Congratulations! Becoming a mom is one of the most rewarding things you may ever do, but it’s also the most challenging. We have put together some helpful information that can help you keep the stress low and still keep the happiness and excitement high.
Taking care of your health can help reduce complications during pregnancy. So can being informed and prepared. Know what to do and what to expect. Whether it’s creating a Birth Plan, understanding the benefits of breastfeeding or realizing the signs of preterm labor, the more you know, the better off you’ll be.
Give your baby a good start
Prenatal care is an important step early in your pregnancy. Did you know that almost 40 percent of women in Texas don’t get prenatal care during the first trimester (before the end of week 13 of pregnancy)? Your baby grows a lot during those early weeks, and getting prenatal care early helps her stay healthy along the way.
When you find out that you’re pregnant, call your health care provider 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.
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.
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.
Share your medical history
If you have already had a baby born prematurely, let your provider know. It is important they know your entire medical history. There are medications that can help prevent some women from going into early labor again. Talk about any medications you may be taking, including herbal supplements and teas, to make sure they are safe to take during pregnancy.
Achieve healthy weight gain
Gaining too much or too little weight during pregnancy can cause problems for you and your baby. If you are at a healthy weight before pregnancy, gaining 25-35 pounds during your pregnancy is important.
How much weight you gain depends on many things. Work with your health care provider to set goals for steady weight gain. And ask for help if you’re having trouble staying on track.
Deliver your baby safely
The safest way to deliver in a healthy pregnancy 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. It could also lead to other complications for both baby and mother.
Take your vitamins
During your pregnancy, you need to get the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Each day, be sure to take a prenatal vitamin with at least 800 mcg of folic acid. This helps prevent birth defects that can hurt the brain and spinal cord. Your baby gets healthier (and your hair gets shinier).
To learn more about the importance of folic acid, read this great article from the March of Dimes.
Exercise can do wonders when you are pregnant. You will feel stronger, you will have more energy, you will sleep better and you will have fewer aches and pains. Be sure to exercise at least 30 minutes each day for a happier and healthier you.
Keep up the activities
Being pregnant doesn’t mean giving up your favorite activities. You just need to do them with your baby in mind. Go on a daily walk to keep a healthy weight. You can also find yoga, aerobics and stretching classes (many in local community centers for free) just for moms-to-be.
What’s on your menu? Eat more fruits and veggies. Take your vitamins. Follow these healthy eating tips. And have your partner help you keep track.
- 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
- 4 servings of dairy/calcium-rich foods each day for strong bones and muscle tone
- At least 10 cups of fluid a day to stay hydrated and lower the risk of preterm or early labor
During your pregnancy, avoid certain foods to make sure your baby stays healthy. Staying away from the foods below will prevent your baby from getting salmonella, listeria and other bacterial infections. Contracting these infections can cause miscarriages, stillbirth and other complications.
- Coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks and other drinks with caffeine
- Unpasteurized milk and juice
- Raw or undercooked seafood
- Smoked seafood, meats and meat spreads
- Soft cheeses like feta, Brie, blue-veined varieties (such as 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
All of those cravings aren’t crazy. But craving non-food items like clay, ice, laundry starch or cornstarch can be harmful. If you are craving these items or other non-food items, talk to your health care provider.
Stop smoking, and protect your health and your baby’s. Even if you are not ready to quit, it’s important to know that it’s never too late to stop.
Quitting now increases the amount of oxygen your baby will get. And it improves the chances his or her lungs will work well. It gives you more energy. And quitting early in your pregnancy gives your baby the best chance to be born healthy.
If you don’t know where to start, take a look at My Quit Plan for tips and hints. By writing down your goal to quit, you take the first step towards a healthier you and a healthier baby.
Why to stop now
With your baby on the way, quitting smoking is your #1 goal. Yes, it may be hard. But think about the positives. You will:
- Feel great about what you’ve done for yourself and your baby.
- Increase your chances of having a normal-weight, healthy baby.
- Lower your baby’s risk of problems after birth like asthma
- Reduce your baby’s risk of death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Enjoy fully the taste of food and the smell of your baby’s skin
- Make your breath, hair, clothes, home and car smell better.
- Make your teeth brighter and cleaner.
If you are going to be a mom and thinking about medicines to help you quit smoking, talk to your health care provider first.
Support will better your odds
It’s easier to quit with your family and friends behind you. So to increase your chances, share your plans to quit with friends and loved ones. You should also look for counseling resources in your area (many of which are free to join).
There are also other places to look for help. The Texas Quitline gives you the support over the phone. You don’t need to leave home, find a ride or arrange childcare. They call you when it works for you, ready to share tips and help you beat your cravings.
Resources Your First Trimester Checklist gives you a simple, step-by-step guide for ensuring you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Check out this article from the March of Dimes on obesity and pregnancy.
If you were overweight before your pregnancy, here is some great information for you.
Stay happy and healthy during your pregnancy. Try some of these simple exercises for when you’re expecting.
Choosemyplate.org is helping you find all the foods that are right for you during pregnancy. Get your Daily Food Plan here.
