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A healthy pregnancy is a pregnancy that is long, boring, and uneventful. You want that. Having a healthy pregnancy actually starts before you get pregnant. If you are trying to have a baby, there are things you can do before conception that can help you attain a healthy pregnancy. You can start taking prenatal vitamins, finding the obstetrician or midwife you'd like to use, and exercising. All of these things and more can be found in the following chapters.
Tips on how to remain healthy during pregnancy
To remain healthy during pregnancy, you can
Take vitamins and supplements (Chapter 3)
Take tests that can catch problems early on (Chapter 4)
Follow a healthy diet (Chapter 5)
Exercise (Chapter 6).
All that and more is covered in the following chapters.
What you need to do to have a healthy pregnancy
To have a healthy pregnancy, you can start by taking vitamins. It is also important that you stop drinking, smoking and taking drugs before you conceive. Go to your OB/GYN or midwife before you conceive for a Pre-conception appointment. If you have a pap-smear that needs to be done, this would be the perfect time to do it. You can also find out what kind of vitamins to use; your doctor may even give you a prescription for some. Your doctor can even go through your current medications and update them with something that is friendlier to a growing baby.
Chapter 1: Preparing for Pregnancy
Thing to consider before getting pregnant
Are you secured financially? Are you healthy? Do you have drug prescriptions that may not be safe for a growing baby? Are you in a healthy relationship?
Financial security is a plus when you decide to expand your family. I don't call it a must. If it seems like you will never have a family if you have to wait for financial security, and you are mentally and physically ready for a baby: go for it. It is harder having a baby with little income and no savings, but it isn't impossible. You may have to let go of some luxury purchases, and buy non-name brand food, but it can be done. Financial security ensures that you don't have to scrimp and save so often, but many of today's families have children when they are financially secure, and then lose that security when they are laid off. If you are lucky, you'll have family to help you out when you need it. If you are not, there are government programs that may be helpful to you.
Another plus is being healthy already. For me, weight is not an issue, as there are plenty of women who are overweight and still healthy, but having a healthy weight before pregnancy is nicer. You can buy more cute maternity clothes if you are not too overweight, and you are more noticeably pregnant to the people around you. However, if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or other conditions, you may have a harder pregnancy than most. Most blood pressure medications cannot be taken during pregnancy. Some can, so ask your doctor before you conceive-or as soon as you find out you are pregnant.
It is also important to review your relationship. Do you fight often? Do you think that having a baby will make everything better than it is? Does your significant other belittle you, hit you, or cheat on you? If you answered yes to these questions, it may not be the right time for you to conceive a child. Remember, you are bringing an innocent new life into the equation. If you don't feel safe, your child won't feel safe. This is one of the questions your doctor or midwife will ask you when you go in for your first appointment. They ask for the sake of the child, but also for you. You cannot have a healthy pregnancy if you are often stressed, hurt, or scared.
How to prepare for pregnancy
To start preparing for pregnancy, schedule consultation appointments with multiple doctors or midwives to find a doctor that is one you feel safe and comfortable with (see Choosing an OB/GYN or a Midwife). Take a daily prenatal vitamin, eat healthy meals, and exercise. If you are a smoker, quit. If you drink often, stop. If you partake in illegal drugs, don't. If you are taking prescription medications, consult with your doctor to find a medication that is not harmful to a fetus. Either start exercising or continue exercising. Your doctor or midwife will let you know if and when you need to change your exercise routine.
Ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant
There are many ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant. If you don't want to make a business out of it, just have sex around the time you think you may ovulate. However, if you don't know when you ovulate, there are many ways to find out when you are ready to.
You can purchase ovulation prediction kits (OPKs) which are available for purchase online and at the store. Many of the companies who produce pregnancy tests now produce OPKs. Some are harder to read than others, find the one that is right for you. What an OPK does is detect your luteal surge. There are three phases in your cycle. These phases correspond with the different hormones produced at certain times. The first phase begins when you start menstruating-the very first day of menstruation-this is a small phase called the follicular phase. The second phase is the ovulatory phase. However, before the second phase can begin, your pituitary gland has to release two hormones simultaneously: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH). It is the surge in this hormone that the OPKs detect. This surge is necessary, as it tells the egg follicle that it is time to descend through the fallopian tubes and implant itself (if it gets fertilized) into the new lining of your uterus. After this surge is detected, you have a window of about 24 to 36 hours in which your egg can be fertilized. The day after the surge and the day of ovulation are the most fertile days of your cycle. Some people never have a surge detected with OPKs, even though they are, in fact, ovulating. This method requires you to pee on a stick (POAS) during certain days of your cycle. The OPKs will show the surge (or not) through various ways. You can purchase a digital OPK, a simple two-line OPK, or an OPK that shows a happy face or a sad face.
Another way to improve your chances for pregnancy is by charting your cycle. You can find and download charts to write you information on, or try a website like www.fertilityfriend.com to chart the cycle. This method ranges from just taking your temperature daily to checking your cervical mucus and cervix positions. It starts the first day of your menstrual cycle. You wake up and take your basal body temperature (you will need a basal body thermometer) before you get up, move around, or drink anything. The day before ovulation, your temperature will drop slightly. The day you ovulate it will raise and be higher than your previous temperatures. Once it rises, you've already ovulated. Charting can help you find out when you normally ovulate after a few months of taking your temperature daily. You can also put when you've had sex on the chart, what your cervical mucus (CM) looks and feels like, and what your cervical position is. Your cervical mucus changes with the hormones in your body. Before ovulation, your CM goes from sticky and creamy to watery, and right before ovulation, to an egg white consistency. Don't check your CM after sex, as at that time it can give you false readings. To check it properly, make sure your hands are clean (fingernails too) and sitting on a toilet or with one leg on the edge of your tub, insert your fingers as far in as you can and "scoop" out some mucus. This mucus is the closest to your cervix and, therefore, much purer. The egg white consistency is what you are looking for. This mucus is the one that helps guide the sperm towards its intended target.
Having a baby is literally good for you
Having a baby can make you happier. After you deliver your child, especially if you do it without drugs, your body releases "love" hormones. You feel a sense of euphoria and happiness. You look into your baby's eyes, hold its little hands, and quiver with love for him or her. You'll find yourself smiling more often as you watch the baby grow and thrive. If you breastfeed your infant, you are not only saving money and feeding the baby the only food that is actually made just for them, but you are also lowering your risk factor for getting breast cancer.
When to start taking prenatal vitamins
As soon as you decide to start trying to conceive (TTC), start taking your prenatal vitamins. If you have not seen a doctor, the vitamins can be purchased over the counter. Taking them at least two months before conception can help assure that you are getting enough folic acid to reduce the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects like spina bifida. You should look for a prenatal vitamin that has at least 800 mcg of folic acid. The dose for a non-pregnant woman is 400 mcg, and for a pregnant woman it is suggested that you take 800 to 1000 mcg of folic acid. Some over the counter prenatal vitamins contain 800 mcg, but if you want more than that, you usually have to get a prescription.
Chapter 2: Signs of Pregnancy
The early signs of pregnancy
When do signs of pregnancy typically start?
How to Recognize Signs of Pregnancy
Taking a Home Pregnancy Test and HCG Levels
Choosing an OB/GYN or a Midwife
The First Prenatal Appointment: What to Expect
Placenta: How it Works
Danger Signs in Early Pregnancy