Moms-to-be: Take good care of yourself every step of the way
Taking care of yourself becomes especially important when you are thinking about having children.
Thoughtful planning, all the way through delivery and beyond, goes above consideration for your baby’s well-being. Focusing on your own physical and emotional health before your bundle of joy arrives is an equally important part of setting the foundation for pregnancy and your baby’s lifelong wellness.
Step one: Planning for baby
Perhaps your journey starts with planning for your baby. Once you’ve made the decision to start a family, schedule a checkup with your doctor. Discuss family planning at the appointment and ask your doctor to share any concerns and recommendations with you. Your doctor can help you find the most current health information about pregnancy, what to expect postpartum – that is, what happens after you have your baby – and helpful resources for general health.
You’ll then be able to dive deep and explore the world of support that’s available to you. Your local library, bookstores, and community centers also offer a wide range of help, from meal preparation services to assistance with laundry and childcare.
Finally, you can also find plenty of current resources online. The federal government’s Office on Women’s Health offers a wealth of information, and be sure to check out other sites, like WhatToExpect.com. Get involved with local parent groups who really understand what you may be experiencing and can help support your emotional health.
Now may also be a good time to determine where you would like to give birth. Your doctor can provide insights into the quality of care provided to moms and babies at each hospital in your area.
It’s also a smart move to check in with friends and family members who have children. Take advantage of their real-life experiences and helpful advice
Step two: Prenatal care
Your maternity officially begins with a positive pregnancy test; congratulations! Now is when you begin your prenatal care, which are the steps you take to care for yourself and your baby before your baby is born. Your doctor will usually confirm your pregnancy and begin to track your baby’s progress during different appointments, typically starting at eight weeks. At this time, your doctor will also discuss key milestones for your pregnancy, including details about appointments, ultrasound tests, vaccinations, and the birthing process.
If you’re expecting your first child, this is when it is especially important to begin making yourself a priority. Slow down, take the time to rest, minimize sources of stress in your daily life, and, most importantly, accept offers of help.
When first-time parents sign up for Lamaze and parenting classes, they can meet other families and build a network of support and friendship after the baby arrives. These classes are available through hospitals, community centers, and churches, and they typically cover a broad variety of topics, like preparing for delivery, diapering a baby, and much more.
Along with seeing your doctor, taking care of yourself, and enjoying your pregnancy, this is also when you may want to start nesting. It might even be fun to design the baby’s room with the latest safety monitors, a nice crib, and plush seating. The options are truly limitless.
Step three: Delivery
A little bit of planning will help you manage the stress of the big day so you can focus your energy on welcoming your newborn to your family.
Before your due date, it’s good to plan ahead and pack a bag to take with you to the hospital. Along with your ID, insurance card, and other paperwork, your bag should have some comforts from home such as your bathrobe, socks, and slippers to make your stay better. You can find smart suggestions at Medela to ensure that you’ll be comfortable at the hospital.
You and your doctor may have also created a birth plan, which outlines your wishes and goals for delivery. It’s a roadmap for a best-case scenario for the birth. Here, you can let your birth team know who you want in the delivery room and make any requests related to before and after the birth – such as medication or newborn care options. It also helps you to align your expectations with your doctor before showtime, but keep in mind that things may change in order to safely deliver your baby.
With everything set, you’re ready as you’ll ever be for delivery, and you’ll get to meet your newborn for the first time. The hospital may keep you and your baby longer than expected for tests and observation, depending on your delivery. Your doctor can help explain the details and any special instructions you may need. You can also discuss follow-up appointments with your doctor and whether the hospital provides home visits for new mothers.
Step four: Newborn care
Sometimes, new mothers can experience feelings of depression. This is completely normal, and your doctor can help. Signs of postpartum depression can include insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, and trouble bonding with the baby. Although postpartum depression can occur, the good news is your doctor can help you as these feelings are usually treated with counseling, antidepressants, and hormone therapy. Openly sharing how you feel with loved ones can also be very helpful.
Your new role as a parent changes everything, but by taking care of yourself – and continuing to do so every day – you’re giving your child the best gift of all: a healthy mom and a healthy start.
If you’d like to find out how we can help you prepare for parenthood, read about our Blue Shield of California Prenatal Program. The program is available to Blue Shield members at no extra cost.