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Friday, November 9, 2012

SMART Youth Answers: What to Expect When You're Knocked Up Part 1

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...

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'm pregnant! What the heck do I do now?

If you're like me, and not someone who goes to the doctor as often as you should, figuring out what to do after you learn you're pregnant can be a bit scary.  First, calm down.  You don't need to rush to the hospital right away.  Right now, just maintain healthy eating habits and get yourself some prenatal vitamins.

If you have health insurance and a clinic you go to that has prenatal care, call them and make an appointment.  Or if you have health insurance, but no clinic, do some research on prenatal clinics nearby and make an appointment with them.  It's really that simple.

If you don't have health insurance, things will be a little more complicated for you, but not impossible.  First you'll have to find a clinic that takes clients with medicaid -- a web engine search, or a visit to a nearby hospital should do the trick.  Set up an appointment with them and let them know you don't have insurance.  When you visit for the first time a social worker will walk you through the procedure of getting medicaid.  You can apply for this on your own, but I personally liked having someone who was familiar with the forms helping me.  Applying for insurance can be a real pain in the butt, but as long as you stay on top of your paperwork and interviews--you should be fine.

If you don't qualify for medicaid, the social worker should be able to help you with other options.

What to expect from your first appointment.

When you arrive at the clinic for the first time a couple of things may happen.  First, no matter what, a nurse will do a pregnancy test to make sure you're actually pregnant.  Several representatives may come in from different departments to ask you questions about your background, or just the doctor and nurse.  You'll be asked questions like: Do you smoke?  Do you drink?  Do you do any other recreational drugs? Are their any hereditary diseases in your family?  Are you allergic to anything?  Nothing too outrageous and it certainly won't be anything you won't be able to answer--unless it's about your partner.

You'll be asked when your last period was, so the doctor will be able to give you a due date.  If you have irregular periods or have been on birth control so you haven't had a period, you may be asked to make an appointment to get an ultrasound done.  Your doctor will check your stomach to make sure everything feels right.  She will also check your uterus with her fingers, so be prepared to strip down and put your legs up in stirrups (yeah it's as not fun as it sounds, but fortunately it's quick).

You will have blood drawn for testing, including for STIs.  If you want HIV/AIDS testing done you have to provide written consent, as it is illegal to do HIV/AIDS testing without your consent.  In addition to your blood work, you may be asked to see a nutritionist to talk about your diet and ways to improve it.  I was sent to the nutritionist the first time I was pregnant because I think I was gaining weight a little too fast.  I have not been sent to a nutritionist yet for my second pregnancy, but I'm at a different clinic now.  So, it may depend on where you go.  Whether or not you are required to see the nutritionist, I would strongly suggest you ask questions about your diet--especially if you don't have healthy eating habits.

You may or may not have an ultrasound done, depending on how far along you are.  There is a first trimester check up where the doctor checks to make sure the fetus is developing normally.  I had this done for my first pregnancy, but as I was already going into my second trimester when I found out I was pregnant my second time, I missed it.  There are other tests to check the development of your fetus, so don't worry if you miss anything.

Chances are you will not always have the same doctor, unless you go to a private practice.  This is because different doctors will be on call at different times--so you never know who you'll have when you go into labor.  For this reason, your clinic will suggest that you try to see all the doctors at the clinic at least once.  I didn't take this advice because I didn't really care which doctor was on call when I went into labor, but it was important to me to have a doctor that knew me.  So once I found a doctor I liked, I stuck with her.  In the end, it's really up to you and what you're most comfortable with.  I stress this, you have to be comfortable.

The first appointment is one of the longest, but most appointments afterwords--unless you are getting an ultrasound or special tests done should only take about 15 minutes.  Hopefully, after your first appointment, you'll feel a lot more comfortable.  If you have an questions ASK YOUR DOCTOR.  Don't hold anything back, even if it seems a bit embarrassing.  Many of your questions may be due to the first time jitters, but you might have a question that's really important.  Questions about vaginal discomfort, discharge, funny odors, or anything along those lines are particularly important.  Yeast infections during pregnancy are very common--even if you've never had a yeast infection before.  Bacterial infections are also common too and can be hazardous to the fetus if left untreated for too long.  So speak up!

I drank/smoked before I knew I was pregnant!  Is my baby going to be okay?

Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer to this question.  Chances are, your baby will be perfectly fine, as this happens to many pregnant women.  However, there is no "certain amount" of drugs or alcohol that is definitely safe or unsafe to consume during pregnancy.  Many doctors and pregnant women are torn on the matter, since studies have shown various results.  The important thing is that, now that you know you are pregnant, you STOP smoking and drinking!  Continuing these habits can lead to terrible consequences for your child later, including (but not limited to); Asthma, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), breathing problems, premature birth, low birthweight, brain defects, heart defects, and facial defects, as well as a weak immune system.

This, of course, is terrifying if you didn't know--but now that you know it is your responsibility to stop.  If you are having trouble quitting talk to your doctor.  They will have resources and specialists to help you.

In addition to quitting, try to avoid being around people who smoke.  Second hand smoke can be just as dangerous as smoking yourself.  If it is your partner or family members who are the smokers, encourage them to quit--or at least not smoke around you.  However, third hand smoke (that smokey smell that emanates from smoker's clothes, car, and house) has its dangers too, so the most ideal situation is a house that is completely smoke free.

