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How can I prepare for a pregnancy?

There are certain steps you can take to make a pregnancy as healthy as possible.

See a doctor or certified nurse-midwife (CNM) for a pre-pregnancy exam. Discuss the medications you're now taking, whether you've had all necessary immunizations, and any health problems or other concerns you may have. (hopefully you had this conversation with your RE)

Be sure to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, which may increase your risk of miscarriage, especially around the time of conception or when used for more than a week. Talk to your doctor about any medicines or dietary supplements you take.

Start taking a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 0.4 mg of folic acid. This can reduce the chance of having a baby with a birth defect.

Make healthier lifestyle choices. Eat a balanced diet. Cut down on caffeine. Avoid alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, illegal drugs, and medications or other substances that are unsafe during pregnancy.

Exercise regularly. A strong body helps you handle the demands of pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery. Exercise will also help keep your mood up.

What can I do to promote a healthy pregnancy?

When you're pregnant, regular checkups are key. Your health professional will want to follow your baby's growth and watch for problems that can only be found by regularly checking your blood pressure, urine, and blood.

Anything you do that harms your body harms your fetus. Take special care to avoid tobacco smoke, alcohol and drugs, chemicals, radiation (as from X-rays), and sources of infection. Keep your body temperature from getting too high over 100.4 F by treating any fevers with acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and avoiding exercise or activity that overheats you. Also avoid high-temperature hot tub or sauna use.

Take extra-good care of yourself while you're pregnant. Everything healthy you do for your body helps your growing fetus. Rest when you need it, eat well, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly.

What kinds of exams and tests will I have to undergo?

Your first prenatal exam gives your doctor or certified nurse-midwife baseline medical information for planning your prenatal care. You will have a pelvic exam, a blood pressure and weight check, plus urine and blood tests during this first office visit. Urine and blood tests are used for a pregnancy test and to tell whether you have low iron levels (anemia) or have signs of infection.

At each subsequent prenatal visit you'll be weighed, have your abdomen measured, and your blood pressure and urine checked. Keep all your appointments. Although these quick office visits may seem simple and routine, your health professional is watching for signs of complications.

During the second trimester, you can have blood tested (triple or quadruple screen test) to determine whether there is a higher-than-normal chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you have risk factors for birth defects, such as a positive family history on either side or you are 35 or older, talk to your health professional about specific testing. Late in your second trimester, your blood sugar will be checked (glucose tolerance test) for gestational diabetes. Near the end of your pregnancy, you will be screened for infections that could harm the newborn.

What warning signs should I look for during my pregnancy?

Call your health professional immediately if you have:

Cramping.

Blood or other fluid from the vagina.

Abdominal pain.

Persistent low backache.

Burning or pain while urinating.

Headache.

Blurred vision.

Fever.

Sudden, severe foot, ankle, or hand swelling.

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