Few things are as life-changing as learning you’re going to have a baby. Pregnancy can be a mix of excitement, wonder and often a touch of anxiety. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare for your baby’s birth can help relieve some of that anxiety and make this time even more enjoyable.
In this video, San Diego Health host Susan Taylor talks with Kirstin Lee, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Scripps Clinic La Jolla, and Andrea Montiel, a certified nurse midwife, about planning for the birth of your baby.
Prenatal care is vitally important to a healthy pregnancy and, ultimately, a healthy baby. In most cases, your obstetrician will schedule your first prenatal appointment about eight weeks after your last menstrual period. At this visit, plan on a physical exam and a review of your medical history, including any health problems you may have had, genetic conditions that run in your family and your overall lifestyle. Your doctor will also check your blood type and blood chemistry.
“We want to make sure moms-to-be are immune to viruses, such as chicken pox and measles, and also screen them for potential chromosome abnormalities that could lead to Down syndrome or other birth defects,” explains Dr. Lee.
Typically, pregnant women have prenatal visits once a month. Expect to have your first ultrasound exam about 20 weeks into your pregnancy. An ultrasound shows images of the developing baby’s anatomy and can usually reveal the baby’s gender.
In your third trimester, your obstetrician will continue to monitor your baby’s growth and development. Women may have more frequent ultrasound exams if they are having multiple births or have risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, certain autoimmune diseases or pregnancy later in life.
If you have questions or concerns between prenatal visits, don’t hesitate to call your doctor’s office.
“When women are pregnant, they get all sorts of advice from people around them, and it isn’t always accurate,” says Dr. Lee. “We encourage our patients to call or email us any time they have questions to keep the lines of communication open.”
Eat a well-balanced diet that includes protein, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Ask your doctor about any restrictions. You may love sushi, but there are certain foods you should avoid while pregnant, including raw fish and fish high in mercury, such as swordfish.
Avoid alcohol, smoking and any medications, including those sold over the counter, that your doctor has not approved. Minimize caffeine, which is found not only in coffee but many teas, soft drinks and chocolate.
“Some caffeine is fine as long as it doesn’t make your blood pressure higher or cause other problems,” says Dr. Lee. “The general recommendation is no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily.”
For most women, moderate exercise during pregnancy is fine, but it’s best to avoid contact sports or high-risk activities, especially if there is a danger of falling. Discuss your physical activity with your doctor during your first prenatal visit and throughout your pregnancy, and modify your activity as needed.
First-time moms usually have many questions about giving birth and adjusting to life with a newborn. Fortunately, parents and family members can find answers in classes and support groups offered throughout San Diego County.
“Scripps has amazing childbirth educators and classes to review what to expect in labor, what epidurals are, what happens in the birth process,” says Dr. Lee. “We also have a breastfeeding class. And there are classes for grandparents, siblings, even classes on babyproofing your house and introducing your new baby to your dog.”
When it’s time to deliver your baby, you may consider having a certified nurse midwife assist with the birth. These health care professionals complete special training to work with women during their pregnancy, labor and delivery.
“We have a team of midwives who care for women delivering at Scripps hospitals,” says Montiel. “We have a wide scope of practice and can take care of most pregnant women, but if a woman has a high-risk pregnancy or needs additional care, we also work closely with the physicians and perinatal specialists to give mom and baby the best possible care.”
If there are complications during the birth, Scripps has maternal fetal medicine specialists and neonatal intensive care units (NICU) to provide emergency care for newborns and monitor them as they recover.
“At Scripps, a postpartum nurse comes over after every delivery and helps mom during that first golden hour after birth to help with breastfeeding and bonding,” says Montiel. “And we have lactation consultants to support women who are learning to breastfeed, because it really is an art. Patients are grateful for that support in the hospital and after they get home.”
Throughout your pregnancy, Scripps physicians and midwives are available around the clock for calls and concerns, even if the doctor’s office is closed.
“We’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Leave a message and we’ll call you back and walk you through as much as we can over the phone, or have you come in if necessary,” says Montiel. “There’s always someone here for you.”