The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Ditch the negative: “My weight or health problems are going to make my pregnancy difficult.”
Adopt the positive: “With my doctor’s help, I will manage my health and have a healthy pregnancy.”
How to make it happen: If you’re overweight, sedentary or have a pre-existing health condition such as diabetes or thyroid disease, talk with your doctor right away about addressing these concerns. Overweight women can safely gain as little as 15 pounds with smart eating and exercise habits, obese women even less.
Don’t believe the old thinking about not starting an exercise program during pregnancy. “It would probably not be wise to begin a very aggressive aerobic regimen, but light walking is always a good idea if the pregnancy is uncomplicated,” says Edmund F. Funai, M.D., professor and associate dean of obstetrics and gynecology at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Your body is very good at telling you when you are doing too much.”
As for any pre-existing medical conditions you may have: Make sure you’re getting the care you need, for your and your baby’s sake. “It is important to be followed by an obstetrician who manages high-risk pregnancies,” says Linda Szymanski, M.D., assistant professor in the division of maternal-fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “Dialogue and co- management among the obstetrician and other care providers during pregnancy is critical.”
Ditch the negative: “I just know something’s going to go wrong with the pregnancy and baby.”
Adopt the positive: “I will have a healthy (and happy) pregnancy and baby.”
How to make it happen: Pregnancy complications and birth defects are every pregnant woman’s nightmare. But the truth is that both are relatively rare, particularly if you eat right, exercise, take prenatal vitamins and get good prenatal care. “The majority of all pregnancies—better than 90 percent—go on to a healthy outcome once you pass the first trimester,” says Funai. “And for the other 10 percent or so that are complicated, there have been some great advances in the care of problems such as hypertension and diabetes, so that most of these women do well, too.” as for birth defects, only 1 out of 33 babies has one, and many are very minor and can be ignored or corrected.
Ditch the negative: “If I end up having to get an epidural or a Cesarean section, my dream of having a meaningful delivery will be ruined.”
Adopt the positive: “I will have a positive delivery experience even if things don’t go exactly as planned.”
How to make it happen: You probably have very specific ideas about where and how you want to labor, whether you want pain medication and how you want to deliver. Labor nurses, midwives and obstetricians try hard to honor these preferences. But complications sometimes arise, and even the best-planned natural delivery can go high-tech faster than you can say, “Gimme an epidural!” It’s normal to feel disappointed if you require an unexpected pain blocker or a C-section; but rather than thinking of it as a failure, consider it an alternate path to a safe delivery.
Deliveries cannot be choreographed ahead of time, no matter how much you plan, explains Tracy Flanagan, M.D., director of women’s health for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “how a woman’s labor will progress and how the baby is doing inside the womb can change at any time during labor,” she says. “Having a discussion about these possibilities with your care provider ahead of time can help you prepare.”
Regardless of how it transpires, you can still feel great about your baby’s birth. Focus on flexibility, pre- pare yourself for the possibilities that might materialize and remember the goal—a healthy baby.