Welcome to pregnancy! You may feel overwhelmed with all you have to do and think about, but pace yourself — nine months is a long time! In this first stage, all you really need to do is learn how to take good care of yourself using these simple steps.
Call Your Doctor
Call an obstetrician/gynecologist to schedule your first prenatal visit. Selecting a doctor involves deciding where you want to give birth, so consider the options in your area that feel right for you. Even if you're planning on having a home birth, you will need regular medical care and screenings throughout your pregnancy. Referrals from friends and relatives, and information from your health insurance plan, might inform your decision on a hospital/birthing facility and a physician. Your first prenatal appointment is a lot like a regular physical, plus a few additional routine blood tests and urine tests. Most women don't have their first ultrasound scan until around 12 weeks. Talk with your doctor about any vaccines you may need, including a flu shot.
Plan a Healthy Prenatal Diet
Let's talk food! When you find out you're pregnant, it's more important than ever to eat a healthy diet full of all the nutrients you and your growing baby need. While you're technically "eating for two" now, the average woman only needs to take in about 300 more calories a day than usual, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Keep in mind this list of foods pregnant women should avoid.If you've eaten some of these foods or consumed alcohol in the weeks before you knew you were pregnant, try not to worry too much but do pay attention to the "food rules" from now on. Weight gain guidelines depend on your initial BMI, so talk with your doctor about what is healthy for you.
Take Your Vitamins
If you haven't already been taking a daily prenatal vitamin, now is the time to start. Folic acid, a B vitamin also know as folate, is crucial because it reduces the risk of neural tube (brain) defects, so look for a vitamin that provides at least 0.4 milligrams (400 micrograms) of this nutrient. Iron is another key nutrient during pregnancy because it wards off anemia and helps your blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body and to your growing baby. Your prenatal multivitamin should contain at least 27 milligrams of iron. Talk with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements because it can be harmful to consume excess amounts of some vitamins and minerals during pregnancy.
Get Informed About What to Avoid
In addition to making dietary adjustments, you may need to take extra care to avoid some other substances and environmental hazards during your pregnancy — especially if you have a job that involves hazardous or strenuous work. Keep these safety tips in mind when caring for cats and other pets to avoid an illness called toxoplasmosis. It probably goes without saying, but you should be sure to avoid smoking and recreational drugs in addition to limiting your alcohol intake during pregnancy (the CDC says there is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy).
Evaluate Your Exercise Routine
Finding out you're expecting might inspire you to become a fitness fanatic. After all, exercise helps many pregnant women manage everything from mood swings to weight gain to aches and pains. But moderation and consistency are vital to safe prenatal exercise. Generally in the first trimester, it's safe to continue whatever exercise routine you had before, as long as it doesn't involve heavy lifting, potential falls, extreme heat or humidity, or twisting of your abdomen. Walking and swimming are ideal forms of prenatal exercise for most women. Check out this list of exercise do's and don'ts. and discuss your exercise routine with your doctor. Also, remember to do the one exercise that every expectant mom should be doing: kegels.
Manage Your Symptoms
Some women float through their first trimester with few or no symptoms. And then there's everyone else! Unfortunately, unpleasant symptoms including fatigue, nausea, breast soreness, mood swings, frequent urination, and constipation are common in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The good news is, most symptoms are completely normal and nothing to worry about. The bad news is, you're limited on the medications you can take to alleviate symptoms, and it's tricky handling symptoms at work. Take heart: Most pregnant women feel more energized and less nauseated in the second trimester. Hang in there!
Get Plenty of Rest
Do you constantly feel like you need a nap? Fatigue is one of the most common and challenging symptoms in the first trimester of pregnancy because your body is working hard to build the placenta — the lifeline for your baby. Certain foods and habits can affect your energy level, so find out what to do and what to avoid when you're feeling exhausted. Get at least eight hours of sleep a night, if possible, and take cat naps when you can. Also keep in mind that exercise is a surprisingly good energy-booster when you're pregnant.
Modify Your Wardrobe
Fuller breasts and a disappearing waistline might be some of the first signs of pregnancy that you noticed. Most women gain only 4 to 8 pounds in the first trimester — most of it from uterus changes. While you probably won't really begin to "show" until your second trimester, you might find that your pants are getting harder to button! Invest in some larger bras and reach for flowy, loose-fitting dresses and tops to hold you over until you need to buy maternity clothes.
Decide Who to Tell
It's tough not to blurt out your exciting pregnancy news to everyone you encounter in these early weeks. But many women choose to wait until 12 weeks to share their news with most people because by that point, the risk of miscarriage falls significantly. Most women also wait until after the first trimester to tell their employer about their pregnancy. But if you need to tell your employer sooner — because of chronic morning sickness, for example — your job should be protected by maternity leave laws.
Try to Relax
It's common for many women in their first trimester live with the fear of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications. If you have concerns, take the time to inform yourself about the signs and symptoms of any potentially serious problems but don't focus constantly on the possibility of miscarriage or other issues. Staying positive is healthiest for you and your baby, and the chances of a healthy pregnancy are in your favor. Also, remember to pace yourself on getting ready for baby. Nine months is a long time, and you don't need to buy tons of baby products and set everything up just yet — especially if you'll be finding out the baby's sex and having a baby shower later on.
Take Stock of Your Feelings
It's really happening! You're having a baby! It makes perfect sense to have mixed feelings about this major milestone. Allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions. Consider starting a pregnancy journal and taking pictures of your gradually growing bump to help you adjust to pregnancy and manage your anxiety or excitement. Keep in mind that your partner may take even more time to warm-up to the life-changing news that you're expecting a baby, so try to understand if you're not feeling the same way at the same time early on in your pregnancy. You'll both gradually find ways to connect with your baby. If you're single and going solo in your pregnancy, build a network of friends and family to rely on and celebrate with throughout your pregnancy. There's so much to look forward to!
Take a look at the second trimester to-do list.