Find out the “fishy facts” for pregnant women.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has plenty of information about smoking when you’re pregnant and the negative effects it can have on your baby.
Learn the myths and facts about drinking alcohol and pregnancy.
Your surroundings play a big role in your health and that of your baby. Learn more about how to avoid toxins, hazards and conditions that could hurt you and your child.
Household chemicals, radiation, high heat and stress can harm your developing baby. Exposure to pet waste can cause birth defects. Be sure to always use gloves when caring for your pets, and wash your hands regularly.
Find additional information on hazards in the home at the bottom of the page.
Build your support system It’s a good idea to have at least one other person (your partner, a family member or friend) go along on your health care appointments. You will be getting a lot of information, and your support person can help make things less confusing. Plan for them to be with you during delivery and after, if possible.
Some expectant mothers also use a doula, or birth attendant, during labor and delivery. A doula offers support for you and your partner by knowing the birth process and what to expect. She can also serve as an advocate for you and your partner with the medical team.
Dads are so important The father of your child can play a big role in the health of you and your baby.
Ask him to join you during your appointments and check-ups. Share how you’re feeling during the pregnancy. Ask for his help and keep him involved. Doing so will take stress off you and make him understand his importance and feel appreciated.
Child care challenges? Selecting child care is one of the most important choices you will make about your baby. Visit the Department of Family and Protective Services Search Texas Child to make an informed choice.
This site shows the official record for every licensed child care provider in the state. You can search for daycare, learn about standards in Texas and look up the record of a child care provider you’re considering.
Get help for abuse Violence can put your pregnancy at serious risk. Beyond the risks associated with physical abuse, the mental and emotional stress can harm your pregnancy as well.
Nationally, homicide during the pregnancy period accounts for more deaths than complications of pregnancy and delivery. The risk of death by homicide for women who are already in an abusive relationship increases during the pregnancy period.
You may be experiencing abuse if your partner or colleague:
- Continually monitors your activities, in person or on social media
- Tries to stop you from going to work or seeing friends and family
- Accuses you of being unfaithful
- Tries to control your money, your medicine (including birth control), what you wear or your eating habits
- Hurts you physically or threatens to do so
- Destroys your property or harms your pet
- Publicly humiliates you
- Forces you to have sex
- Becomes angry or abusive while drinking or abusing drugs
If you are experiencing violence or abuse in your home or work environment, please visit Womenshealth.gov to find resources and information to protect yourself.
You may also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or 206-518-9361 (Video Phone — for callers with hearing impairments).
Find out if you’re eligible for Texas state health benefits The State of Texas offers help to 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 provides benefits to low-income women during pregnancy. You will be covered 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 first 12 months of the baby’s life. You may be eligible even if you do 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.
Resources Learn how to avoid harmful chemicals with the CDC guide, “How to Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals at Home, Work, and Play.”
Visit the National Fatherhood Clearinghouse and learn about the importance of dads.
The Texas Council on Family Violence lists family violence service providers across the state. These providers can offer 24-hour emergency shelter, advocacy for victims of domestic violence and other services.
Learn more about CHIP and Medicaid programs for Texas moms and kids.
Your emotional and mental health impact the physical health of both you and your baby.
Some stress is completely normal. But being under constant stress can affect your baby long after he or she is born. Stress can lead to small changes in your baby’s brain as well as early delivery of your baby. Pregnancy is a naturally stressful time. So try not to add any more stresses into your life.
Face the issue You should face what’s bothering you head on. Do your best to see the problem, find a solution, solve it and move forward. Sometimes this is easier said than done, and doing it by yourself can be difficult. It’s okay to ask for help and seek counseling when you need support.
More than “just hormones” Depression during and after pregnancy is more common than most realize. The signs differ for everyone, but can include sadness, anger, hopelessness, guilt or lack of interest in the baby. If you begin to feel this way, talk to your healthcare provider right away.
Sometimes it’s not easy to ask for help. But it’s the right thing to do for you and your baby. Talk to your nurse or provider about your feelings so they can get you the help you need. You can also call the National Lifeline for Support at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
Get some sleep To give your body the rest it needs, doctors say you need about eight hours of good sleep each night. Pregnant women may need more sleep, including a nap during the day, to keep up with their developing baby.
Try to start winding down before you go bed. Get comfortable with pillows supporting your knees, belly and back. Say good night to social media an hour before you say hello to your pillow. And don’t forget the lights. Making a room as dark as possible tells your body that it’s time to sleep.
Sweat out the stress A good workout or a simple stretch not only gets rid of stress, but also keeps you and your baby healthy. Taking a walk will help take away the pressures of the day and the pressure in your lower back. Ask a friend to join you to make it more enjoyable.
Resources For more information on getting help, the Texas Department of State Health Services has information here.
Join a support group to fight stress with this tool from the Mayo Clinic.
The March of Dimes has many ways to help you manage stress.
Learn how stress can affect your unborn child.
Your Birth Plan
Be prepared for childbirth. Know what to expect and plan for the type of pain management and labor support your partner will want. Things don’t always go according to plan. Your Birth Plan will help you make good decisions if other plans need to change.