Baby & Me: The Essential Guide to Pregnancy and Newborn Careby Deborah D. Stewart
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Offering solid guidance for mothers and mothers-to-be whose reading skills are limited and who may have limited access to adequate health care, this guide focuses on basics like prenatal care, lifestyle choices, nutritional advice, and baby’s first few months. This updated edition includes new chapters on parent-newborn interaction; baby’s health, feeding, and safety; a more positive approach to breastfeeding; and current recommendations on immunizations, SIDS, and antibiotics. Checklists, a glossary, and a list of additional resources round out this invaluable book.
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Baby and Me
Guide to Pregnancy and Newborn Care
By Deborah D. Stewart, Christine Thomas
Bull Publishing CompanyCopyright © 2006 Deborah Davis Stewart
All rights reserved.
Get Ready for Pregnancy
Preparing yourself for a baby
Are you having sex?
Are you thinking about having a baby?
Do you think you might be pregnant?
It is never too soon to make your body a healthy home for an unborn baby.
Before you get pregnant is the best time to make sure your body is ready. But women often get pregnant when they are not expecting it. If you are already pregnant, start taking care of yourself right away. This way, your unborn baby will have a safe place to grow.
Every woman wants to have a healthy baby. Most babies are born healthy, but some have health problems. Some problems can be prevented by what you do now. Many others can be made less serious.
Nobody likes to think about problems. However, nobody wants to learn too late that there was something they could have done to prevent a problem. Preventing a problem is better and easier than trying to fix it later.
Start out right before pregnancy
If possible, plan to get pregnant when you are ready to care for a baby. You and your child both will have a better life if you are healthy. It also is very important to have loving support from a partner, family, and friends.
Some problems begin in the first days after pregnancy begins, before a woman knows she is pregnant. Others happen as the baby grows. Pregnancy also can affect a woman's health condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Whatever your situation, you can make your body ready to be a healthy home for an unborn child.
How healthy are you now?
Your habits, your health, and your family's health history can affect your baby. The items below could give you problems during pregnancy or cause your baby to be born too early. Knowing about them now means you can do everything possible to keep yourself and your baby healthy.
Check any items below that are true for you.
____I rarely eat fruits or vegetables three times a day.
____I diet often or think I am too fat or too thin.
____I smoke cigarettes.
____I drink more than one glass of beer, wine, wine cooler, or hard liquor every week.
____I am younger than 18 or older than 34.
____I take medicines often.
____I have used illegal drugs.
____I work with x-rays, dangerous chemicals, or lead.
____I have diabetes, seizures, or high blood pressure.
____I have or have had a sexually transmitted disease (STD), like herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS.
____I have had problems during a pregnancy or have had a baby who weighed less than 51/2 pounds at birth.
____I have had a miscarriage (lost a pregnancy).
____Someone in my family has had a serious birth defect or problems during pregnancy.
____Someone in my family has an illness that is passed from parent to child, like cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, or Tay-Sachs disease.
Tell your health care provider about all sitems you have checked. Learn how they could affect your baby. You could do something to stop or correct most of them. What you do can make a big difference to your baby!
Healthy habits before pregnancy
Many pregnancies are a surprise. If you are having sex, you could get pregnant. You will not know you are pregnant right away.
"It's amazing. ... I had no idea how fast a baby starts developing. Nobody told me how careful I should be before I got pregnant."
Important parts of your baby's body start to grow in the first days after conception. Anything that harms the tiny embryo in your uterus at this time can do serious damage before you know you are pregnant. That is why it is so important to make your body healthy before you get pregnant.
Steps to take now:
Take a vitamin pill with folic acid every day. Every woman needs to get enough folic acid every day to prevent birth defects. (See page 5.)
Ask your doctor about the effects any prescription drugs you take could have on pregnancy.
Stop using alcohol, tobacco, and any illegal drugs. Any time you smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs, your baby gets a dose, too. If you have trouble stopping, ask for help. You can quit!
Eat healthy foods. Your body needs plenty of milk, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and water. This is a good time to learn healthy eating habits. (See Chapter 4.)
Get any health problems under control. Conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure could affect your pregnancy. Get health care now.
Get your body weight to a healthy level. If you are too thin, your baby could be born early. If you are too heavy, your baby's health and your own could be in danger. A dietician could help you.
Talk with your partner about your feelings about having a baby. Make sure you have his support before you get pregnant.
Learn about pregnancy. Read this book and others. Ask questions about things you do not understand.
See Chapters 2, 3, and 4 for more details about living a healthy life.
