Did you know that your journey of motherhood starts way before your baby’s birth and even way before conception? Yes, that’s true. It actually starts from the day you decide with your partner that you want to become a parent. Here, you need a complete guide to planning your pregnancy right then. You need to make strong foundations for your baby’s future. So here is a checklist you should go through
Essential Steps to Take Before Conception
- You need to start taking folic acid (folate). A natural vitamin that prevents many serious cases of birth defects in babies.
- Make sure you’re not actively or passively smoking. If your partner smokes, this is an excellent opportunity for him to quit. Cigarette smoke can be harmful to the fetus.
- Same goes for alcohol. Stop drinking!
- Lose some weight if you’re overweight. Eat healthily and exercise daily. Obesity has found to be one of the reasons for infertility and also increases the risk of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during pregnancy. You’ll naturally be able to handle the demands of your body during pregnancy IF your body is in good shape before you get pregnant.
- If you have any chronic illness or you’re concerned about genetic disorders you need to medical guidance before getting pregnant.
- Make sure that you are immune to rubella virus which is extremely harmful to an unborn child.
How your baby develops – Once you’re pregnant think about all the incredible changes a fertilized egg has to go through to become a baby! You’ll probably find out that you’re pregnant five weeks after your last period. By then, there is are layers of cells in the embryo which will later become internal organs, muscles and bones, skin and brain. After five weeks of your conception, major organs begin to form and that’s when the fetus starts to look human. That’s your BABY!
You’ll begin to feel your baby kicking after four or five months into your pregnancy – It’s SO thrilling! You’ll probably have an ultrasound by that time and get to see your baby either sleeping or being extremely active in your belly!
During the third semester, your baby’s growth increases exponentially. Your baby’s brain grows and you’ll figure out some new behaviors. Your baby is going to startle at a sudden loud noise. However, if the sound is repeated every twenty seconds, your baby will learn to ignore it. This is the first sign of early memory. If you put on your favorite music during this time, chances are that your baby is going to love it too. It’s amazing how learning starts even before your baby is born. Similarly, your voice is going to calm your baby down during pregnancy and even after your delivery. Your voice and touch are most nurturing to the development of your baby.
Choose your hospital
It is important to decide where you’d want to deliver your baby. Most women give birth in hospitals in the USA and UK while some opt for home births with a midwife in supervision. You may want to call your family and friends or would want to move to your mother’s place so that you feel more comfortable. If that is the case then you should be looking at hospitals near your mother’s place. It is always better to pay a visit to the hospital where you want to deliver your baby. That way you won’t have to adjust to an unfamiliar setting.
You can consult with a lactation consultant in order to understand fully how breastfeeding is going to be. He’ll probably tell you about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby and will explain to you the details; what to eat and what not to during breastfeeding. And if you’re skeptical about breastfeeding and want to go for bottle-feeding, knowing more is going to help you make that decision. So, preparing yourself beforehand is better.
You should schedule your first antenatal visit as early in your pregnancy as possible. Your doctor is going to take your medical history the first time you’ll visit him. A physical examination may also be required so don’t worry! They’ll run some blood tests to check for anemia or any other issues. Urinary tract infection and diabetes are extremely common during pregnancies which is why your doctor is going to suggest a urine examination as well. Just don’t worry about all of these tests. They’re important for you and your baby. You need to trust your doctor when it comes to this!
Most women will return monthly until 28 weeks of their pregnancy after their first visit, then fortnightly until 36 weeks and then weekly. Your weight and blood pressure will be checked and recorded at every visit including sugars and protein. They will check the growth of your baby through an abdominal check-up. At later visits, you’ll even get to hear your baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler fetal monitor. Trust me this is going to be one of the most memorable moments of your life.
The doctor will recommend you to run through tests like Down’s Syndrome and other chromosomal defects. Just don’t worry about this. These are routine procedures to ensure healthy growth of your baby. Likewise, as tetanus is a life-threatening bacterial disease, you’ll be given two tetanus vaccination to protect you and your baby from tetanus infection. Ideally, a third vaccination is also given to you after your delivery but many hospitals skip it.
