You can take control of your pregnancy—risks and all—by adopting healthy habits, educating yourself and following your doctor’s advice. These key Habits to Have® will get you started and can help you manage the risks of pregnancy.
Preconception health is nearly as important as taking care of yourself during pregnancy. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, start taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily and see your doctor for a preconception check-up. If you have an existing health condition, make sure it is under control before getting pregnant, and talk to your doctor about whether your medication is safe to take during pregnancy.
See this pre-conception health guide from the National Women’s Health Information Center for more information.
Some risks you can’t control, but there’s one big one that you can. Smoking can make it harder for you to conceive, increases your chance of miscarriage and doubles your chance of having a low-birthweight baby. For help kicking the habit, see these Tips to Quit from the March of Dimes.
Educate yourself about your personal risk factors—gather your facts and then talk (openly and honestly) to your doctor about how your medical conditions, age, weight, lifestyle, any sexually transmitted diseases and family history might affect your pregnancy.
Ask your doctor what sorts of pre-natal tests will be conducted, and why. Then, research the tests and determine if you have any questions about them. Begin preparing yourself for any decisions you may need to make regarding your care or the health of your baby as a result of those tests.
Being pregnant is not an excuse to overindulge and treat yourself to an extra portion or dessert (or two or three). The guidelines for how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy were recently revised downward. According to the new guidelines, women of a normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) should have a total weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds. If you’re overweight, you should gain 15 to 25 pounds. And if you start pregnancy underweight, you need to put on a little extra weight and should gain 28 to 40 pounds. See the new pregnancy weight gain guidelines from the Institute of Medicine.
If your job involves heavy lifting, exposure to toxic substances or chemicals, extensive travel or other requirements that might be difficult during pregnancy, talk to your employer. It’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, and employers are required to temporarily accommodate pregnant employees. Talk to your doctor about concerns you might have and accommodations you might need before approaching your employer. Learn more at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Web site.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that companies with 50 or more employees provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and some states require even small companies to offer unpaid maternity leave. Your company may also provide some paid time off. For advice on negotiating a maternity leave, visit Working Mother or the National Association of Working Women.
One out of every 33 babies born in the United States has a birth defect. Some, but not all of those defects are the result of family genes. If mom is over 35 or either parent has a family history of birth defects or genetic disorders, you may want to consider genetic counseling. Genetic counseling can help you assess your risk for an abnormal pregnancy outcome, determine if prenatal genetic testing is appropriate for you and help you understand the results of testing.
Bedrest can help prevent early labor, decrease stress, lower high blood pressure and manage vaginal bleeding. Whether you’re on bedrest for two weeks or 20, time will go faster if you have the support, help and distractions you need. Visit Sidelines, a support network for high-risk women and their families, for advice.
Experiencing a high-risk pregnancy can be frightening and feel lonely. Sharing your concerns and anxiety with your partner might help alleviate them, and can also open the door for your partner to share his/her fears, too.