If you find that it's hard to get your partner/family members to quit (I'm STILL trying to get my husband to quit!) try not to stress yourself out about it too much.  Do your best to avoid being around smokers.  Walk away when people light up in front of you (you would think people would be courteous enough not to smoke in front of a pregnant woman--but they really aren't).  If there is an event at a smoker's house or some place where you know people will be smoking opt not to go--or go at your own discretion.  You can't be responsible for other people's actions and, trust me, you're going to be irritated by how little many people seem to care about endangering your fetus--but you can control what you do and where you go.

What is the safest position to sleep in while pregnant?

The safest position to sleep in when you are pregnant is on your left side.  This will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that travels through the placenta to your baby.

Sleeping on your stomach is okay, you will not crush your baby, but it will become extremely uncomfortable after awhile.  If you are a stomach sleeper, sleeping on your stomach while slightly tilted to the side may be more comfortable for you.

The only dangerous position to sleep is flat on your back.  This cuts of blood circulation to the fetus and is also bad for you.  It can cause heartburn, shortness of breath, pack pain, low blood pressure, and even hemorrhoids.  This is due to your lower intestines resting on major blood vessels. If you really want to sleep on your back, you can as long as you prop yourself up with pillows against the headboard--or even make your living room recliner your temporary bed home.

No matter what position you sleep in, you are going to have many uncomfortable nights.  It's just a fact.  Getting up every few hours to pee, especially later in pregnancy, is not going to help either.  To make things more comfortable you can get a body pillow (I still love my Boppy full body pillow) or use regular pillows to make yourself more comfortable.  Keep the upper part of your body elevated, this will prevent heartburn and discomfort.  Prop pillows between your legs to keep them parallel to each other, this will help relieve aches and pains in your hips.  Having someone (or a pillow) to hug also makes sleeping more comfortable.  A few pillows placed behind you to keep you tilted if you happen to roll over onto your back are a good idea too.

In short...pillows are your new best friends.

What foods can I eat?

You can pretty much eat anything you want, with few exceptions.  For a full list of foods you should avoid and the reasons behind it, check out the American Pregnancy Association's list of Foods to Avoid.

Foods to avoid include:
- Raw Meat
- Deli Meat
- Raw Eggs
- Raw/Unpasteurized Milk
- Raw Fish
- Smoked Fish
- Fish with Mercury (although fish is very important and full of nutrients, mercury levels make it dangerous)
- Raw Shellfish
- Caffeine
- Alcohol
- Unwashed fruits and vegetables (due to the pesticides and contaminants sprayed on them)

Here are some food guidelines you should try and follow while pregnant:
Grains: 6 - 8 servings a day
1 serving is equal to:
- 1 slice of bread
- 1 cup cold cereal
- 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, or hot cereal
- 1 small pancake
- 1 small tortilla

Vegetables: 2 1/2 to 3 servings a day
1 serving is equal to:
- 1 cup vegetables
- 1 cup vegetable juice
- 2 cups dark leafy greens
- 1 medium baked potato

Fruits: 2 servings per day
1 serving of fruit is equal to:
- 1 cup 100% juice
- 1 cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
- 1 apple, orange, or banana
- 1/2 cup dried fruit

Dairy: 3 servings per day
1 serving is equal to:
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup yogurt
- 2 ounces of cheese

 Proteins: 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 servings per day
1 serving of protein is equal to:
- 1/4 cup cooked dried beans
- 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or fish
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter of 1/2 cup nuts

Make sure you eat lots of iron-rich foods, as it is easy to suffer from anemia while pregnant and after giving birth.  Meat, poultry, dried fruit, whole grains, dark leafy greens, baked potatoes with the skin still on, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, cereal, bread, pasta, and oatmeal are all great foods to help your iron intake. 
For healthy and delicious meals you can easily make at home, check out SMART's new (free) eCookbook, Recipes from SMART's Kitchen Table!

If I am hungry/don't eat enough, will my fetus be hungry too?

No.  Your fetus will take everything it needs from your body.  Whatever nutrients you are lacking in the foods you eat, your fetus will take from other reserves in your body.  That is why it is SO important to maintain a healthy nutrient-rich diet while you are pregnant.  Your baby will be fine, but you may suffer the consequences of malnutrition.

If the reason you are not eating enough is because you are having difficulty paying for food contact your local WIC office and apply.  If accepted, WIC will provide you with stipends to buy healthy foods to supplement your groceries, including whole wheat bread, milk, peanut butter, beans, eggs, and fruits & vegetables.  After the baby is born they will give you more food stipends if you are breastfeeding and formula stipends if you are bottle-feeding.  Being apart of WIC was extremely helpful when I was pregnant and after Julian was born too.

I haven't been feeling very hungry, at all.

It's normal to have a bit of a poor appetite, especially if you are dealing with nausea or morning sickness.  I didn't suffer from morning sickness, but during my second pregnancy I find my appetite is a bit off.  Even if you aren't hungry, you should still make sure you are getting vital nutrients.  I do this by making myself smoothies around meal times.

- plain yogurt
- fruit juice (apple, orange, or white grape) or milk
- strawberries
- banana
- wheat germ
- honey
- a little ice

You can do any combination of fruits or vegetables you like.  I'd strongly suggest honey or agave as a sweetener as they have nutritional value, but sugar does not.  Smoothies taste great and give you some reassurance that you are giving your body and baby what they need.

Why do I get strange food cravings?

The short answer is, no one really knows for sure.  It may be due to hormonal changes which affect and heighten your sense of taste and smell.  It may be because the foods you crave have some sort of vitamin or nutrient your body really needs.  It may be a mix of both.  There are lots of theories, but as of yet, no definitive facts.

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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