Most of the doctors perform ultrasounds routinely while others do it only if there is any particular concern. Your first scan will be done around 12-14 weeks to confirm your pregnancy and the due date. To check the baby’s development routine scans will be performed at about 20 weeks and 32-34 weeks. I must mention here that ultrasounds are completely SAFE!
Also read: How I Managed My High-Risk Pregnancy
Vitamins & Supplements to take during your pregnancy
As I have mentioned before that folic acid should be taken even before the conception of your baby, it is important to take it as soon as you get to know about your pregnancy. I cannot stress the importance of it more! It reduces the risk of having defects in babies especially any spinal cord defect. Along with folic acid, you should be taking these supplements:
- Iron tablets
- Calcium tablets
- Foods rich in vitamin C
Along with iron, calcium and vitamin C, you should focus on your water intake. Drink as much water as you can to stay hydrated!
Please avoid taking any medicines in your pregnancy as much as you can especially in the first three months. Be sure to let your doctor know about any illnesses that come your way during that time so that it can be taken care over under an expert.
Also please try to avoid certain foods in your pregnancy.
Consult your doctor right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Excessive swelling especially on feet, hands, face or abdomen
- Bleeding at any stage of your pregnancy
- Pelvic or vaginal pressure especially before 37 weeks
- Unbearable headache and visual disruptions like spots and blurring
- Lack of or no movement of the baby (there should be at least two to three movements every hour)
Your Choices to Deliver Your Baby
Nowadays, you have a lot of choices that you can make for delivering your baby. Let me guide you to plan this part of your pregnancy.
- Home versus hospital
- Midwife versus obstetrician
- Natural versus epidural
- Alone or with a family member (husband, mother or sister)
You have many choices to make and the best way is to ask questions from your doctor. It is good to ask questions as that will give you more clarity.
Packing for the Hospital
So, your due date is approaching and you know that now is the time you should have your essentials packed. Remember to keep your hospital registration, insurance card and all the hospital records during your visits. Here’s a list of things you should pack
- Toothbrush and other toiletries
- A book or music to relax
- Loose fitting clothes
- Nursing bra
- Sanitary pads
- Clothes for your baby preferably loose ones or onesies
- Nappies and wipes
- Baby blanket
These are the essentials that must be packed in a bag and placed in your car once you’re 35 weeks pregnant. That way when your water bag bursts or contractions start you can go straight to your hospital without having to worry about packing stuff at that moment.
The Ultimate Time of Labour
Once you know that your contractions are real contractions and aren’t fake (Braxton Hicks) you should immediately rush to the hospital but DON’T PANIC. Panic will cause you do go in stress and your partner as well who has to drive you to the hospital. If you have given birth before you should know that your second baby may come fast than the first.
There are three stages of labour.
1st Stage: Cervix softens and dilates to 3 or 4 cm. With stronger contractions coming in your cervix is going to dilate further and reach a point where it is 10 cm. That’s wide enough for your baby to come through. At the end of this stage, you will be exhausted and get panicky. Please note here that if you’re unable to dilate more than 4 to 5 cm even after 10-12 hours, the doctor might want to take you for an emergency c-section. That’s because once your water breaks, your baby is at risk and needs to come out as soon as possible. They’ll make sure to monitor your baby’s heartbeat and movements.
2nd Stage: During this stage, you will have a strong urge to push as hard as you can to make way for your baby. For some, this stage ends quickly but for others, it might take longer than usual and it ends when your baby finally comes out!
3rd Stage: This is the stage when your obstetrician or midwife will help you deliver the placenta.
If for some reason, vaginal delivery seems to be impossible, you’ll have to go through a cesarean section (c section) delivery. There could be many reasons but some common ones include the size of the baby, breech position of the baby, baby lying transversely and in some cases due to diabetes and high blood pressure vaginal delivery becomes rather dangerous for the mother and the baby. Whatever the reason may be, trust your doctor if he suggests it even while you are in the labor room because c-section is fairly common these days.
A vaginal delivery or a c-section, in the end, you are going to hold your baby in your arms and that may bring tears of joy as the nurses will ask you to feed your baby. It is going to be an exceptional experience for you – from pregnancy to your delivery – It will not only change your body but your entire existence. You’ll feel as if you too have been reborn with your baby’s birth.
I have shared my experiences with you here and I hope my guide to planning your pregnancy helps you in making the right choices for yourself, your baby and your family.