and delivery run smoothly.
- They give you plenty of support, including comfort and information.
create your birth plan
Once these choices have been made, you can begin work on your Birth Plan. This guide will help your provider know your decisions for labor, delivery and the first days of your baby’s life. Your Birth Plan offers information about the birth process and your options. Use it to figure out what you may need to ask your provider.
pregnancy is 40 weeks
Many people think of pregnancy in terms of nine months or 36 weeks. However, babies need 40 weeks to reach maturity. Their brains and stomachs, as well as their heat and energy control, get fine tuned in the last four weeks of pregnancy.
In a healthy pregnancy, the safest way to deliver is to allow labor to begin naturally after 39 weeks. Scheduling an induction of labor, either vaginally or through C-section, can lead to a difficult labor and recovery period, as well as other problems for both the baby and the mother.
enjoy eating right
You don’t have to give up all the foods you love. But you need to make healthy choices. Most pregnant women only need an extra 300 calories a day on top of their regular, healthy diet. That’s only 2 cups of cottage cheese!
Eat more fruits and veggies, take your vitamins and let your partner help. Partners can help moms get the nutrients the baby needs by suggesting healthy food choices, staying away from foods she can’t have and joining mom in eating healthy.
- Washed fruits and vegetables to get your vitamins and fiber
- Well-cooked chicken and other meats to get your protein
- High-fiber foods like whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked beans, almonds and bran flakes to avoid constipation
- 4 servings of dairy/calcium-rich foods each day for strong bones and muscle
- Drinks with caffeine like coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks
- Unpasteurized milk and juice
- Raw or undercooked seafood
- Smoked seafood, meats and meat spreads
- Soft cheeses like feta, Brie, blue cheese and Mexican-style cheese (unless the label says they are pasteurized)
- Raw sprouts of any kind
- Swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark
- Deli meats and hot dogs, unless heated until steaming hot
For more info on nutrition and physical activity, go to the bottom of the page.
Keep pep in your step
Pregnancy can make you and your partner very tired. But a little exercise can go a long way in giving you extra energy, helping you stay at a healthy weight and relieving stress. Shoot for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Enough to start sweating. But stop and call your clinician if you notice any of the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Chest pain
- Bleeding or leakage of fluid from the vagina
Be careful with household chemicals
There are many household chemicals that are dangerous for pregnant women to be around. Keep away from these during pregnancy:
- Weed killer
- Household cleansers
- Antifreeze and other car-care products
Instead, try switching to nonchemical, safer options, such as vinegar and baking soda. Wear gloves you can throw away when holding any chemicals.
Intimate partner violence
Healthy relationships are built on respect, open communication and giving each other the freedom to be comfortable, happy and honest.
The risk of death by murder for women who are in an abusive relationship increases during the pregnancy period. Get help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
Find out if you’re eligible for Texas state health benefits
The State of Texas offers several programs to help support pregnant women and their babies.
- WIC (Women, Infants and Children) helps pregnant women eat well, learn about nutrition and stay healthy.
- Medicaid for pregnant women gives benefits to low-income women during pregnancy. The coverage continues up to two months after birth.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Perinatal pays for qualified, low-income women to get medical care for their unborn children. This includes labor and delivery. It also includes health and medical services for the twelve months of the baby’s life. A pregnant woman may be eligible even if she does not qualify for Medicaid.
If you don’t have health insurance, your child may be eligible for CHIP or Children’s Medicaid. These programs offer free or low-cost health coverage.
be aware of your feelings
Many times, people think that depression during pregnancy is just the ordinary ups and downs of hormones. Depression during and after pregnancy is more common than we thought. If you or your partner is having feelings of sadness, anger, hopelessness or inability to get interested in anything, talk to your clinician right away.
Discuss any feelings of hopelessness, hallucinations or paranoia that you may be have with your health care provider. There are a lot of places to get additional support and information including support groups, helplines and websites. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
buckle baby up
You can’t leave the hospital without a car seat. If you need help finding one or installing one, the Texas Safe Riders program can help you. Make sure you’re both buckled up, too. Wear your seatbelt low and tight across your hips every time you’re in a vehicle.
Do you know the signs of premature labor?
Premature labor is when a pregnant woman goes into labor before 37 weeks. If your baby is born too soon, he or she can have serious health problems. If you have any of these signs before 38 weeks, call your clinician or go directly to the hospital:
- Contractions every 10 minutes or more often (with contractions, the belly will tighten like a fist)
- Leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina
- Pelvic pressure; feeling like the baby is pushing down
- Low, dull backache
- Cramps that feel like menstrual cramps
- Belly cramps with or without diarrhea
Braxton-Hicks contractions, or false labor, can also feel like contractions, but usually stop with rest, changing positions, emptying your bladder or drinking water. Call your provider right away if you’re unsure about anything you are feeling.
The Texas Council on Family Violence provides a list of family violence service providers across the state. Victims of domestic violence can get important services such as 24-hour emergency shelter and advocacy.
For more information about WIC from the Texas Department of State Health Services, visit the DSHS website.
Your First Trimester Checklist gives you a simple, step-by-step guide for ensuring you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Learn more about CHIP and Medicaid programs for Texas moms and kids.
Create a personalized nutrition and physical activity plan with the USDA’s SuperTracker.
No amount of alcohol is safe for you to consume during your pregnancy. Learn the myths and facts about drinking alcohol during pregnancy and the long-term effects it could have on your child.