An old saying points out that a mother’s work is never done, but preparing for your little one’s arrival needn’t be an everlasting chore. Throughout the course of nine months, pregnancy can be both a time of eager anticipation as well as intentional planning and preparation for a new life. This is good news for the woman who feels overwhelmed by the changes taking place within her body. After all, you may not have control over your hormones and how your body responds to pregnancy, but you have much you can do to ensure that the process is safe and enjoyable!
Start taking prenatal vitamins. Downing a daily vitamin is a simple measure you can put in place to improve the health of both you and your baby. Getting enough folic acid, in particular, is critical throughout the first trimester, as it greatly reduces the likelihood of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Establish prenatal care with a physician or midwife. If you haven’t figured out who to be seen by yet, start doing some research. Ask family and friends for recommendations and consult with your insurance provider for a listing of preferred providers as well. Once you’ve found “the one,” prepare for your first exam. Your doctor will want to know the first day of your last period to determine your due date, as well as any family history regarding genetic abnormalities or chronic conditions. Keep a running list of questions on hand to present at your appointment as well. If you have been on any medications prior to pregnancy, consult with your physician about further use and its impact on your pregnancy.
Develop healthy habits. If you smoke or drink, you’ll never find a better time to kick the habit. Smoking has been linked to numerous complications, including placenta detachment, stunted fetal growth, preterm labor and even miscarriage. Drinking throughout pregnancy may cause low birth weight but also can have a longstanding impact on a child’s development, including learning disabilities, delayed speech and ADHD. Healthy lifestyle choices aren’t just limited to saying no to certain things. Wellness is also about intentionally seeking a healthy lifestyle. Eat a well-rounded diet full of fruits and vegetables and remember to stay hydrated.
Allow yourself to rest. If you’re exhausted, you’re not alone. “The first trimester can be tough,” Olathe Medical Center practitioner Emily Mathiesen, MD, says. “Lots of women are nauseated and significantly fatigued in early pregnancy. Your doctor can help with anti-nausea medications, and ultimately both symptoms almost always improve by the second semester.”
“The second trimester is usually a nice time—no longer nauseated and not uncomfortably pregnant yet,” Dr. Mathiesen says. “Enjoy this time getting ready for Baby!”
Sign up for prenatal fitness classes. Pregnancy isn’t the time to set new fitness goals, but that doesn’t mean you should quit working out altogether. Be on the lookout for fitness classes offered specifically for pregnant mamas, such as water aerobics, yoga or dance. Signing up for a class gives you the opportunity to bond with other pregnant moms while also being held accountable to stay the course with a fitness regimen throughout your pregnancy.
Decide whether or not you want to know the sex of your baby. Some parents wish to experience the ultimate surprise at birth while others feel a heads-up settles expectations and helps with preparing for Baby’s arrival. There is no right or wrong answer—as long as you have one when the technician asks for your preference!
Read books and attend classes about pregnancy, labor and delivery, breastfeeding and infant care. Theories abound on how to labor, feed and care for a newborn. Now is the time to start researching them all. Classes can fill up quickly, which means your second trimester is the perfect time to sign up. Your hospital system may have classes, though you also may wish to take specialized classes off site, such as sessions on Lamaze or the Bradley Method.
Plan a babymoon. Life is going to change drastically in a short time. Celebrate while you still have that with-child glow yet aren’t uncomfortably waddling about (also keep in mind, many physicians and airlines have restrictions for women flying after 36 weeks). If your budget or doctor’s orders keep you homebound, aim for a staycation and check out KCParent.com for a listing of ways to rock an in-town vacation.
Prepare for baby showers. Accepting a friend’s, relative’s or coworker’s offer to throw a baby shower is customary, but you can contribute to the effort by building up a baby registry, sharing your baby nursery’s theme or compiling a guest list.
Change your rings. Having swollen fingers by this point in your pregnancy is normal—even expected. Make sure to take any rings off before they get stuck. If the thought of going without a beloved ring, such as a wedding band, has you singing the blues, place it on a necklace where it can be displayed close to your heart. Or if you prefer to wear a temporary replacement, look into silicone bands like Enso rings.
Create a birth plan. Plan ahead and communicate to your doctor about whom you would like to have present in the delivery room, as well as what pain management techniques you prefer.
Get ready for Baby. Pack your hospital bag, install the car seat, wash all nursery bed linens and layettes, stock up on pantry items and prepare freezer meals.
Rest. Don’t underestimate the benefit of resting before your baby is born. Your body is hard at work and needs extra grace. “The last few weeks of pregnancy seem to go on forever, but try to enjoy this time before your little one arrives,” Dr. Mathiesen says.
Lauren Greenlee is a mom of three who delivered her babies in a hospital setting, birthing center and home. She writes from her Olathe home.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.