After learning that you’re pregnant, your main agenda is simple: Tell your partner and celebrate! But once the happy news sinks in, the next steps can seem overwhelming. To help simplify the situation, we asked Akua Afriyie-Gray, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Loyola Medical Center, for the most important moves a pregnant woman should make.
Q: When should I begin taking a prenatal vitamin?
A: Start three months before you begin trying to get pregnant, if possible. “The egg starts maturing about three months before it’s released, and it’s critical that the proper nutrients are present during the earliest stages,” says OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist Robert Greene, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., a fertility specialist at cny Fertility center in Syracuse, N.Y.
Even if you have health insurance, you may have high deductibles or steep out-of-pocket maternity costs. To avoid unpleasant surprises, check early on with your insurance company for an estimate of what it will pay and to find out things like whether you're limited to a certain number of ultrasounds.
The U.S. birthrate has been declining since 2007, and experts blame the economy. Short of forgoing having children, the trick in these tough times is to get thriftier, says Carol Sakala, Ph.D., director of programs for the nonprofit advocacy group Childbirth Connection, who adds that wiser spending doesn't have to mean shoddy care.
Omega-3 fish oils, particularly DHA, are touted as an important nutrient for pregnant women because of their role in fetal brain and eye development and in helping to prevent postpartum depression (PPD) in new mothers. Yet a recent randomized controlled trial—considered the “gold standard” of medical research—found that the children of women who took fish oil supplements during pregnancy had no better cognitive or language skills at 18 months than the children of women who took a vegetable oil placebo.
Rest easy, all you pregnant vegans and vegetarians out there: Medical experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), have given you the green light to continue your current way of eating— as long as it’s well-planned. “You can have a healthy pregnancy on such a diet,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., an ADA spokeswoman who sees pregnant vegetarians in her private practice.
“You just have to do it right.”
In combination with healthy eating, supplements are essential while you're pregnant. Here’s expert advice on how to choose prenatal vitamins to get the nutrients your body may lack. Plus, why getting the vitamins you need now benefits you but also your growing baby for the rest of her life.
Prenatal Vitamins Made Easy
When to start and what are the important vitamins and minerals.
New findings published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggest that women who develop preeclampsia have lower blood levels of vitamin D than healthy moms-to-be, Reuters reports. Most experts recommend a vitamin D blood level of at least 42 nanograms per milliliter for overall good health.
Though it won’t replace healthy eating, a prenatal supplement is essential. Here’s expert advice to help you choose a good one.
Q: How early in my pregnancy should I begin taking a prenatal vitamin?
You could have iron-deficiency anemia. This condition affects up to one-third of all pregnant women and is usually harmless, according to Joanna Stone, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Anemia is caused by an abnormally low concentration of red blood cells. These cells help carry hemoglobin, which in turn transports oxygen throughout the body; this explains why people who are anemic tend to feel fatigued and light-headed.