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Preparing for Baby: What to Do When You're Expecting

Got the word that you've got a bun in the oven? Well, don't panic. Take a breath and read this for a smart start on the path to motherhood.

Are those two pink lines you see? As in, yes, you are actually pregnant? Congratulations! Maybe you're feeling all giddy and excited. Maybe you're feeling sick to your stomach – either from morning sickness or nervousness. Having a baby involves lots of planning and decisions, some of them fun, others tedious. But don't get anxious. We've got you covered with an easy-going guide to the first things you should think about when you find out you're preggers. The nursery and all those "fun" things will fall into place. This is the stuff that will give you comfort that you're doing the best you can for your baby.

Careful consuming

Immediately after discovering you're pregnant, you have to start being even more diligent about what you consume.

"One of the first things I would tell a pregnant woman to do is to stop all alcohol and non-prescription drugs," says Dr. Karoline Puder, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Sinai Grace Hospital, and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

As far as prescription drugs are concerned, "Don't stop them just yet," Dr. Puder says. "Call your doctor to ask if they're safe during pregnancy. Often patients stop on their own, and many medications are not a problem during pregnancy. Then they have the consequences of an untreated medical problem."

Because birth defects generally occur in early pregnancy, it's important to follow current guidelines. Avoid all over-the-counter drugs except Tylenol. That means no Motrin or Ibuprofin, unless advised by your doctor. Avoid unpasteurized cheeses, ciders or deli meats, which can contain listeria, a bacteria that can cause complications during pregnancy. Avoid raw fish, but don't cut out all fish, as it is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids, needed for the development of a healthy nervous system. Keep fish intake to 12 ounces a week of smaller type fish, like dark tuna, whitefish and salmon. Limit caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day, which still allows for a small cup of coffee.

According to current medical research, artificial sweeteners are safe to consume during pregnancy. If you smoke, now is the time to stop, and the sooner the better, as smoking is associated with higher miscarriage rates and lower birth weights. And absolutely no alcohol allowed. According to Dr. Puder, it's suspected that the amount of alcohol needed to cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is one binge episode, which equals about six drinks.

Fetal alcohol effects, a more common condition, which is less severe that FAS, can cause things like attention disorders, school difficulty and processing problems. Much smaller amounts of alcohol are associated with fetal alcohol effects.

"If a woman had alcohol early in pregnancy, stop and stop now," says Dr. Puder. "We can't quantify the risk if she's had binge episodes, so stop drinking if you're planning a pregnancy, or stop now if you're already pregnant and didn't know it."

Determine your delivery options

Now that you're pregnant, choose a healthcare provider to see you through your pregnancy. For many women, that means an obstetrician/gynecologist (OBGYN), a medical doctor specially trained in issues relating to female reproductive organs. Obstetrics is the surgical specialty dealing with the care of women and children during pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal. ACOG.org provides a list of OBGYNs by state.

Some women choose to use a midwife instead, though. Midwives are not medical doctors and cannot perform surgery. However, they're trained to provide pregnancy, labor and postpartum care. Look for someone who's certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Women who choose to use a midwife are often looking for a more holistic and personal approach to pregnancy and a natural birth without an epidural.

Ask friends about their experiences and remember, you can always switch if you're unhappy.

Most first appointments are scheduled for between 6 and 10 weeks of pregnancy, which may surprise many first-time moms who expect to be seen right away. If you have any concerns or feel you need an earlier appointment, make this clear to your practitioner, so they will see you sooner. Your doctor will ask you the first day of your last period, so come equipped with the information.

Check your medical insurance

Most plans cover maternity, but not all, so check your coverage. Find out whether you're restricted to certain hospitals, as this will affect what kind of practitioner you choose. If your plan doesn't cover a certain hospital, you could end up with a huge deductive or co-pay, and maternity care and delivery costs thousands of dollars.

Avoid switching insurance during pregnancy, as most insurance companies consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition and therefore may increase your coverage cost. If you know you need to switch insurance, do it before your first prenatal appointment, when your "condition" is officially confirmed.

Take your supplements

Ideally, you should have started taking folic acid before pregnancy.

"Folic acid is recommended for all women of reproductive age every single day, a dose of 400 mcg a day to reduce the risk of birth defects of the spine, called spina bifida," says Dr. Puder. Folic acid is important to take before pregnancy because the spine develops right away, often before a woman knows she's pregnant. If you haven't been taking it, start now.

According to Dr. Puder, prenantal vitamins are not crucial in early pregnancy, except for the folic acid. A prenatal vitamin will take care of your daily folic acid requirement, but if you find that the multivitamin makes you nauseated, which happens for many, just take a plain folic acid supplement.

Share the exciting news

Every family has a different timeline and preference for telling the world their exciting news. Many couples tell a close family member right away, like a parent or sister.

"I told my parents right away and everyone else after the first trimester," says Chani Stebbins, a mother from Southfield. The end of the first trimester is a common time to publicize the news, since the risk of miscarriage drops significantly. "I waited until the end of the first trimester with my first, but with my second I couldn't wait until the end because I was showing already," says Lesley Zwick of Huntington Woods.

Should you tell your boss right away? You'll probably want to tell your boss you're pregnant before you start to show. It may be a relief to let your boss and coworkers know why you're not acting like yourself lately or may be calling in for more sick days than usual. Use common sense, taking into consideration how your boss will react, but remember that if you get laid off or demoted just because you're pregnant, you have rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Relax and enjoy.

Now is a good time to revel in the good news, and just enjoy the experience. For many women, morning sickness kicks in around week six, so you may have some time to enjoy your exciting news before your body feels like it's mutating against you. Remember, though, morning sickness is considered a symptom of a healthy pregnancy. Pamper yourself a little; get a manicure or buy yourself something special.

Naomi Radner, an Oak Park mom, suggests investing in a comfy pillow for the months to come. "Having a good pillow can make all the difference in the world," she says. "And now is a good time to be pampered by your husband and get him to do some work, because you're going to be tired."

Sometimes, the initial joy of finding out you're pregnant is followed by a wave of anxiety about your baby's health. You're not alone in your worries. The thought of growing a new life inside your body can be very overwhelming, which is why you shouldn't hesitant to call your doctor or midwife with questions.

"Some women totally freak themselves out over everything they touch," says Dr. Puder. "Don't freak out. Call your healthcare professional and do what you can to relax and enjoy the ride!"

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