Strange dreams, nausea, weird food cravings, you’ve probably heard about all the odd pregnancy symptoms your entire life (some fact, some fiction).
Now, it’s your life.
There’s so much to learn, and so much to remember.
Here’s a list of what things to know about pregnancy for first-time moms to help you get started.
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Things to Know About Pregnancy for First-Time Moms
Home Pregnancy Test
Maybe you’ve missed your period or you’ve noticed some symptoms you think could be related to pregnancy.
The first step it to determine when your period should start, and if you have already approached or surpassed that date, it’s time to take a home pregnancy test.
But is this enough to determine if you’re pregnant?
Home pregnancy tests are actually quite accurate as long as they’re taken in the right time frame.
If you get a negative test but still think you might be pregnant, wait a week or two and then take another test.
If you get a positive result, schedule an appointment with an obstetrician or another healthcare provider.
Find Out the First Day of Your Last Period
Medical professionals determine a baby’s due date by the first day of the mother’s last period.
Write this date down if you know it, but if you’re not sure when this was, try to estimate as closely as possible.
Your doctor will ask you this during the first appointment that you schedule after getting that positive pregnancy test.
Women need additional vitamins and minerals when they’re pregnant.
You can pick a prenatal vitamin from the store or your doctor may prescribe one.
Check to make sure that they have everything you need during pregnancy as some don’t contain all the recommended vitamins.
Take a Folic Acid Supplement
Folic acid is very important to take during pregnancy.
Folic acid (or folate which is its natural form) is vitamin B9.
Taking this can help prevent serious birth defects to the spine and brain including spina bifida and anencephaly.
Check to see if your prenatal vitamins contain 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid.
If your prenatal vitamin doesn’t, ask your doctor about a folic acid supplement you can take.
Choosing a Health Care Provider
It can be tough to know who to choose to help you through your pregnancy.
Consider what kind of birth you’d want to have.
Of course, it’s early on, but maybe you already know you’d like to try having a natural birth or that you definitely want an epidural.
Do some research, then reach out to other moms for recommendations.
You can also find a lot of helpful reviews on the internet to guide you in your decision.
It’s important to make regular visits to your healthcare provider so they can ensure that you’re doing well and help monitor your baby’s health too.
Your provider will determine how often you should come in for appointments according to your age, health, and your baby’s progress.
Your Due Date
Your due date is an estimate based on the first day of your last period.
Women rarely deliver on their actual due date, but it’s typically within a week before or after.
Knowing your due date, even though it’s not 100% accurate, is good to know so that you can prepare accordingly.
Morning sickness is one of the most typical and commonly known signs of pregnancy.
Some women may feel just a bit nauseous with food aversions, while others may throw up daily.
If you’re dealing with morning sickness, let your healthcare provider know!
There are vitamins and medications that can help, even if you’re just nauseous (nobody likes to feel that way every single day).
You can also try more natural ways of relieving morning sickness.
With all the increasing levels of estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG), pregnancy can make moms pretty emotional at times.
One minute you’ll be laughing, the next, you’re crying while watching a cooking show (yes I did this).
The hormonal changes that go on in your body are FOR REAL.
So even though you may feel crazy at times, just know, you aren’t.
Weight Gain is Normal
Aside from growing another human, there are a lot of factors that contribute to weight gain in pregnancy, including amniotic fluid, placenta, increased blood volume, fat stores, larger breasts, and a larger uterus.
But it’s all normal and healthy!
Instead of worrying about your weight, focus on eating nutritiously and staying active.
Physical Changes to Expect
You’re growing a human being.
So there will be many changes happening with your body.
And I don’t just mean the cute round belly.
During pregnancy, lots of other physical changes will occur.
Some you can expect are:
- Darken Areolas
- Heavier & Larger Breasts
- Widen Hips
- Warmer Body Temperature
- Increased Blood Volume
- Increased Heart Rate
All of these body changes are necessary for the baby’s development in the womb, during labor and delivery, and even when after the baby is born.
Most pregnant women experience food cravings, whether it be something you usually love or an odd combination you never would have picked before.
Sometimes cravings are just cravings.
But moms can also crave certain foods because they are lacking in a certain vitamin or mineral.
