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Preparing for baby: classes and checklists

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Pregnant woman and her partner sit on a couch doing research for hospital bags.Courtesy of Dignity Health

You’ve just discovered that you’re pregnant, seeing that indicator on your at-home test. Overcome with joy about the thought of bringing new life into this world. Pregnancy is an amazing journey, but it can lead you to this question: What happens next? The answer is a lifetime of questions, possibilities, and new options. You need a team that offers support and real-world insights that can make a world of difference every day. Dignity Health midwives and OB-GYNs are here to provide you and your family with personalized care. Let’s look at ways to work with your physician to prepare for the baby’s arrival.

What prenatal care and tests are available?

When it comes to both yourself and your growing baby, the way you treat your body has never been more important. When you eat right, exercise moderately, abstain from smoking, alcohol, and other substances, and get plenty of rest, you will feel better during your pregnancy and know that you’re giving your baby the very best start possible. Here are some general tips to keep in mind throughout your pregnancy:

  • Schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN to confirm pregnancy. Regular prenatal visits help you know that your pregnancy is progressing properly.
  • Get the flu shot to prevent passing any illness onto the baby.
  • Avoid abdominal x-rays and other forms of radiation.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron. Due to changing nutritional needs, you will also need to slightly increase your food intake during the second and third trimesters.
  • Monitor your weight gain to ensure your baby is healthy. Check with a Dignity Health OB-GYN for recommendations that are personalized for you.
  • Engage in two to three hours of moderate exercise a week. Choose low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, yoga, or stationary cycling.
  • Take prenatal vitamins. These vitamins supplement folic acid and iron needed to support the development of the placenta, fetus, and neural tubes.

Prenatal testing has come a long way, and you now have more access to information about your baby’s progress. Here are some of the different types of prenatal tests:

  • Ultrasound. Ultrasound screenings are routinely done starting around the 18th week of pregnancy. In a normal pregnancy, an ultrasound is used to determine whether the baby is developing normally, the baby’s size, the accuracy of the due date, the amount of fluid, the gender of the baby, and much more.
  • Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP). AFP testing is a routine screening typically done between the 16th and 18th week of pregnancy. Different levels of AFP in the mother’s bloodstream may be an indicator of a particular congenital disability.
  • Glucose Tolerance. Glucose tolerance testing is a routine test to determine whether you have developed gestational diabetes. A glucose tolerance test is usually given around 28 weeks before your last trimester.
  • Group B Streptococcus (GBS). GBS is a dangerous bacteria that can have potentially devastating effects on the baby’s lungs, blood, and other organs. A pregnant woman who carries GBS runs the risk of passing the bacteria to her baby during delivery. For that reason, some doctors screen all women for GBS. The test is usually performed between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy.
  • Amniocentesis. This procedure takes a sample of amniotic fluid from the uterus and analyzes it to determine if there are genetic abnormalities. You are a candidate for this test if you are over 35 years of age, have a family history of genetically inherited conditions, or have had babies with genetic abnormalities or neural tube defects. Amniocentesis is not routinely performed on all pregnant women, and there are risks associated with it.
  • Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS). CVS uses samples of cells taken from the chorionic villi to screen for genetic defects in the unborn baby. CVS has an advantage over amniocentesis in that it can be done earlier in the pregnancy. CVS is not performed on all pregnant women because there are risks associated with the test.

Take a look at our digital resource, “Preparing for Baby” Guide, to help you make the most of this very important time. We have a guide available to you for whichever hospital—Mercy Gilbert Grant Medical Center, Chandler Regional Medical Center, or St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center—is closest.

Preparing mentally for your pregnancy

The family and friends who support you during your pregnancy are a vital part of your and your baby’s health. You may already have a strong, loving group during this time, but you can also find new resources, as well. Try joining a group of expecting parents or meeting other new moms through prenatal classes. And always remember that you can lean on family and friends when you need help.

What are risk factors for things like anxiety and postpartum depression (PPD)?

