Once you’ve decided to have a baby, you should make an appointment with your OB-GYN for a check-up and to discuss any questions you might have. You should also schedule an appointment as soon as you realize that you may be pregnant so you can start pre-natal care as early as possible.
If you cannot afford prenatal care, talk to your health care provider, counselor, or school nurse about your options. You may be eligible for assistance during your pregnancy and in caring for your infant.
What Is a Prenatal Appointment?
A prenatal appointment is a visit with your gynecologist during your pregnancy. Your doctor will check on your health and on the progress of your pregnancy. You will receive counseling and be given an opportunity to ask questions about anything that is on your mind. No question is too basic – your doctor is here to help.
At your first prenatal appointment, your doctor will ask you about the date of your last period. This information will help your doctor to track the progress of your pregnancy, which is usually measured in weeks. Typical pregnancies are expected to last about 40 weeks, but each pregnancy is a little different.
You will also be given a physical and pelvic exam, and you will need to give a urine and blood sample to test for illnesses, including sexually transmitted infections which could harm you or your baby.
What Changes Do I Need to Make in My Everyday Life?
The best thing you can do for your unborn baby is to take good care of your body and be mindful of the impact of your decisions on your baby. You need to get plenty of sleep (8-9 hours each night) and rest when you feel fatigued or ill. You should also start exercising regularly, if you do not already. You may need to make changes in your exercise routine if you normally engage in high-impact or full contact sports.
If you’re a coffee or soda drinker, you may need to cut back on caffeine, and you should avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs altogether. Drink water to keep hydrated, and eat a wide variety of healthy foods, especially foods containing protein and vitamins and minerals. You should add about 300 extra calories per day to your daily diet, but those calories shouldn’t come from junk food that fills you up without providing many nutrients. Try low-fat yogurts, lean meats, and fresh fruit and vegetable salads with a light dressing. Choose baked, grilled, or broiled meats and vegetables instead of fried foods.
Should I Take a Prenatal Multivitamin?
In addition to your healthy diet, you should take prenatal vitamins containing folic acid, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids. These substances are found naturally in many foods, but it can be difficult for pregnant women to get the amount they need from diet alone. Folic acid has been shown to decrease the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal column when taken in the first trimester. Iron helps your body to make new blood to supply your baby with nutrients and oxygen. Calcium and phosphorus aid in the development of new bones.
There are some vitamins and minerals that can be harmful if taken in excess. Consult with your gynecologist before taking any additional supplements.
Can I Keep Taking My Medication While Pregnant?
While some drugs are harmless to the development of a fetus, many drugs are not. Check with your gynecologist to see if you can continue to take your prescription or over-the-counter medication while pregnant. There may be an alternative treatment that is safe for your baby.
If you take any vitamin supplements or herbal remedies, you should ask your gynecologist if it is safe to continue doing so while pregnant. Herbal remedies may be “natural,” but that should not be taken to mean that they are completely harmless.
I Am a Teenager; What Else Do I Need to Know About Having a Baby?
Risk of complications. Teenagers are more at risk of certain complications, such as preterm labor. Teens under the age of 15 are at an even greater risk. These risks can be reduced by getting early, regular prenatal care. It is especially important to visit your doctor early in your pregnancy to get tested for sexually transmitted infections, which can harm you and affect your baby.
Social support. You will need a lot of support – physically, emotionally, and financially – to keep your body healthy during pregnancy and to take care of the baby once it is born. You will need to think about where you and your baby will live and sleep, who will provide money for food, diapers, clothes, and doctor visits, and whether you will work, go to school, or stay at home. If you decide to work or go to school, you will need to find reliable childcare and transportation for your baby.
Many teenage parents get help from their parents, guardians, step-parents, grandparents, and older siblings. The baby’s father may also lend emotional support during pregnancy and share responsibilities in caring for the baby after it is born. Sometimes, however, the father does not want to be involved, or you may no longer want a relationship with him. Whatever the two of you decide, the father is still legally obligated to pay child support to help you care for the baby.
School. If you are still in school, you should try to continue to attend until you can graduate or get a GED. Finishing school can be a good launch pad for finding a better job and expanding your opportunities, which will help you spend more time with your baby and provide for her future. You can talk to your school counselor about programs that offer child care, home tutoring, transportation, and scholarships for young mothers.
Where Can I Go to Learn More About Childbirth and Parenting?
Many women find childbirth classes helpful in answering their questions about pregnancy, delivery, breastfeeding, and parenting. Childbirth classes teach you about what to expect during pregnancy and delivery, how to create a birth plan, and how to feed and care for your baby. Your friends and relatives who have been parents can also lend you a lot of support and are there to give you advice when you need it.
Your gynecologist can be an excellent resource as well. Make a postpartum (after birth) appointment with your doctor about a month after giving birth. Your doctor will want to give you a full check-up of your physical, mental, and emotional health. You should feel at ease talking with your gynecologist about any questions or concerns you may have, even if it doesn’t seem like a “big deal.” You can talk about advice your friends may have given you, the changes in your body, how you’re feeling about being a mother, and even changes in your sex life. You may want to write questions down as you think of them so that you don’t forget to bring them to your doctor’s attention.