Thursday, July 23, 2015

9 Tips 9 Months

Nearly the moment you announce your pregnancy, you will begin to hear all kinds of advice from family, friends and strangers alike. I have learned that all this advice is usually well-intended and these advice-givers are often either passionate about the topic they're sharing or just excited for you. But that doesn't mean it's always pleasant to be the one receiving this unsolicited advice. Especially if it's way out of line with what you may have in mind for your own pregnancy or parenting style. 

Moms of the 21st century tend to be even less enthusiastic about advice that comes while waiting in line at the grocery store. After all, we have online articles, blog posts and tweets to turn to when we're in need of advice, right? So I was excited when I was invited to join #9tips9months with my healthy pregnancy tips from my past pregnancies. 

1. Do your research on the tests completed at prenatal visits and go to your appointments with questions about these tests. There are a lot of "routine" tests completed during pregnancies. These vary from genetic screenings to early ultrasounds and everything in between. Just because these tests are available and offered, it doesn't mean you have to have them. It doesn't even mean they're necessary. I chose to limit the number of procedures I received and only completed the ones that would result in a change of my plan of care.

2. Flossing does a mouth a lot of good; this is especially true when you're pregnant. There may be some mornings (or evenings!) that you feel so sick the best you can do is brush your teeth with plain water. Even this may gag you though. There were so many mornings that I wanted to skip brushing because it made me feel so ill. Instead of skipping it altogether though I opted to floss. In the long run, this ended up really helping my gums get stronger. During my regular dental check (a must during pregnancy) my gums didn't even bleed during my clean after all that flossing. The dental hygienist was pretty surprised since pregnancy gingivitis is so common.

3. Drink water! Every time I went into the midwife she would ask me how I was doing. I would tell her something that might be bothering me. Mild cramps, headache, swelling. Every response she had for me: Drink more water! And it really did make me feel better.

4. Go on lots of dates, read romance novels and take long bubble baths. And anything else that you find relaxing and enjoyable. Yes, you will be able to do these things after your baby is born. Your life doesn't end and you get to enjoy the pre-baby activities you previously enjoyed. But it will never again be quite the same. There may be a little tinge of guilt for going out on a date or it may take you twice as long to read a book because you're too tired or you may have the entire family watching you take a bath. So enjoy the simple things we take for granted before having children. Not because you won't get to do them again but just because it will never be exactly the same once you are a mother.

5. Be mindful of the medications you take. Some medications are absolutely necessary during pregnancy and many are very safe. But all medications have side effects and there are some that can cause harm. Be sure to talk with your healthcare providers about safety of medications as well as risks and benefits of taking and stopping medications. I chose to stop the medication I was taking before pregnancy (used for irritable bowel syndrome) and chose to have a birth free of pain medications to try to limit what my baby was given. Again, some medications are absolutely necessary so it's just important to have open communication when deciding on what is best for you.
6. Cervical checks are a choice. During the last month of pregnancy your provider will likely offer to complete a cervical exam at each visit. Just because these are usually done, this is a choice! Having a cervical exam just for routine purposes is not a necessary part of prenatal care. It has been shown that these exams offer little to no true prediction of when a baby will be born and can have a negative impact (such as increasing risk of infection or accidentally rupturing the membranes prematurely). I only had my cervix checked for dilation and effacement when I was in active labor. Again, this may not be right for you and that's okay. But don't feel like you have to have a cervical check just to "see."

7. Due dates. Due dates are a very rough estimate and can vary by weeks for each woman. If you are getting close or past your expected "due" date, try your best not to fret about it. Your baby is going to be born. It will happen. The pregnancy will come to an end. My first was born 11 days after the due date and my second was born 5 days after. I knew that it was not uncommon for babies to come after the estimated due date. I chose to tell people I was due mid-October and the end of August so they didn't have an exact number when they started asking me if I had gone into labor. And I kept reminding myself that it is very common to go a full 14 days past the day estimated. This really helped me to prepare for a pregnancy that was longer than 40 weeks and not get (quite) as anxious while I waited.

8. Belly Size. The size of your belly has nothing to do with the size of your baby. Some mamas carry big, some small. Some mamas carry high, some low. You may hear from a lot of people that your size is too big or small. Your health care provider will track your baby's growth at each visit to be sure they are growing at a typical rate. I happened to carry big. Very big. I had accepted this since I knew my babies were growing and healthy. What was very frustrating was when a man who claimed to be a father asked me if I was sure I wasn't carrying twins, even after he learned I was only a couple of days away from being 40 weeks. That's just rude. So just ignore the ignorant comments and remember your baby is growing to just the right size for you.

9. Your job is to take care of the baby, let everyone else take care of you. Some of the best advice that I ever got came from one of my midwives. She told me it was my job to take care of my baby and to let my support system take care of me. If you have a support system, let them be the ones to bring you water and meals. Let them cook and clean and do laundry. Do this for as long as it is feasible to you and your family. You only get this time once. This is an important time to bond with your baby but it is also a time that it is critical for your body to rest and heal after completing the amazing journey of pregnancy and birth.

Good luck, mama! Stay healthy and never hesitate to ask questions and advocate for yourself and your baby during this amazing time! 

What healthy pregnancy tips do you have to share? #9tips9months