Try including a variety of fruits and vegetables, proteins, whole grains, and other nutritious foods in your diet.
Foods with healthy fats and iron are especially helpful for your baby’s growth.
However, don’t be afraid to give in to those yummy pregnancy cravings from time to time!
This pregnancy nutrition plan is a great way to learn about eating healthy during pregnancy (and learn some yummy and nutritious recipes)!
Foods You Should Not Eat
As a first-time mom, you may be surprised to find out there are certain foods pregnant women should avoid.
Foods you should not eat include the following:
- Bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, or tilefish
- Raw or rare fish or shellfish and smoked seafood
- Deli meats and hot dogs (unless they are heated through)
- Soft cheeses (unless they are pasteurized)
- Raw or rare meats, poultry, or eggs
- Raw sprouts
- Unpasteurized juices or milk
Sleeping on Your Side
During pregnancy, it’s recommended that you sleep on your side, especially your left side as it has been said to help keep pressure off of your aorta and vena cava.
This position has been said to provide the best circulation and blood flow for you and your baby.
Though this study on pregnancy sleep positions suggests that you should be fine sleeping on either side up to 30 weeks of pregnancy.
Hot Tubs are a No-No
When it comes to things you should avoid during pregnancy, hot tubs are one of them.
While the research is limited, there’s enough evidence that suggests that the high temperature in a hot tub is risky for pregnant women.
Further research is needed, but experts say that the high temperatures may increase the risk of neural tube defects in unborn babies and could possibly lead to miscarriage.
Find a Support Group
There’s no doubt that pregnancy is hard.
And the fact that you’ll become a parent after these nine months can be pretty nerve-wracking.
Something that can help is finding a support group.
Whether that is family, friends, or a new mom group, having someone to talk and vent to can really beneficial.
Bonding with Baby While They’re in the Womb
Yes, even when the baby is still in your belly you can start bonding with them!
Some things you can do to bond with your baby are singing and talking to them, playing music, responding to kicks, and gently touching and massaging your baby bump.
Pregnancy brings a different level of fatigue that you may not have experienced before, but when you can, it’s also a good idea to keep up the physical activity.
Many pregnant women can safely walk and continue to do workouts they did before pregnancy (usually with modifications).
Talk to your doctor about what level of physical activity is appropriate for you!
And if you need help with finding ideas of different workouts you can do, you can check out the pregnancy fitness plan here.
It may feel hard to justify buying a bunch of new clothes you’ll only wear temporarily, but maternity clothes will help you feel a whole lot more comfortable than your normal clothes!
Sometimes you can figure out ways to wear regular clothes during pregnancy.
So go through your normal clothes to find what actually works with your bump, then invest in some good maternity clothes that you can hold onto for future pregnancies too.
One of the things that’s less talked about is how all your normal bras will not fit at some point during pregnancy.
When I was pregnant, the majority of my bras became too tight, especially around the band.
So just know that at some point you’ll have to buy some maternity bras that’ll be more comfortable for your pregnant body.
When Breast Milk Comes In
Remember how earlier I said that one of the physical changes of pregnancy includes breasts that feel heavier and bigger?
That’s because while you’re pregnant your body is already trying to prepare breastmilk for the baby!
Colostrum (the first milk your body makes) starts being produced between 16-22 weeks of pregnancy.
Some mothers will experience some leakage during pregnancy, but this is normal and nothing to worry about.
Baby Kicks Are Sweet But…
Every pregnant woman imagines what it’ll be like when they finally feel their baby kick.
And it really is a wonderful and exciting feeling!
But what they don’t tell you about is how sometimes, these little sweet kicks, can end up being pretty uncomfortable.
You see as baby gets bigger, there’s gonna be less and less room for them.
So sometimes when they kick, they end up kicking your ribs or your hips (mine did both).
And these kicks, aren’t so sweet.
Though you may not see or feel much for a while, your baby is doing a lot of growing!
You can use a free pregnancy app to see how quickly your baby is developing and what kind of growth each stage brings.
Your healthcare provider will also keep track of your baby’s progress to ensure you and your baby are getting the proper care.
