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This topic covers prepregnancy and pregnancy information, including planning for labor and delivery. For more information, see the topic Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum Period.
How can you get ready for pregnancy?
If you're planning to get pregnant, you might already be thinking about which room to turn into the baby’s room and how to decorate it. And you might be thinking about all the baby clothes and gear like car seats that you'll need.
But you also can start to think about how to help yourself have a happy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Even before you get pregnant, take these steps to make your pregnancy as healthy as possible:
- See a doctor or certified nurse-midwife for an exam. Talk about the medicines and dietary supplements you take. Ask if you need any immunizations. Talk about any health problems or other concerns you have.
- Do not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin. These may raise your risk of miscarriage, especially around the time you conceive or if you use them for more than a week.1
- Take a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with of folic acid. This B vitamin lowers the chance of having a baby with a birth defect.
- See your dentist. Take care of any dental work you may need.
- Keep track of your menstrual cycle. This helps you know the best time to try to get pregnant. And after you are pregnant, you will be better able to help your doctor or midwife figure out when your baby is due and how it is growing.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet. Avoid caffeine, or don't have more than 1 cup of coffee or tea each day. Avoid alcoholic drinks, cigarettes, and illegal drugs. Take only the medicines your doctor or midwife says are okay.
- Exercise regularly. A strong body helps you handle the demands of pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery. Exercise also helps improve your mood.
If you are not sure when you are most likely to get pregnant (when you are fertile), use the Interactive Tool: When Are You Most Fertile?
You're pregnant! What can you do to have a healthy pregnancy?
Now that you're pregnant, you may be happy and excited. You may be a little nervous or worried. If this will be your first child, you may even feel overwhelmed by all of the things you need to know about having a baby. There is a lot to learn. But you don't have to know everything right away. You can read all about pregnancy now, or you can learn about each stage as your pregnancy goes on.
During your pregnancy, you'll have tests to watch for certain problems that could occur. With all the tests you'll have, you may worry that something will go wrong. But most women have healthy pregnancies. If there is a problem, these tests can find it early so that you and your doctor or midwife can treat it or watch it to help improve your chance of having a healthy baby.
Taking great care of yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby. Everything healthy that you do for your body helps your growing baby. Rest when you need it, eat well, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active. This is very important when it’s hot out and when you do intense exercise.
You'll need to have regular checkups. At every visit, your doctor or midwife will weigh you and measure your belly to check your baby's growth. You'll also get blood and urine tests and have your blood pressure checked.
It’s important to avoid tobacco smoke, alcohol and drugs, chemicals, and radiation (like X-rays). These can harm you and the baby.
Try to keep your body temperature from getting too high [over 100.4°F (38 °C)]. Treat a fever with acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Don't get too hot when you exercise. And don't get in a high-temperature hot tub or sauna. Call your doctor to report any fever or illness that requires the use of medicine.
What kinds of exams and tests will you have?
Your first prenatal exam gives your doctor or midwife important information for planning your care. You'll have a pelvic exam and urine and blood tests. You'll also have your blood pressure and weight checked. The urine and blood tests are used for a pregnancy test and to tell whether you have low iron levels (are anemic) or have signs of infection.
At each prenatal visit you'll be weighed, have your belly measured, and have your blood pressure and urine checked. Go to all your appointments. Although these quick office visits may seem simple and routine, your doctor is watching for signs of possible problems like high blood pressure.
In some medical centers, you can have screening in your first trimester to see if your baby has a chance of having Down syndrome or another genetic problem. The test usually includes a blood test and an ultrasound.
During your second trimester, you can have a blood test (triple or quadruple screen test) to see if you have a higher-than-normal chance of having a baby with birth defects. Based on the results of the tests, you may be referred to a geneticist for further discussion. Or you may have other tests to find out for sure if your baby has a birth defect.
Late in your second trimester, your blood sugar will be checked for diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Near the end of your pregnancy, you will have tests to look for infections that could harm your newborn.
What warning signs should you look for during your pregnancy?
Call your doctor or midwife right away if you have:
- Blood or other fluid from your vagina.
- Belly pain.
- An ache in your low back that doesn't go away.
- Burning or pain when you urinate.
- A bad headache.
- Blurred vision.
- A fever.
- Sudden severe swelling of your feet, ankles, or hands.
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