Taking Care of Yourself While Pregnant
First things first: See your OB-Gyne
As soon as you see a positive or those two pink lines on your home pregnancy test (HPT), call your OB-Gyne for an appointment. Why? It is best to start taking your prenatal vitamins as soon as possible.
First pregnancy? All the more you have to see an OB-Gyne right away. If you do not have one yet, ask your mommy friends for a referral. Don't be shy to ask about the doctor's bedside manners and personality. Another major consideration is which hospital does he or she deliver in. Are you open to having your baby in this particular hospital or did you already have a specific hospital in mind? Location and clinic hours are also big factors in choosing one because you’ll visit your OB-Gyne at least once a month while you are pregnant. Choose one that you are comfortable with because you will bare your life (and body) to this person. Make sure you can ask him or her anything and everything under the sun. He or she should also be accessible through cellphone (via text and call) anytime of the day because you don’t know when you’ll need him or her.
What to expect: PAP smears, regular urine and blood samples, a few lab tests like the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) and ultrasound screenings when needed.
Because there will be a little human being growing inside you, expect to gain weight. Consult with your doctor how much you are allowed to gain, so you can watch your weight early on in your pregnancy. In most cases, women are advised to gain between 20 to 30 pounds. If you are underweight, you may need to gain more. If you are overweight, you may need to gain less.
What should I eat?
It is very important to eat a balanced diet while you’re pregnant. You can eat almost anything (we’ll get to what you CANNOT eat later), and the key is moderation. You should also make sure the meat, eggs, and fish you eat are fully cooked to avoid putting you and your baby at risk for infections. We recommend loading up on vegetables as these go to your baby, too.
Which foods should I avoid?
Bad news, cheese lovers. You should steer clear from soft cheeses like brie, camembert, and soft blue cheeses like gorgonzola. Their moisture can be an ideal environment for harmful bacteria like listeria (listeriosis). Although being infected with it is rare, it is best to be sure because even the mildest form of this in a pregnant woman can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe illness in newborn babies. Stick to hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan because these have less water and bacteria are less likely to grown in them
Avoid cured, raw or partially cooked eggs and meat. This means you should skip the raw egg in congee and La Paz batchoy. And it’s also a no-no for rare steaks, sushi, and anything that’s pink and has traces of blood. Why? Because you might contract toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite found in raw, undercooked meat, unpasteurized goats’ milk, soil, cat feces, and untreated water. This has no obvious symptoms, so contact your OB-Gyne if you have just eaten something not thoroughly cooked.
Bad news for coffee addicts, too, as too much of it can cause miscarriage. But what is really harmful is caffeine, so you should avoid coffee, tea (including green tea), chocolate, soft drinks, and energy drinks. Better yet, check out the label or ask the waiter if there is caffeine in what you are about to eat or drink. The good news is you can still have a maximum of one can of soda or one mug of coffee a day, as long as you limit yourself to 200mg of caffeine. Ask your OB-Gyne how much you are allowed to take to be sure. The solution is to substitute with decaffeinated coffee or tea or opt for fresh fruit juices or water.
Consuming alcoholic drinks should also be stopped in the meantime. Though other cultures are more open to drinking while pregnant (for example, some pregnant Italian women continue having a glass of wine once in awhile), it's better to be safe than sorry. Drinking alcohol is the leading cause of preventable birth defects and developmental defects in the United States. The risk is too high so that cocktail or bottle of beer can definitely wait until after you give birth.
Should I take vitamins?
Let your OB-Gyne prescribe you the appropriate vitamins, but you should take at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day while you’re pregnant. Folic acid helps prevent problems with your baby’s brain and spinal cord, so it is a must! You may also be asked to take additional calcium or other supplements you may need, according to your urine and blood tests. Make sure to take only the vitamins and supplements your doctor recommends.
Here’s a tip: Pre-natal vitamins are easily available locally but are significantly cheaper abroad. If you have relatives from the U.S. coming over, now is the perfect time to ask them to bring home a bottle or two of viatmins for you. Of course, make sure you ask your OB-Gyne about the kind and brand of vitamins you are planning to buy to make sure it has his or her approval.
Is taking medicine fine?
Before taking any medicine, be it for a minor headache or allergy, make sure you consult with your OB-Gyne first. Some medications like ibuprofen may cause birth defects. To be on the safe side, ask your doctor first.
Is it safe to keep on working?
It depends on whether you have problems with your pregnancy, what kind of work you are in, and if you are exposed to anything that may harm you or your baby. For example, radiation, lead, and other heavy metals may cause problems to your baby. But if your work requires you to just be in front of a computer from 9 to 5 then you are safe to stay in work until your ninth month. If in doubt, make sure to bring up your work conditions with your doctor.
Can I exercise?
Again, it depends if you have problems with your pregnancy. If you’re fine, you should exercise regularly as it helps ease discomfort. It is also believed that exercising during pregnancy makes labor and delivery easier.
Pregnancy-safe workouts are walking and swimming. If you weren’t exercising before you were pregnant, we recommend starting slow. Do not overdo it. The key is to listen to your body. If you experience dizziness, blurred vision, or abdominal pains, call your OB-Gyne immediately. Always keep yourself hydrated. Avoid contact sports like soccer and basketball or anything that may cause you to fall like skiing, surfing, or rock climbing.
Other women who have been regularly exercising way before getting pregnant can usually continue well into the third trimester, if the pregnancy is going well and there are no complications. Again, listen to your body and make sure you clear it with your OB-Gyne if you plan on working out all throughout your pregnancy.
Can I have contact with my hubby?
If your pregnancy has no risks, as per your doctor, then of course! Do not be alarmed if you suddenly have more or less interest in sex as compared to when you weren’t pregnant yet. And as you grow bigger, you may need to try different positions to accommodate your growing belly.
Aside from all that we’ve mentioned above, may we remind you to stay away from smoke, smoking, alcohol, and drugs while you are pregnant as they put you at risk to many problems such as low birth weight, premature birth, miscarriage, and other birth disorders. And when in doubt, call or text your OB-Gyne. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You can also run to your mommy friends for support whenever you need it.
Here's an extra tip – it’s a good (and valid) excuse to be prioritized in government offices and banks. Most offices have priority lines for pregnant women. You may want to consider renewing your driver’s license or passport at this time to cut down on your waiting time. This will also help you appreciate your pregnancy even more.
Lastly, try to enjoy your pregnancy! Though there are times when you’ll experience difficulty sleeping, keeping food down, or moving around with an extra 20 or so pounds, it truly is a miracle to experience life growing inside you.