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Pregnancy & Childbirth

Pregnancy can be an exciting time. It is also a time to be focused on staying healthy, not only for you, but also for the child that is growing within you. It is possible to take care of both yourself and your baby while also keeping the costs down.

Prenatal

Before the baby comes—and if possible, before you become pregnant–, talk to your doctor about your health status, and get information on how to stay healthy during your pregnancy. Your healthcare provider may suggest vaccines. Some of the common ones for pregnant women are pertussis (whooping cough) and the flu shot. You may also need to get a vaccine for Hepatitis A, Meningococcal, or Hepatitis B. Talk to your doctor about which vaccines are right for you. Your doctor may suggest prenatal vitamins including folic acid.

Another area of health that you should focus on is your diet, as this is where you and your baby get nutrients. Make sure that you properly clean your food and cook it thoroughly to remove any bacteria. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the normal weight gain for a healthy woman is about 25 to 35 pounds, and pregnant women need only an extra 300 calories per day. Instead of junk food, eat foods that are high in protein, low in fat, and low in sugar.

In addition, be sure to take prenatal vitamins such as vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, and copper. DHA is thought to assist with your baby’s brain development, though it is not necessary. Your doctor may offer you a prescription prenatal, but it may be more expensive.

There is also a free app available for android, called “MyPlate Tracker” from ChooseMyPlate.gov (also available as an app for $0.99), which provides a personalized nutrition plan. Just enter a few details about you and your pregnancy and SuperTracker will not only tell you how many calories to eat, but also how much fruit, vegetables, grains and protein you should be eating.

Exercise is also crucial to having a healthy and successful pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before you start any workout regimen, and consider your previous workout regimen before becoming pregnant. Some benefits of exercising include easing back pain, boosting mood and energy, and preventing excess weight gain. It is recommended that you do about 30 minutes of moderate exercise almost every day of the week if possible. If you didn’t work out frequently before your pregnancy, start out slowly. Both cardio and strength training are good, but be careful to not lift weights that are too heavy.

While pregnant, there are certain exercise activities from which you should abstain. Avoid activities where falling is more likely, anything that might cause abdominal trauma including: jarring motions, contact sports, rapid changes in direction, extensive jumping, hopping, skipping or bounding, anything that involves bouncing while stretching, waist-twisting movements while standing, intense bursts of exercise followed by long periods of no activity, or exercise in hot, weather. Check with you doctor before you begin working out to create a workout plan that is safe and healthy for you and your baby.

If you want to stay on track during your pregnancy, apps such as My Pregnancy Today and I’m Expecting – Pregnancy will guide you throughout your nine-month journey. You can use these apps as a resource for any questions you may have, and have fun seeing how your child is growing!

What to Avoid

Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking while pregnant. If you drink alcohol during your pregnancy, you run the risk of disabilities known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). These include physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. Smoking is not only a risk to the mother’s health, but also to the baby’s health. Smoking during your pregnancy could lead to premature birth, certain birth defects, and infant death. It can also cause problems with the placenta, and can lead to a low birth weight.

Dealing with Morning Sickness

Morning sickness is a common negative effect of pregnancy. Some tips for dealing with morning sickness include: giving yourself plenty of time to get out of bed, eating something in the morning so that you have food in your stomach, drinking lots of fluids, avoiding spicy and greasy foods right before bed. Sea bands are available from most pharmacies and are usually between $10 and $15. These are drug free wristbands that help control nausea. Consider trying Preggie Pops®, which help reduce nausea, alleviate dry mouth, and provide a quick energy boost. A 21-count pack is about $10 at the supermarket.

Labor and Delivery

There are many different options for bringing your child into this world. Obstetricians have completed four years of medical school, and then have trained an additional four years specifically to deliver babies and provide women’s care. Family practice physicians have also completed medical or osteopathic school, but their training in delivering babies may be more limited. Besides doctors, you could also choose a midwife to deliver your baby. If you prefer not to deliver in a hospital, you could deliver at home or in a birthing center. If you choose an alternate care provider, make sure they are affiliated with a physician and hospital in case of emergency. There are also childbirth education classes and doulas to help prepare you for childbirth and assist you during labor. It is up to you to decide what the best path is for you and your family. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider while deciding on your birth plan, as varying health factors can affect the method of delivery. Visit http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/ for more information about labor and delivery.

Enjoy!

Pregnancy doesn’t have to be a stressful and expensive time. It is possible to take care of yourself and your baby while staying on a budget. Stay healthy, but most of all, enjoy this special time that you have!

Updated by Elise Huntley with contributions made by Dr. Diana Newman, RN and Dr. Ingrid Skop. Original article adapted from the 2009/10 issue of The American Feminist, “Raising Kids on a Shoestring” published by Feminists for Life of America.

Resources

What You Can Do

  • Help mother-to-be get comfortable. Pregnancy, especially during the last few weeks, can be uncomfortable at times for the mommy-to-be. Help her relax and get comfortable by pampering her with gift baskets full of lotions, scrubs, a certificate for a prenatal massage, etc. See “Pampering Her” in this website.
  • If you are a mother to be or the friend or family member of a pregnant woman, help her get educated during her pregnancy. Books such as What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the resources for pregnant women found online at sites such as Feminists for Life can offer soon to be mothers with the important information they need before baby arrives. Staying informed can also quash a lot of fears the new mother may be feeling!
  • Help pregnant women prepare for birth by organizing a birth bag with the essentials- a robe, clothes to wear after the birth, swaddling blankets for the baby, slippers and socks, toiletries, chargers and camera equipment to capture those special moments, etc.