With all the logistics that arise with planning for conception and pregnancy, it’s no surprise that the 40-week-long endeavor brings out many challenges. Whether you’re hoping for a positive pregnancy test in the near future, or already have baby well on the way, here’s a list of useful tips to help with how to prepare for pregnancy.
First Trimester Pregnancy Checklist
During the first trimester, you’ll experience hormonal changes as your body demonstrates the earliest signs of pregnancy.
You may not know you’re pregnant during the first month of pregnancy. The first probable signs of pregnancy may appear around 12-15 days after ovulation at the earliest. This is when a hormone produced by the placenta, called hCG, has risen enough to become detectable on a pregnancy test.
At this time, you may experience other presumptive signs of pregnancy, such as:
— Sore breasts.
— A missed period.
— Nausea and vomiting.
During the first month, check a few early pregnancy tasks off your list, including:
— Choose your pregnancy and birth provider, like an OB-GYN, midwife or family medicine OB provider.
— Select which hospital you plan to give birth at, if your provider has delivery privileges at multiple locations.
— Schedule your initial prenatal appointment.
— Treat any comorbid conditions.
Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double board-certified OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine provider, suggests treating conditions like:
— Thyroid disease.
“Comorbid conditions, especially uncontrolled diabetes, can significantly increase the risk of congenital abnormalities,” explains Gaither, who also serves as director of perinatal services and maternal-fetal medicine at New York City Health + Hospitals, Lincoln in the Bronx.
Congenital abnormalities are anomalies that arise during fetal development.
Congratulations! Month two is when most women discover their pregnancies.
As soon as you learn you’re pregnant, it’s important to stop smoking, drinking or using drugs. Talk with your medical provider about which prescription medications you may need to start, stop or change at this time.
You will also likely begin taking supplements under the direction of your medical provider. Gaither emphasizes the importance of optimizing your pregnancy meal plan and maintaining healthy iron and folate levels for optimal fetal development.
This is because key fetal development occurs during month two, such as:
— Development of the neural tube, which will later become organs in the nervous system, like the brain and spinal cord.
— Digestive tract development.
— Bone formation.
Month three is often an exciting time in pregnancy, when most people have the first chance to hear the baby’s heart rate. The heart rate may be detectable as early as six weeks, but most initial prenatal appointments occur between eight and 12 weeks.
By this point, you may already be experiencing morning sickness, which is nausea or vomiting, most commonly during the first three months of pregnancy.
To combat these symptoms, try:
— Eating small, frequent meals.
— Staying hydrated.
— Eating a small snack, like a few crackers, before getting out of bed.
While morning sickness is common, reach out to your provider if you experience the following:
— Nausea or vomiting that is preventing you from your daily activities.
— Inability to stay hydrated.
— Feeling faint, dizzy or confused due to your symptoms.
— Vomiting multiple times a day, unrelieved by home care.
You may need a hydration infusion to keep you hydrated, or your provider may prescribe medications to combat your symptoms.
Second Trimester Checklist
By the second trimester, the reality of preparing for baby will start to set in. During this trimester, the early stages of nesting — a drive to prepare your home and lifestyle to accommodate your new addition — may begin.
Around week 10, you’ll have an opportunity to perform noninvasive prenatal genetic testing. NIPT testing is usually only recommended for high-risk pregnancies, but it’s an option for all pregnancies. If you’ve heard about an “early gender reveal test,” it’s referring to this test, which also tests for key genetic abnormalities, like Down syndrome.
By this time your pregnancy may also start to show. If you haven’t already, make sure to add some maternity and loose-fitting clothing to your wardrobe.
Dr. Andrea Braden, a board-certified OB-GYN and lactation consultant, suggests not to wait on purchasing new bras.
“Your breast size starts to increase during pregnancy and for preparation for nursing after,” she explains. “Typically, you’ll need to buy a new bra as it is, so I would say go ahead and buy bras that have dual function of being a pregnancy bra in a nursing bra.”
Make sure that by month five, you have a stable exercise routine or movement plan to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, exercise during pregnancy is essential to:
— Reduce aches and pains.
— Relieve constipation.
— Decrease the risk of pregnancy complications.
Month five is also when you may feel some of the first signs of fetal movement.
Month six is a great opportunity to start the first stages of nesting.
Consider the following nesting activities:
— Planning baby purchases or creating a baby registry.
— Planning for potential projects around the house or in the nursery.
— If you are working, start to consider how you will handle medical leave and time off to recover after birth and bond with your baby.
Third Trimester Checklist
You’re in the final stretch! The third trimester is a great time to finalize your plans and preferences for labor and delivery.
Taking a hospital birth class? Best to take it in the third trimester so your memory is fresh, explains Kristin Revere, the owner and founder of Gold Coast Doulas in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you’re opting for a birth without an epidural, she explains you may consider taking birth classes like hypnobirthing or Lamaze as early as six weeks into pregnancy if you want to get a head start. This will help you mentally prepare to cope with labor pain.
Since you’re starting your third trimester, it’s a good idea to start preparing for your baby to enter the world.
— Purchase a car seat and have it inspected and properly installed.
— Build a crib or bassinet for the nursery.
By month eight, you may be experiencing significant pregnancy-related aches and pains or having trouble sleeping. Ashley Mareko, surrogate program director at Surrogate First, says she used acupuncture and chiropractic services throughout her pregnancy but began going once a week in her third trimester.
Many pregnant women, like Mareko, share anecdotal evidence of acupuncture and chiropractic services helping with reducing pregnancy and labor pain or assisting with labor induction. Researchers acknowledge that the body of evidence supporting acupuncture is limited, but ACOG does not discourage acupuncture or acupressure use in pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association shares that there are no major concerns with chiropractic care during pregnancy.
At the beginning of month nine, it’s helpful to start planning for birth and the postpartum period.
Here are a few tips:
— Cook some make-ahead freezer meals for nutritious, easy meals after birth.
— Start packing your hospital bag for delivery, just in case baby comes a few weeks early.
— Finalize your birth plan, and ask the hospital about any pertinent birth or visitation policies.
The course of your pregnancy will bring new challenges and learning experiences, and no two pregnancies are exactly the same. Consult with your pregnancy provider to get pregnancy advice tailored to your health and wellness.
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