While pregnancy is one of the most profound experiences of your life, it can also take a toll on your body and mind. Between the excitement, anticipation and nerves, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed. Thankfully, there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure you’re as ready as possible for your bundle of joy to safely arrive. We spoke with Phillip Hirshman, MD, an OBGYN at Main Line Health’s Bryn Mawr Hospital, to set the record straight on your pre-birth priorities.
Whether this is your first time or your third time, taking these steps will ease your birthing experience:
Take prenatal vitamins. Expectant mothers should add at least 400 micrograms of folic acid to their vitamin routine. Not only does it supply baby with necessary nutrients in the early stages of pregnancy, it also can prevent serious birth defects.
Adjust your diet. This list of things to avoid while pregnant might seem endless but certain foods are of-limits for good reason. There are a few fish species you definitely want to avoid during pregnancy due to their high mercury levels like tuna, mackerel and swordfish. But you won’t have to cut fish out completely—there are plenty of species like tilapia, flounder and cod that have nutrients that could help your child’s growth and development. However, you’ll always want to avoid processed foods, which could increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes and the risk of an overweight child.
Make movement a priority. Staying active during pregnancy can actually ease your birthing experience. It can also help your baby get in the right position for birth. Standing, walking, kneeling, slow dancing and squatting all allow the baby to move down into your pelvis and into position. Exercise can also help manage stress during pregnancy. Yoga, and other lower impact workouts will clear your head and allow you to socialize with other expectant mothers. Before hitting the gym, it’s important to discuss exercise with your OBGYN during your early visits. Together you can decide on a routine that fits your needs and is safe during pregnancy.
Take a hospital tour. Put your mind at ease by taking a tour of your birthing center. Bryn Mawr hosts 45-minute tours every week to show expectant families the labor and delivery area, postpartum unit and newborn nursery. During your tour, you’ll also have the opportunity to ask staff members any unanswered questions you may have.
Learn about labor. The more you know about birth, the better you’ll be at making informed decisions on how you’d like to deliver your baby. By reading or watching videos about various delivery methods (natural birth, Cesarean section, gentle C-sections, birth with an epidural, etc.), you’ll be able to choose what’s comfortable for you and baby. You should also make time to attend a prenatal birth class with your partner. There, you’ll learn about breathing techniques, pain management options, the stages of labor and the type of equipment used during labor.
Discuss your health history and options with your doctor. Your doctor is your most valuable resource during this time in your life. No question is too big or too small for them to address. First things first—you’ll need to discuss any pre-existing or chronic health conditions (ex. hypertension and diabetes) with them to make sure these are stabilized before pregnancy. Once you’re pregnant, they can help you decide on delivery methods, whether to have an epidural or not, and other methods to ease pain like hypnosis or breathing techniques. Your doctor will know what is available at your birthing center and appropriate for your body and your baby.
Keep your cool. It’s essential to manage your stress while pregnant. With work, relationships and baby-on-the-brain, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But when your body is in distress, it can signal neurohormones that the baby can detect. If you’re struggling with stress or other emotions, reach out for help. Main Line Health’s Women’s Emotional Wellness Center is where you can seek advice and help from other mothers, and mental health professionals.
Finalize your birthing plan. Once you’ve done your research and decided on the type of delivery you’d like, make sure to set up a birthing plan with your doctor. Keep in mind, no matter how well-thought-out a birth plan is, your little guy or girl might have other ideas of how to come into the world. Babies don’t always stick to the birthing plan, so it’s best to expect and accept the unexpected.
Pack your bags and pre-register. The absolute last thing you’ll want to be doing when your water breaks is packing a bag, so set aside your overnight necessities in advance. You’ll need your personal identification and insurance information, phone numbers of family, friends and physicians, a phone charger, toiletries and comfy clothes for you and your partner, a baby blanket and going-home outfit, and a car seat (installed and inspected). You’ll also want to pre-register for your hospital stay. Once your OB/GYN has a projected delivery date, you can register with your hospital’s labor and delivery center so they can prepare for your arrival.
Find a doctor for your little one. You’re probably focused on your own health during pregnancy but before you know it, your baby will be out in the world and in need of their own checkups. In fact, newborn babies need a checkup within the first three to five days after birth. Secure a pediatrician midway through your pregnancy to give yourself ample time to find a doctor that’s a good fit for your family and work through any concerns or confusion with your health insurance provider.
For an in-depth checklist of everything you need to accomplish before baby, check out mainlinehealth.org/checklists and for more information on Bryn Mawr Hospital’s new maternity unit or to schedule an appointment, click here.
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