Prenatal health care
* Early prenatal care is essential. Ideally, you should see a healthcare practitioner even before you get pregnant. This gives you a chance to get your body in the healthiest shape possible. For example, you may need to reach your ideal weight first, before the pregnancy. That's because, while it's important to gain enough weight during pregnancy to ensure your baby's proper development, starting out with excess weight before you conceive can put you at a higher risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy. If you have chronic health problems, a visit to a doctor or healthcare provider prior to conceiving provides a chance to get those health problems under control such as diabetes, epilepsy and high blood pressure. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider early about keeping conditions such as these in check throughout your pregnancy as well. You should also find out about any immunizations you may need before getting pregnant, for example vaccinations for rubella or chicken pox. In addition, ask your doctor or healthcare provider about screening for the herpes virus. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says a pregnant woman with genital herpes can pass the virus to her baby during vaginal delivery. HSV infection in newborns can result in mental retardation and death. However, with proper care, this risk can be reduced.
* Prenatal visits: Early and often is the best advice when it comes to prenatal visits. Again, try to see your healthcare practitioner if you're even thinking about becoming pregnant. In the beginning, expect to be seen at least once a month. Later on, near delivery, you may be seen once a week. Seek medical help right away if you have any signs of an infection or other problems such as bleeding or leaking of fluid from the vagina, unusual cramps or other unusual changes. If you are older or are carrying multiple fetuses , your healthcare provider may have extra concerns.
* Nutrition is important throughout each of the trimesters. Eat a well balanced and nutritious diet with all the food groups, once again consulting with your doctor or healthcare provider on supplements such as folic acid. The United States Public Health Services say women of childbearing age need at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. Folic acid is a B vitamin and is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and citrus fruits. Folic acid reduces the chances of neural tube birth defects according to the March of Dimes. Calcium is also important. According to the National Institutes of Health, pregnant or lactating women need between 1,000 and 1,300 mg/day of calcium. Since most women don't get enough calcium even when they're not pregnant, it's important to pay attention to this need in your diet. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, tofu and salmon. The Food and Drug Administration says getting enough calcium can help prevent a new mother from losing her own bone calcium as the fetus uses the mineral for bone growth. Depending on your diet, your doctor or healthcare provider may recommend a calcium supplement, which should also include vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb the calcium.
* Exercise: Get the facts about getting regular exercise, and about how much is appropriate at different times throughout your pregnancy. regular activity can not only help you stay fit; it may also improve your ability to cope with the pain of labor and make it easier to get back in shape after the baby is born. you should not, however, exercise to lose weight while you are pregnant.
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