Share these steps with your partner or husband. Also tell your girl friends, so they will be healthy before they get pregnant. Also make sure they know about and use birth control if they are not ready to have a baby.
Protecting your baby's fragile body
The brain and spinal cord* are the most important parts of every person's nervous system. They control how you think and move. The spinal cord and brain begin to grow in the first few weeks of life. It is easy to damage them without intending to.
You can help prevent brain and spinal cord problems. Do these things before you get pregnant or as soon as you think you might be pregnant.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs
Beer, wine, and hard liquor affect the growth of a baby's brain. The effect of alcohol on an unborn baby's brain is the main cause of mental retardation. Even one drink might cause harm — no one knows how much is safe. You can prevent this damage by not drinking.
Cigarette use slows an unborn baby's growth. It can lead to preterm (premature) birth*. Other drugs also can cause addiction, preterm birth, or mental problems. Protecting your baby is a great reason to quit! (See pages 42 through 46.)
Get enough folic acid every day
Folic acid is a B vitamin that is important for everyone's health. It helps prevent very serious brain and spinal defects in babies. Talk with your doctor if you are not sure you should take folic acid.
Some of these defects happen in the very early days of pregnancy, before women know they are pregnant. Every teenage girl and woman who could get pregnant should get at least 0.4 milligrams (400 mcg) of folic acid every day.
*Spinal cord: The main nerve that carries messages about feeling and movement between your brain and body. It goes down your back inside the spine.
*Preterm birth: Early birth, before 37 weeks. The premature infant usually is small and may need to stay in the hospital after birth. Many babies born very early have other health problems.
Taking a multi-vitamin pill with folic acid every day is the easiest, best way to get enough folic acid. You can get some of this vitamin from foods, but you would need to eat very large amounts to get enough. Some foods that have a lot of folic acid are dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli, orange juice, bread, pasta, cereals, kidney beans and liver. Check the label on vitamin pills for folate, which is the same as folic acid.
If you do not like taking vitamin pills or if they are expensive, think about how important it is for any baby to have a healthy brain. And ask yourself if you always eat right. One option is to take folic acid pills. They are smaller and less expensive than multi-vitamin pills.
Tell your girlfriends about how important folic acid is for their future children. Let them know that they need to take it before they get pregnant.
If you have had a baby with spina bifida* or anencephaly*, talk with your health care provider. He or she may advise you to take even more folic acid before you get pregnant again.
Keep track of your periods
It is a good idea to keep a record of your menstrual periods (monthly flow) before you get pregnant. Write the date when your period starts each month on the chart on the next page. Also count and write in the number of days of your cycle.* Knowing when your last period started will help you know when to expect your next one. This will tell you if the next one is late. It will also help you figure out when you will give birth.
Your doctor or nurse-midwife will need to know the date your last period started. If you do not know, she can use other methods to learn the age of your unborn baby. This will tell when your baby is likely to be born.
*Spina bifida: A very serious defect of the spine. It often prevents a person from walking.
*Anencephaly: A defect in which the brain does not develop.
*Cycle: The number of days between the start of one menstrual period and the start of the next. It is usually between 25 and 32 days long for most women.
How do I know if I'm pregnant?
Some of the first signs of pregnancy:
Missed menstrual period
Tender, swollen breasts
If you have two or three of these signs, you might be pregnant. Have a pregnancy test if your period is at least a week or two late. During these early weeks, take care of yourself as if you were pregnant.
A positive pregnancy test shows you are pregnant. If you have a positive test, it is time to get a physical exam. Make an appointment right away with your doctor, nurse-midwife, or clinic.
How do I get a pregnancy test?
You can buy a home pregnancy test kit at a drug store or go to your doctor or clinic. Some clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, may offer free pregnancy tests.
The home test can be done very soon after your menstrual period is late.
If a home test shows that you are not pregnant, wait a week or two. If your period does not come, do a second test. Then see your health care provider to find out why your period is late. If you are not pregnant, this could be a sign of other health problems.
If you are not pregnant, you have learned how to get in shape for pregnancy. If you are, you are ready to have an amazing experience in life.CHAPTER 2
Now You're Pregnant — What's Next?
This is a time when you may feel both excited and scared. Most women have mixed feelings — and have many questions.
How will a baby change my life?
Will my baby be healthy?
What will childbirth be like?
Will I know how to be a good parent?
You will not learn the answers to all these questions right away. What you can do now is begin to live in a healthy way.
