Every mother is a unique individual as is every baby, and each pregnancy has features which are different from all others. For this reason it is strongly recommended that you contact your chosen medical professional as early as possible once you know you are pregnant, to begin monitoring your baby's healthy development and your own health during this time.
You may be wondering what changes will need to be made to your daily routine and general lifestyle, to your diet and exercise program, to your work arrangements and within your home and social life. Any adjustments will vary according to your own circumstances and your medical history. Your doctor should be aware of the main aspects of your situation in order to provide the best advice and most appropriate referrals where these are needed.
When planning for the months ahead, some of the main factors to be taken into account are listed below.
- Your age and general health: If you are younger than 18 then your own body is still developing, to some extent, and extra care may need to be taken. The foods you eat will be important, harmful substances such as alcohol need to be avoided, and you need to ensure you get adequate rest and sleep. Similarly, if you are in your later 30s or older you may need to take extra care with your nutrition and lifestyle.
- Your current medical status: Any chronic or short term illness you have, as well as injuries or other problems for which you are being treated, all need to be made clear to the medical professional who is monitoring your pregnancy. In some cases adjustments may be made to the usual treatment schedule while in others it will remain as it was before pregnancy.
- Earlier pregnancies you have had, including miscarriages: Let your doctor know of any earlier pregnancies you have had, and the nature of these. In particular, if you have had a recent miscarriage then you need to discuss this with your doctor to ensure that this present pregnancy has the best possible conditions for a healthy birth. If you have had several miscarriages then changes may be recommended to aspects of your lifestyle, your work, your diet or elsewhere in your environment.
- Family health history: If there is a family history of illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, anaemia, high blood pressure or heart problems, for example, it is helpful to let your doctor know even if you yourself are fine during pregnancy. If you have experienced these yourself then it is essential to inform your doctor.
- Serious allergies: If you have been diagnosed with a serious allergy then you need to ensure that both your doctor and the hospital where you will give birth are clearly informed of this.
- Work and lifestyle factors: If your work or other area of your life involves high stress, heavy lifting, prolonged physical exertion, irregular or inadequate sleep, or exposure to chemical or other hazards, then you may well consider changes. If you cannot see your way clear to make such changes, your doc may be able to advise, or may provide a referral to someone else who can help.
- Family and support network: One very helpful aspect of a healthy pregnancy and birth is the support you receive from others who are close to you. Having at least one or two people on whom you can rely for understanding, encouragement, support, advice and practicalities such as transport to the medical centre or hospital, can make a significant difference to the way you experience your pregnancy and the birth. If your spouse or partner is absent, eg working long hours away, then that support may be supplied by a parent, sibling or other family member, or a workmate or friend.
- Home and environment: Your home should be your refuge during pregnancy - the place where you can rest and nurture and nourish yourself and your growing baby. It will also be your baby's first home. Ideally it should be free from undue noise and stress, and the baby's own area will need to be safely away from pets and from household chemical hazards.