Whether you’ve been planning this moment for years or have just been surprised to learn that a bundle of joy is on the way, every pregnancy promises a unique and life-changing experience.
Soon you’ll discover there’s no right way to parent, and the same idea is true for pregnancy. That said, the following information will give you a basic roadmap to help maximize your journey.
Preparing for Pregnancy
Even if you live a relatively healthy lifestyle already, there are still additional steps that you should consider taking to boost your preconception health. Just a few small changes can make a world of a difference down the line, as there is a greater risk of low birth weight and preterm babies when you fail to prepare for pregnancy.
You can improve your preconception health in a number of ways:
- Take a folic acid supplement
- Avoid toxic substances, alcohol and smoking
- Monitor any preexisting conditions
- Talk to a doctor about your current medicines
Tackling Each Trimester
Congratulations — you’re expecting! It’s a long road until you’re holding your baby, but these 40 weeks are home to critical development within your womb, which translates to a lot of big changes for your body and lifestyle as well. Here are some common things that you might experience.
Hormonal changes can affect every part of your body and can trigger unique reactions. Some common symptoms include:
- Upset stomach
- Mood swings
Many say that the second trimester is easier than the first. That said, more noticeable changes may affect your body including:
- Body aches
- Stretch marks
- Patches of darker skin on the face
- Numb or tingling hands
Some of the same discomforts will continue, and other new ones may develop in preparation for the birthing process:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble sleeping
- Swelling (see doctor if severe)
Birth and Beyond
It can be difficult to tell when your baby is ready to make their grand entrance. You could be having contractions, but what if it’s false labor? You could have felt your water break, but what if it’s just urine? When in doubt, seek a medical professional to confirm if you are just approaching or already in labor.
One decision you can plan for in your labor experience is how to manage the pain. The epidural is one commonly-known and popular method of pain relief, but other medical options are also available, as well as more natural routes that can also make the experience more bearable.
Once you get through labor, the pain will start to subside, but recovering from the birth should not be overlooked. New mothers must not only tend to their baby, but also take special care of their own bodies.
You will likely experience a number of physical changes in the days following the birth. Some symptoms you may encounter are vaginal discharge, cramping, swelling or constipation. Rest is a crucial component of the recovery process, and leaning on loved ones in these early days will help you bounce back.
Emotionally, childbirth will have changed your hormones and may bring unexpected feelings of sadness. This is completely normal and will usually go away on its own. If it doesn’t, reach out to your doctor and inquire about postpartum depression, a serious but treatable condition that can happen any time within the first year after birth.
If you’re seeking additional support as you go through your pregnancy journey, UM Charles Regional has a newly renovated Birthing Center with medical professionals and resources for each step of the way.