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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SMART Youth Answers: What to Expect When You're Knocked Up Part 2

What do I do when the pregnancy test shows a + sign?

For this post, we asked one of our SMART Youth alumni (and new mommy) to talk about her experiences and what she wished she knew while she was pregnant...

If you missed Part 1, check it out here: What to Expect When You're Knocked Up Part 1

Pregnancy can be terrifying, especially for first time mommies. Here you are carrying something inside of you! I know when I was pregnant I was scared about everything. Am I sleeping in the right position? Am I taking the right prenatal vitamins? If I get sick, does my fetus get sick? Do I need to wear an oxygen mask outside because all of the smog, smoke, and debris that flies through the air? These questions may seem kind of funny to people who have never been pregnant and maybe even to a few experienced mom, but first time moms know--there is no stupid question when it comes to your baby!

Hopefully, this post will help ease your mind of at least some of your questions--and if not--I've included some resources that I used when I was pregnant for the first time at the bottom.

I am sick! Will my fetus get sick too? Can I take medicine?
No, your fetus will not get sick--depending on the severity of the illness and yes, you can take medicine. Most medicines are okay to use while pregnant, some are iffy, and some should be avoided altogether. Your doctor may provide you with a list of okay medicines to take, if not you can (and should) always call and ask. If you are sick right now and cannot reach your doctor, Tylenol is an acceptable medicine to take.

With any medicine, follow the directions exactly!

Natural remedies may seem more appealing than drugs bought at the store, but they can be just as toxic and dangerous if misused. Please treat natural drugs and remedies the same way you would store bought drugs. Talk to your doctor or caregiver and follow directions exactly as they are given.

Which prenatal vitamins should I take?
Not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. Some people swear by natural vitamins, others prefer the candy fun of gummy vitamins, some (like me) don't care and just take whatever was free from the clinic. If you are concerned about the vitamins you are taking here is some information to keep in mind when selecting your prenatal vitamins.

Look for vitamins that have approximately....
...400 mcg of Folic Acid
...400 IU of Vitamin D
...200 to 300 mg of Calcium
...70 mg of Vitamin C
...3 mg of thiamine
...2 mg of riboflavin
...20 mg of niacin
...6 mcg of Vitamin B12
...10 mg of Vitamin E
...15 mg of Zinc
...17 mg of Iron

Whether you find these amounts in natural vitamins or clinic freebies, it doesn't matter--as long as you take it every day!

How much weight will I gain?
If you were of average weight before you were pregnant, expect to gain 25 - 35 pounds over the nine months; 1 - 4 1/2 lbs. during the first trimester, then about a pound a week during the rest of the pregnancy.

If you were underweight, expect to gain 28 to 40 lbs.; 1 - 4 1/2 lbs in the first trimester, then a little over a pound every week after that.

If you were overweight, expect to gain around 15 - 25lbs.; 1 - 4 1/2 lbs during the first trimester, then 1/2 lb. the second and third trimester.

If you were obese or severely overweight, expect to gain 11 - 20 lbs.; 1 - 4 1/2 lbs. in the first trimester, then under 1/2 lb. in the second and third.

Do not attempt to lose weight during your pregnancy, as this could harm the baby. If you find you are losing weight instead of gaining, talk to your doctor. If you are gaining more weight than expected, try adjusting your eating habits. Your doctor may offer you advice on how to help. However, if your doctor isn't concerned about your weight gain, you shouldn't be either. Your doctor will let you know when and if you should be concerned.

Putting on weight slowly and steadily is the best way to go, but don't get too worried if you aren't putting on enough at first or put on a lot at first. Everyone is different. If you were slow to gain the weight in the beginning, you may put it all on at the end. If you gained a lot in the beginning (as long as you are following good eating habits) you may not gain much of anything in the end. Some women grow in spurts; one month, nothing--the next several pounds! Try not to obsess over it. The most important thing is that you are taking good care of your body.

Is it safe to run/exercise while pregnant?
There have been cases where pregnant women have had miscarriages because of jogging, running, or performing certain exercises. However, exercise is still important when you are pregnant. There are different exercises you can do specifically designed for pregnant women. Practicing them may even help with labor pains when it's time to give birth. Look for books, movies, and articles on pregnancy yoga positions and exercises.

Running or jogging isn't strongly advised, but walking is definitely recommended. Taking two 15-minute walks a day can greatly improve the chances of having an easy labor. If you are someone who usually likes to go running or jogging, opt for power walks instead, just to be safe. If you are someone who doesn't like to exercise at all, go for a daily stroll around your neighborhood; challenge yourself to find something new every day.

And, no matter what, don't forget your Kegels!

How important are birth plans?
Honestly speaking, not very. They're good, so that you can have an idea of what to expect once you go into labor and have an idea of all the things you would like to do, but the chances of your labor going exactly as planned is unlikely. Having a birth plan is a lot like planning a party; you could have your theme and decorations ready, you can have all the party games you want set to go, you can have a list of foods you want to make and put out, you can plan and plan and plan until the party feels like it will be flawless. But when the day of the party comes, your oven might break down so you have to order pizza, some of the guests you had your heart set on won't arrive, your flowers are wilting, their was a mix-up at the bakery and you got the wrong cake.

My point is...planning is great, fantastic, wonderful. You should definitely not go into this without some idea of how you would like things to go down--but be open-minded to change and try and have a sense of humor. It's not the end of the world if you cave in and get an epidural instead of going all natural. Maybe your husband gets stuck in traffic and can't make it to see the birth--yeah that sucks, but it will really be okay. Worry about the memories your baby will actually, you know, remember. Some unexpected, unforeseen, complication occurs and you have to have a C-section at a hospital when what you really wanted was a home birth in your bathtub. It's OK!

