Plan for the best when you are expecting

Plan for the best when you are expecting

You will have bad luck if you look at the moon. Eat spicy food to induce labor. Drink water from boiled pasta to make nursing easier. When you are expecting, there is almost no end to the offbeat advice you will receive. But do not lose sight of the most crucial tip: Proper prenatal care helps prevent and treat any issues that develop during pregnancy. In fact, it is the best thing you can do for your health – and your baby’s.

Jamie Byler, MD, OB/GYN at University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital, offers the following tips to help you get the most out of prenatal care:

Start early. If you can, see your doctor before trying to conceive. Together, you can plan ways to prepare. “For instance, you may want to stop taking some medications and add others, including folic acid supplements,” says Dr. Byler. “This key nutrient prevents birth defects.”

Share your good news with your doctor. “As soon as your pregnancy test turns up positive, call for your first prenatal visit,” advises Dr. Byler. During this appointment, your doctor will give you a physical exam and ask about your personal and family health history. And he or she can answer any questions you have about what to expect in the months ahead.

Stick to the schedule. Discuss how often to return for checkups. Typically, you will go once a month for the first 28 weeks, every two weeks from 28 to 36 weeks and weekly from week 36 on. “If you have a health condition or are older than 35, you may need more frequent visits,” says Dr. Byler. “Do not skip a visit, even if you are feeling fine.”

Get tested. At each visit, your doctor will weigh you, check your blood pressure and take samples of your blood and urine. Dr. Byler explains, “Blood tests check for viruses, high blood glucose and anemia. Urine tests spot kidney problems, urinary tract infections or early signs of gestational diabetes. In some cases, your doctor may recommend special tests to monitor your baby’s heart rate or assess the risk for birth defects.”

At about 18 to 20 weeks, you will get an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create an image of your baby.

Stay healthy between visits. Prenatal care does not stop when you leave the doctor’s office. “Every day, eat a variety of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” suggests Dr. Byler. “Avoid raw fish, deli meats and nonpasteurized cheeses. And talk with your doctor about exercise. In most cases, regular physical activity helps you feel better, improves your sleep and prepares your body for birth.”

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Jamie Byler

Jamie Byler, MD
OB/GYN, UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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