Women who don’t typically have diabetes can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes can lead to babies being born early, being born large (potentially making delivery more difficult), having low blood sugar, and developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
Only 2-10% of pregnant women are affected by gestational diabetes, but your healthcare provider will likely want to test you for it sometime during your second trimester.
Cesarean delivery, also known as a C-section, is used when a baby is delivered through a surgical incision on the mother’s abdomen rather than vaginally.
A C-section may be necessary because of certain pregnancy complications, or it may become necessary during labor.
Learn more about C-sections so that you’re prepared in case you end up needing to deliver your baby this way.
A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, though many babies come before or after that time.
Premature birth is when a baby is born previous to the 37th week of pregnancy.
About 10% of babies are born prematurely.
Doctors will typically do all they can to keep babies from being born before 37 weeks to keep the baby developing as they should.
If a baby is born prematurely, hospitals may need to provide care for longer than babies born later.
Now that you’re pregnant, people may start asking you what your birth plan is.
A birth plan is a written outline of how you’d like your labor and delivery to go (the parts that you can control).
This is great to provide to your healthcare provider and your partner so you’re ready for the big day!
Of course, things don’t always go as planned, but it’s great to make note of your wishes (i.e. whether you’d like to have an epidural or give birth naturally, and so much more!).
Signs of Labor
If you’ve never been pregnant before, you should definitely know the signs that you’re in labor.
Lots of pregnant women experience Braxton Hicks contractions which are the body’s way of preparing for the real thing.
But it can often be mistaken for actual labor.
Some of the signs of labor include:
- Uterus tightening (contractions)
- Contractions that come in timed-intervals
- Water breaks
- Backache (a type of contraction that happens in your back)
- You lose your mucus plug
Once you start experiencing any of these symptoms and think you are in labor I would call either the hospital birth center or start driving there!
The Birthing Process
There are three stages of the birthing process.
The first stage is called early labor and active labor, the second stage is the birth of your baby, and the third stage is the delivery of the placenta.
Your Birthing Options
I would definitely advise new moms to look into their birthing options so they know what to expect and how to prepare themselves.
Are you looking for a more natural birth?
Then you should probably look up some ways to help make labor more manageable in a more natural way.
Or are you leaning more toward an epidural?
If so I’d probably look into what happens when you get one so you know what to expect.
What is Baby Blues
Some new moms experience what is called the baby blues.
This can happen a couple of days after birth and last up to 2 weeks.
Mothers who have baby blues get feelings of sadness, crying spells, mood swings, and irritability.
If you think you have the baby blues be sure to take care of yourself and ask for help.
Though baby blues does go away on its own, if it starts to last longer than 2 weeks or if you’re experiencing more serve symptoms call your doctor because you may have postpartum depression.
It is super important for first-time moms to know the signs of postpartum depression, as well as their partners.
Postpartum depression affects you and your baby as it can make it difficult to take care of yourself and your baby.
This type of depression is not the same as baby blues.
This lasts longer and is more serious.
It can happen during pregnancy or any time during the first year after the baby is born.
Some symptoms include:
- Having unwanted thoughts
- Feelings of sadness most of the time
- Having little interest in things that you would normally like to do
- Trouble bonding with baby
- Feelings of hopelessness
If you think you are experiencing postpartum depression, don’t wait to get help.
Seek treatment from a healthcare professional so you can get the help you need asap.
Postpartum anxiety is less known and talked of, but it doesn’t make it any less important to know about.
New mothers can experience it any time during the first year after giving birth.
Postpartum anxiety can cause Moms to be constantly worried and nervous.
This severe anxiety can come up as physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms.
Some of them include:
- Feeling on edge
- Heart palpations
- Obsessing over irrational fears
- Avoiding certain activities, places, or even people
- Disrupted sleep
- Shortness of breath
If you think you have postpartum anxiety call a healthcare professional right away so you can get the help you need.
(Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, nurse, therapist, or medical/healthcare professional of any kind. I am just a Mom who’s going off of her own research and experiences. You can read my full disclaimer policy here.)
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Are there any other things you think first-time moms should know? What other things should you do when you’re pregnant for the first time? Tell me below in the comments! And if you liked this post, give it a share! Thanks!