I know, for first time moms, labor seems like THE most important thing in the world, but once it's done and you have that new screaming, crying, little bundle of joy, it just doesn't matter anymore.

Just like at a party, as long as everyone had a good time, who cares if things went according to plan?

What should I include in my birth plan?
This was a bit overwhelming for me because I thought I had to include EVERYTHING. There is no right way to write a birth plan. It's really just a list of things you would like to happen when going into labor.

  • Include directions to the hospital; several different routes, just in case. How you intend to get there and numbers you may need to call, such as cabs or people who have agreed to drive you, as well as your partner's office and cell numbers (you might know them by heart, but you should still include it if someone else ends up helping you).

  • Include a list of people you'd like to be notified and their numbers. Also add your doctor's name and the name of the clinic you go to. You may only be allowed to have a certain number of people in the room with you so make it clear who those individuals will be.

  • List things you would like to be able to do while in labor, such as go for a walk, eat, watch TV, take a shower, have a jacuzzi, whatever.

  • Include your allergies, any health complications you may have, and your preferences about whether or not you want drugs. They are going to ask you several times at the hospital though, even if you say no.

  • If you would like to save the cord, make a note of this as well--but also tell your attending doctors and nurses so there is no mess ups during the excitement of delivery.

I'd say those are the most important things. Whether or not you have a birth plan the nurse and doctors who are with you will ask you everything they need to know, even if you have it written down on paper.

Is labor as horrible as it sounds?
Yes and no. What I've found to be true when it comes to giving birth is mind over matter. What I mean is, if you go in with the mindset that this is going to be a horrible experience--you're most likely going to have a horrible experience. If you go in calm, relaxed, open-minded, and well informed, you're more likely to have a better experience.

In the months leading up to your due date, get comfortable with the idea of giving birth. Practice breathing and relaxation exercises (I found Hypnobabies especially helpful). Even if things don't go according to plan, try and stay positive, it will just give you a better experience.

Take me, for example, my water broke a week before my son was due, and I was not going into labor. I did not want to take any drugs, but I had to take labor inducing drugs to start my labor. If not, I would risk infection or a C-section--neither options were very appealing to me. For two days I was in the hospital, hooked up to machines, unable to eat or drink anything, unable to leave my bed except for when I really had to use the bathroom and one shower. It was, by no means, a fun experience, but because I refused to let go of my positive attitude I don't look back on it with any sort of resentment.

I did end up getting an epidural because after a night of barely any sleep and no food (I think maybe I was allowed some bagel...), my oncoming labor pains were just not something I had anymore patience or energy to deal with. All in all, when Julian finally arrived I was in extremely good spirits. In fact, when I was moved into my maternity suite, the nurse attending me couldn't even believe I had just given birth.

The best advice I could give anyone is to just do your best to stay calm and keep smiling. If someone is bothering you, don't feel bad about telling them so (I did and my husband and mom would have you believe I was a real monster about it, but my sister will defend me in saying I really wasn't that bad!). If you want to do something, like take a walk, or a shower, or eat, let the nurses know--if you can they will let you, don't be shy to ask! Do whatever it takes to make yourself as comfortable as possible. It's YOUR day!

How long does it take to recover after giving birth?
About 6 weeks is the average estimated time of recovery, though this recovery time can more than double if you have a C-section. If you breastfeed you may recover faster, as breastfeeding helps shrink the uterus (it'll feel like bad cramps when it happens). It's a good idea to really use this time to relax and re-coop. If you push yourself too much, too soon, you risk prolonging your recovery.

Will I ever get my old body back?
Maybe, maybe not. Your breasts might be different after having a baby, and you may have some stretchmarks to take care of, but losing weight, at least, isn't impossible. When you breastfeed you lose weight faster (breastfeeding burns calories). I didn't even try to lose my baby weight and just by going for walks and breastfeeding I went back to my pre-pregnancy size. However, it works differently for everyone. Whatever happens just love yourself for who you are! Look at what you've accomplished! You brought a freaking human being into the world! Who cares if you went up a dress size or two to do it? You are AMAZING! Appreciate that!

Hey, my question isn't here!
Here are some great resources for expecting moms:

WIC - Women, Infants, and Children. As I mentioned before, this is a great resource for low-income families looking to supplement their groceries with healthier foods.

Healthy Families - Healthy Families is a non-profit program that provides free education and resources to expecting parents. Representatives from Healthy Families stop by your house (or a location you choose) to talk about your pregnancy and answer any questions you may have. I am so grateful for being apart of the Healthy Families program. They really made me feel confident and comfortable about being pregnant and what to expect from parenthood. I would have stuck with the program too, if I hadn't moved.

If your question wasn't answered here check out these awesome websites for more advice:

BabyCenter - I still refer to this website when I have questions. They have so many articles to cover just about every question you can think of. If you have a smartphone you can also download their free apps. They have an app to track your pregnancy week by week; it let's you know what your fetus looks like, what features are developing, what you can do to prepare, and cute little pregnancy anecdotes. After the baby is born they have another app to track your baby's growth.

Parenting - Parenting offers two free years of their magazine and lots of great amazing articles and apps, like BabyCenter. Their magazine is full of great information on pregnancy and babies. They'll even tailor it to your baby's age and have special sections each month specifically for your baby's age group.

What to Expect - Website that goes to the classic pregnancy book. Chock full of useful mommy and mommy-to-be resources. They also have smartphone apps available.

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