Not sure what prenatal health tips to follow during the first few weeks after that positive test comes back? Check out these 7 important precautions for the first month of pregnancy!
Like many women, I was elated when my at-home pregnancy test came back positive. I made an appointment with my OB/GYN, and I went into the appointment expecting to go in a cup, confirm my pregnancy, and walk out with a prescription for prenatals.
Imagine my surprise when, after I did the cup business, the nurse showed me into my doctor’s actual office (like, a desk and books) rather than an exam room, and my doctor was sitting behind said desk. We sat and talked for 15 minutes and I never went into an exam room. Now, my doctor may have been a little unconventional, but in those 15 minutes, we talked about a lot of things, including miscarriage.
What I Learned at My First Prenatal Appointment
According to the March of Dimes, 10-15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, most of those being within the first trimester. The number is likely even greater when factoring in miscarriages in women who didn’t realize they were pregnant. An estimated half of miscarriages are caused by an incorrect number of chromosomes in the embryo, meaning the embryo likely could not have survived. My doctor positioned it as the body being smart enough to know that the embryo wasn’t viable.
I’m sure I looked shell-shocked throughout our conversation, but 8 years later, his words still stick with me. He said, “You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all of this. Chances are good you will have a healthy pregnancy. But I want you to know that if something does happen to this pregnancy it is not your fault.” I thanked him, and as I was leaving his office, I asked if the results came back that I was pregnant. He laughed and said I was.
I was blessed with two pregnancies that resulted in two healthy babies, but I’ve thought back on that conversation many times. A number of my friends and family members have experienced miscarriage, and many of those women have struggled with what they could have done differently. My doctor’s approach, while perhaps unconventional, was thoughtful and kind – he’d seen enough in his years of practice to realize that his patients needed his honesty about the statistics so if they became a statistic, he could help them frame their experience.
I’m sharing all of this for the same reason he shared it with me – while you can and should take precautions throughout your pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, it does not mean that you are to blame should something happen to your pregnancy.
With all of that being said, what precautions can you take, particularly in the first month of pregnancy, to help your growing baby?
Precautions for the First Month of Pregnancy
- See your doctor. I know this one sounds like a no-brainer, but it is important to be under your doctor’s care throughout your pregnancy. Many doctors will do an ultrasound within the first trimester (it will be done with a wand inserted vaginally rather than the transducer on your belly like you’re used to seeing), and this will give them information on implantation, location of the placenta, etc. Unless you have a higher-risk pregnancy or other complications, anticipate seeing your OB/GYN monthly until you’re getting closer to your due date; in your last month or so, you’ll see your doctor weekly.
- Vitamins. As soon as your doctor has confirmed your pregnancy, you should start taking prenatal vitamins. Even with a healthy diet, most of us have nutritional gaps. As your baby is developing, it is particularly important that you have ample amounts of folic acid, iron, vitamin D, and calcium. Folic acid helps to prevent neural tube defects (abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord). Iron is critical for the baby’s growth and development, and also to help prevent anemia in the mother. Vitamin D and calcium will help your baby’s bones grow strong as they are forming.
- Nutrition and hydration. If you’re dealing with morning sickness, just keeping food down, no matter what it is, is a success. With severe morning sickness, you need to be extremely cautious to stay hydrated. Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing morning sickness, as she may prescribe medication to ease the symptoms. If you can keep food down, try to vary your diet and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Try to limit sugar and simple carbs, and keep caffeine to 12 oz. or less of a caffeinated beverage per day (switch to decaf if you can).
- Physical Activity. In most pregnancies, there is no need to reduce physical activity if you are already active. If you’re not terribly active before becoming pregnant, early pregnancy is not the time to start a vigorous workout routine. Consult with your doctor regarding your level of activity and what is safe for your body. Some level of physical activity is important for healthy weight gain, even if it’s just going on regular walks around your neighborhood. Your baby is heavily protected inside your uterus, and you might even find that the movement of light exercise will cause your baby to sleep (once you can start feeling your baby’s movements, that is!).
Need more info? Check out the Safest Ways to Exercise During Pregnancy
- Over-the-Counter Medications. When you’re talking with your doctor, you will discuss prescription medications you take and whether or not you will continue those medications while you are pregnant. But don’t forget over-the-counter medications. Many medications you buy over-the-counter are not safe in pregnancy, so make sure to ask your doctor for a list of items you can take for a headache, a cold, and other common ailments.
- Massage. Consult with your doctor if you’re considering prenatal massage; it can be wonderful to help relieve some of the discomfort of later-term pregnancy. Many practitioners will not provide massage until the second trimester once the risk of miscarriage has declined.
- Homeopathic Treatments. Essential oils and other homeopathic treatments are more popular than ever, but some are not safe during pregnancy. The biggest concern appears to be crossover through the placenta to the baby and the toxicity of the oils. While there is controversy over whether or not this is the case, I suggest erring on the side of caution. This article shares more about essential oil use during pregnancy and which oils to avoid. Be sure to talk with your doctor, as well, about what is safe and what is not.
As a general rule of thumb, your doctor is your best resource during your first month of pregnancy (and beyond). Talk with her about your current lifestyle, what, if anything, you should do differently, and any other concerns you may have. By and large, you’ll find that you will primarily keep doing what your non-pregnant self has been doing with the addition of vitamins and possibly eating a little healthier.
Try to enjoy your pregnancy and take it easy – you’ll need all the energy you can get for when your little one makes his or her way into the world!