Postpartum depression and anxiety affect a significant number of new and expecting mothers. While it isn’t possible to predict who will be affected, being aware of the symptoms of PPD can help you watch for the first sign of changes. Women at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression include:

  • Those with a history of depression and anxiety
  • Past incidence of PPD
  • Marital conflict
  • A family history of PPD
  • A recent history of stressful life events such as pregnancy complications
  • A poor support system

If you think you have symptoms of anxiety, depression, or have feelings that concern you, speak to a Dignity Health primary care physician. From there, they can recommend treatment options like medication or support groups. 

What is a deep breathing exercise I can use to reduce pregnancy stress?

  • Slow breathing: Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe slowly, easily, and fully. Think of each exhalation as a releasing breath.
  • Light breathing: Breath in and out through the mouth lightly and quickly. Give your exhalations a soft sound, such as a “hee,” “who,” or “ho.”
  • Transition breathing: Your inhalation is quiet, but your exhalation typically makes a soft sound in this rhythmic pattern: HEE-HEE-WHO.
  • To keep from pushing breathing: To keep from pushing, breathe in quietly through your mouth and breathe out with a hard HEE. Quickly breathe in quietly through the mouth and then breathe out a hard WHO.

The more you practice these different breathing techniques, the easier they will be during contractions into delivery and assisting in pain management. Also, keep in mind that other methods work better for different women. Try out various breathing exercises to find what fits best for you.

What time should I stop working during my pregnancy?

As you enter the later months of your pregnancy, you might question when to stop working. This decision hinges on a lot of variables. You will need to think about medical, financial, and career considerations. Is your pregnancy high-risk? How have you been feeling lately? How much time off does your job allow you? And don’t be afraid to discuss these things with your OB-GYN. 

How can I prepare my other children for a new baby?

Some kids may eagerly await a younger brother or sister, but other emotions such as fear, jealousy, and anxiety are common reactions to a baby joining the picture. You can help your children prepare for a new sibling by setting aside time and attention for them during the pregnancy. Include them in fun, small moments like picking out baby items and decorating the nursery. Try not to pressure them or make them feel like their emotional responses are wrong. Help them to understand and acknowledge their feelings. 

What classes should I take before my baby arrives?

Throughout Arizona, Dignity Health Family Birth Centers offer a few different education classes. Pregnancy and childbirth education classes can help you and your partner develop personal goals and life skills. You should take this general education class any time before your last month of pregnancy. Register for a breastfeeding class to be taught by our lactation services team about this excellent source of newborn nutrition. Safety classes will guide you and your family members in infant CPR and choking protocol. 

Pre-labor checklist: hospital bag and preparing the house

You might start thinking about the items in your hospital go-bag months before it’s even time for the baby’s arrival. If this is your first child, you’re bound to be doing all kinds of research about what to bring and finding things like a robe and slippers, clothes to wear home from the hospital, and a toothbrush. But we’ve got some insider knowledge you’ll want to see. Here are some items you might not think to include on your hospital checklists:

  • Insurance cards/advance directives, if you have them
  • Your pediatrician’s phone number
  • Copies of your birth plan
  • Supportive or nursing bra
  • Sour lollipops
  • Tennis balls, rolling pin, etc.
  • Lip balm
  • Cloth or elastic hair tie

For your baby, you’ll want to pack a receiving blanket, discharge clothes to bring them home in, and make sure a safety seat is installed in the car before leaving for the hospital. And we can’t forget about the special person accompanying you to welcome your little bundle of joy. They will want to bring their hospital bag packed with snacks, important telephone numbers, a change of clothing, a camera or camcorder, and a cell phone charger.

While completely baby-proofing your home doesn’t need to happen until your newborn can start crawling and moving around on their own, it can never hurt to get a jump start on things. You will feel more comfortable setting up the nursery and any space the baby will be in during the months leading up to delivery. Install safety locks and outlet covers in the necessary rooms.

You and your baby are special and deserve care unique to your family. Dignity Health OB-GYNs at Family Birth Centers in Gilbert, Phoenix, or Chandler are here to provide that care. Find an OB-GYN today, or give us a call at (844) 209-2058 to schedule a tour of our spacious private birthing suites and meet our staff, who are ready to help you welcome your little bundle of joy.

Sources: 

Mentally Preparing for Pregnancy 

9 Things to Do to Get Your House in Order Before Baby Comes 

Pregnancy Care – Trimester Checklist | Conditions, Treatments & Specialty 

Should You Work Up Until Your Due Date?

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