Whether you’re planning for a family or it is unexpected, your actions during pregnancy affect the health of your baby. If you think you may be pregnant, look for signs and symptoms. Talk to your doctor and do your own research for guidance on how to best prepare for the stages of pregnancy and to give your baby the best start possible in life.
Many different signs could mean you might be pregnant. Early signs of pregnancy include:
- Late or missed period or difference in menstruation
- Spotting or light bleeding
- Tender or swollen breasts
- Morning sickness or nausea at other times of the day/night
- Headache or backache
- Unusual fatigue or tiredness
- Heartburn or constipation
- Frequent urination
- New or different food cravings
You could have none of these symptoms or all of them. If you think you might be pregnant, see your healthcare provider to confirm the pregnancy so any health risks can be identified and addressed to improve your chance of having a healthy baby.
Although a positive home pregnancy test is a strong sign you are pregnant, you still need to see a healthcare provider to confirm your pregnancy. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your medical history and his/her findings from a physical examination to determine if you are at increased risk for problems during your pregnancy. Your provider will also help you make behavior changes to improve your health and your chance of having a healthy baby. Your first visit to a healthcare provider should be before you are 12 weeks pregnant or as soon as you think you might be pregnant.
If you are not pregnant but are looking to become pregnant, check out family planning services near you. If you are not pregnant and are looking to remain that way, look into contraceptive services and learn about sexual health and safety.
Tips for a Healthy Baby
- Take folic acid, a naturally occurring B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects of the neural tube (the baby's brain and spinal cord). The best way to get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid and eat a healthy diet. Most multivitamins have this amount, but check the label to be sure.
- Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke may restrict the growth of your baby before birth. Exposure to tobacco smoke can cause your baby to be born too soon and also increases the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Stop alcohol use. Alcohol can cause your baby to be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. This means that your baby may be born with growth deficiency and developmental delay or mental retardation.
- Use only medications approved by your health care provider. Ask your provider if any of the medications you normally take may cause issues during pregnancy. Follow your provider’s instructions pertaining to any medication use (even over the counter medications). Avoid street drugs entirely as use during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight, developmental delay, learning disabilities, and increased irritability of your baby.
- Staying active is important during your pregnancy. Healthy women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during and after pregnancy.