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HOUSE CALL: Good prenatal health starts before pregnancy

By Dr. Ann Marie Rockamann STLtoday.com | Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 7:00 am

The birth of your baby is one of life's greatest moments. However, the nine-month journey that precedes the big event may be accompanied by some anxiety and uncertainty.

Good prenatal health starts before pregnancy

Ideally, a healthy pregnancy begins before a woman even gets pregnant. We're learning more all the time about the needs of the unborn baby. That's why I urge women who are thinking about becoming pregnant to:

  • Take a daily vitamin with folic acid.
  • Abstain from alcohol and smoking.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet, avoiding more than two servings of seafood per week — due to mercury levels in some fish.
  • Get a thorough medical check-up to be sure your immunizations are up to date and that you don't have pre-existing medical conditions that may affect your pregnancy.
  • Drink plenty of water — eight, 8-ounce servings per day.
  • Get adequate sleep — eight hours per night.

Exercise during pregnancy

I also encourage women to exercise throughout their pregnancies. It's a great way to help relieve stress and cope better with labor. However, women should always consult their doctors before engaging in any strenuous exercise program and avoid any physical activity that could cause injury, such as horseback riding or skiing. Safe exercises include walking, swimming, low-impact aerobics, yoga and bicycling on a stationary bike.

It is important also to participate in childbirth classes. These classes will make you more comfortable with the process of giving birth. They will prepare you for how your body will react during labor and teach you about your birth options, like epidurals, natural childbirth and C-sections.

Take a tour

Most OB/GYNs urge their patients to tour their hospitals' maternity area and ask questions. Is there an obstetrician and anesthesiologist on duty 24/7? Do babies and mothers room together? How experienced are the nurses? Do they have a NICU? How receptive are they to your birth plans?

Many women today choose to labor in a warm-water tub, called an Acqua Doula Tub, a portable labor tub that can be brought into the privacy of your room. Often these must be reserved prior to delivery, so check with the hospital.

Do they have a dining program for your labor partner, so he or she never has to leave your room for meals?

Be a healthy mom

When mothers go home, they may experience some physical and emotional changes. It's important to follow up with your OB/GYN and keep your scheduled appointments.

Taking care of yourself is the most precious gift you can give to yourself and your family.

Dr. Ann Marie Rockamann is an OB/GYN on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

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