Read ahead. Chapters 3 through 6 will help you get started. Chapters 7 through 9 tell you more about the nine months of pregnancy. Look back at the end of the Introduction for a keepsake page. Here you can write down special memories of this time. In Chapter 16 at the back of the book, you will find ideas about places to get help in your community and other ways to get more information.
Every baby is special!
If this will be your first baby, you are starting a new adventure — parenthood. If you have other children you know that every baby is one-of-a-kind and every pregnancy is different.
You might have twins or even more than two babies. This is happening more and more today. In this book we will talk mostly about a single baby, because that is most common.
What is happening to me?
Your body is starting to change in many ways. Your belly may not start to look bigger for another month or two. But you will probably begin to feel different right away.
Normal signs of pregnancy:
Your menstrual periods have stopped. You are already about two weeks pregnant when you miss your first period!
Your breasts may swell and become tender.
You may feel more tired than usual.
You may need to urinate more often than before.
Your stomach may feel upset or you may vomit.
You may lose a little weight.
Your moods may change quickly. You may feel like crying one minute and be very happy the next.
How do you feel about having a baby?
Check all that you feel, or write in your thoughts:
_____It feels strange.
_____I can't quite believe it.
_____I don't feel ready to have a baby.
I am a little bit afraid of _____________ _________________________________________ _________________________________________ I am worried about ______________________ _________________________________________ _________________________________________
When will my baby be born?
A baby takes about 40 weeks to grow after the date of your last period. Your "due date" is when your baby is likely to be born. Here is how to find your due date.
Write down the date your last menstrual period started.
1. Start of your last period ______ ____
2. Add 7 days: +7 days
3. Add 9 months: +9 months
4. Your baby's due date _____ ____
You may not know exactly when your last period started. Your doctor or nurse practitioner can tell about when your baby is due by the:
Size of your uterus,*
Results of an ultrasound* test,
Date when your baby's heartbeat is heard for the first time,
Date when you first feel him move.
Most babies come between two weeks before and two weeks after their due dates. Be ready a few weeks before the date, in case your baby comes early.
*Uterus: The part of a woman's body where the unborn baby grows.
*Ultrasound: A way to see inside the uterus by moving a handheld device across your belly. The test uses sound waves to make a picture of your fetus on a TV monitor.
Get into care right away
You should go to a doctor, nurse practitioner, or clinic right away, so you can get the best advice for your needs. Even if you are surprised to be pregnant or are not completely ready for it, do not delay. See Chapter 5 for how to find a health care provider and to learn what your first prenatal* checkup will be like.
It is important to know that many early pregnancies end naturally in a miscarriage.* If you have learned about your pregnancy very early, this could easily happen. You may want to wait until you reach your third or fourth month before you tell many people that you are pregnant.
When miscarriage happens in the first few weeks, it usually is like a very heavy menstrual period. If you start to have light bleeding (spotting) or a heavy flow, backache, or severe cramps, call your doctor or nurse practitioner right away. (For more, see the end of Chapter 7.)
An early miscarriage usually happens when there is something wrong with the embryo or fetus or with the mother's health. These miscarriages usually cannot be stopped. You probably will feel very disappointed. Remember that most women who miscarry have no troubling having a healthy pregnancy later.
*Prenatal: Before birth.
*Miscarriage: Loss of the embryo or fetus before 20 weeks, too early for a baby to survive outside the uterus (also called a "spontaneous abortion").
Things to consider
Paying for care
Find out how your prenatal health care and delivery will be paid for. Discuss this with your insurer, employee benefits office, or clinic. How much will be covered? What will you have to pay yourself? What choices will you have to make about care? (See Chapter 5.)
If you are a single woman
You do not have to go through this time by yourself. Good friends and family members can be wonderful support during pregnancy and birth. Find one or two people who will listen to your feelings. Take time to choose a birth partner who will be with you when your baby is born.
If you are a teenager
At this time you will be facing big changes in your life. You will have to make serious choices and new plans. You may find it hard to know what is best. Many pregnant teens face difficulties with health, money, and continuing their education.
Excerpted from Baby and Me by Deborah D. Stewart, Christine Thomas. Copyright © 2006 Deborah Davis Stewart. Excerpted by permission of Bull Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Deborah D. Stewart has written low-reading-level materials focused on the health issues of mothers and children from pregnancy through the early years of childhood. She is the author of Best Start: Your Baby’s First Year. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Jenny B. Harvey has a background in human development, family support, psychology, parent education, and crisis intervention, she has worked and volunteered in a variety of health agencies and community programs serving diverse populations of families with young children. She lives in Seattle.
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