You’re pregnant. Now what?
The first trimester begins, and it is often the toughest stage of pregnancy. During this trimester, pregnant women will experience morning sickness, sore breasts, fatigue, aversion to food, and mixed emotions all at once. It’s a crazy roller-coaster ride that will go on for the next three months.
Because the body is growing another human inside, expectant moms also need to take steps to ensure their babies develop well and to stay healthy throughout the first trimester. This first-trimester to-do list will help you start your pregnancy right.
Find Your Care Provider
As part of prenatal care, expectant mothers need to choose a health-care provider (a midwife, an ob-gyn, a perinatologist, or a family practitioner) who will assist and guide them throughout their pregnancy.
Your care provider will guide you through all the steps to take to ensure you and your baby are healthy until delivery and after. Generally, the first visit to your midwife will be at 10 to 12 weeks of gestation while the ob-gyn may ask to see you at 6 to 12 weeks.
Choosing the right care provider is a vital step in determining the quality of your pregnancy. You should open up about all your pregnancy-related concerns with your midwife, doctor, or practitioner without being judged or brushed off.
If you feel uncomfortable with your care provider, trust your gut, and find someone else who’s more compatible with you.
Start Prenatal Visits
You’re likely to see your care provider more often than you’ll see your friends in the next nine months. Your first prenatal visit should happen as soon as you discover you’re pregnant. During this visit, the doctor will do the following to confirm and ensure your health:
- Prescribe prenatal supplements
- Look into your medical history
- Calculate your due date
- Give you a general health exam
You doctor will ask you to undergo several laboratory exams:
- An ultrasound screening (used with an ultrasound transducer)
- A urine test
- STD tests
- Pap smear
- Glucose-level testing
- Genetic carrier screening
After your first appointment, you will need to see the doctor once a month from weeks 4 to 28, then more often as the months progress.
Take Folic Acid Supplements
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is an essential nutrient that protects the fetus against congenital disabilities. You should start taking folic acid supplements as soon as you confirm your pregnancy.
The first trimester is the most crucial period in your baby’s growth. Taking the recommended daily dose of 400 micrograms of folic acid can prevent the development of brain and spinal-cord problems on your baby.
Avoid Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs
Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs have devastating effects on pregnant women and developing babies.
Smoking is linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and permanent damage to the fetus’s brain and lungs. Inhaling cigarette smoke during pregnancy also exposes your baby to carcinogens.
Babies who were exposed to alcohol in their mother’s stomach can develop fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). FAS is characterized by abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies, and central nervous system problems.
Drugs, including marijuana, also have numerous damaging effects on babies and pregnant mothers, including lifetime physical and mental disabilities. Taking marijuana while pregnant increases the baby’s risk of developing the developmental hyperactive disorder during childhood and marijuana addiction when they grow up. Pregnant women who smoke or ingest cannabis also have a higher risk of stillbirth.
Cocaine also puts expectant moms at risk of miscarriage, and coke-exposed babies can have smaller heads (and lower IQs) and restricted growth. Babies who were exposed to narcotics can also become dependent on the drug and suffer withdrawal symptoms.
Check Your Medications
Illegal substances aren’t the only type of drug you need to look out for. Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs can also harm the baby. As a general rule, pregnant women should stop taking OTC medication for the next nine months unless the doctor says otherwise.
The mother and the fetus are connected through the placenta. The baby will ingest anything you consume. The fetus is still developing, so they lack essential bodily functions that metabolize pharmaceutical agents in medications. Taking any form of drugs may lead to harmful effects on the fetus.
Eat Right, and Exercise
Now that you’re eating for two, you need to make sure that you’re supplying your body and your baby the nutrients they need. Nausea and food aversion can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy diet, but it’s vital to eat a nutritionally rich diet during this period.
Load up on foods that are high in folate, calcium, iron, zinc, and fiber. Avoid foods that are too sugary, salty, fatty, and oily. Minimize the intake of processed and junk foods for the next nine months.
Although you’re eating for yourself and the baby, you should watch your weight to prevent gestational diabetes, which happens to pregnant women who are overweight. Weighing too little is also not good. Underweight pregnant women have a higher risk of preterm labor and low-birth-weight babies.
During pregnancy, you should also keep an exercise routine recommended by your doctor. Exercise helps you stay strong and healthy, ease pregnancy pain and discomfort, and prepare you for labor.
Be Relentlessly Curious
Pregnancy is too big of a change to jump in unprepared. You need to summon the drive to arm yourself with the knowledge and skills to handle all the changes you need to undergo and the enormous responsibility of carrying a baby.
Your doctor will help you every step of the way, but they won’t be there with you all the time. Be proactive about finding answers to your questions and concerns. Read and research about what’s good and bad for you and the baby. Be critical, and ask questions. Your baby is relying on you to keep them safe and healthy.