10 Things to Know Before Pregnancy

When my students show up to their 1st Lamaze class they are typically in their 3rd trimester and fairly close to meeting their baby.  This is per my request because most of what we talk about needs to be fresh on the couple’s mind when they go into labor and bring baby home.  The downside is I often find myself wishing they had known some pertinent information much earlier in pregnancy or even prior to conception.  This led me to compose a list of 10 things to know BEFORE pregnancy that I talk about now in Pregnancy Prep Workshops.

Movement & Alignment

proper squat for birth
A big thanks to Jillian Nicol over at www.livealigned.ca for allowing me to use her illustration.

Understanding safe and effective movement during pregnancy is worth learning if you may ever be pregnant. Ann Taylor Lashbrook of the Beyond Movement Center helped me realize that preparing our bodies for pregnancy and birth begins long before conception.  Ann Taylor says foundational strength training and movement practices done even years before conception will benefit you during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. However, if you are already pregnant and haven’t been educated on your bodies proper alignment it isn’t too late.  She can teach you some foundational movements in early pregnancy or check out her YouTube channel for hundreds of videos. The image above is from Jillian Nicol and is the best illustration I’ve seen on doing a proper squat.  This movement is often used in birth, but unless mom is executing it correctly it can be ineffective. Remember the goal in a squat is to open your outlet by keeping your tail untucked (image A) vs curling your bottom in and closing your outlet (Image B).  If you are doing squats in labor be sure to do them correctly!

Chiropractic Care

Going right along with alignment is Chiropractic Care.  One of the biggest mistakes I made in my own pregnancy was waiting until there was concern about baby’s positioning around week 38 to start seeing a chiropractor.  The number one thing I would do differently is begin regular visits as soon as possible.  Chiropractic care is beneficial for our overall health, but also for optimal fetal positioning. Look for a Chiropractor familiar with the Webster technique and has a reputation for working with expectant moms.  If you want to find a Chiropractor in your area who is Webster Certified and/or a member of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association Visit ICPA4Kids.org.

Nutrition

Be aware that a prenatal (even the highest quality) does NOT replace proper nutrition.

real food
An image of real nutritious foods from Need More Acres Farm.

In Lamaze class we talk about nutrition, but the food you are eating even leading up to conception has been shown to effect your baby & pregnancy.  Often we enter into pregnancy not understanding the benefits of high protein, healthy fats, bone broths and dark leafy greens.  Worse we can go through pregnancy not aware of the dangers in aspartame, high sugar processed food and folic acid. If I could pick one topic to educate all women on before pregnancy it would be nutrition. Be aware that a prenatal (even the highest quality) does NOT replace proper nutrition. It is also imperative you know that healthy saturated fats are good for you and baby.  Fat got a bad rap over the last couple decades as we’ve all been programmed to avoid it.  However, certain healthy fats are necessary building blocks for baby’s development and our maternal health. Try avocados, coconut oil, animal fats, real butter, egg yolks and other satisfying fats you’ve been depriving yourself of. Finally water; it isn’t just a suggestion, but a necessary tool for a healthy pregnancy.  Drink half your current body weight in ounces for a MINIMUM intake.  You can also add an ounce for each week of gestation and drink extra water if you consume any caffeinated or sugary drinks that promote dehydration.  Nutrition is no joke and you should learn about it before pregnancy.

Morning Sickness

You may not have seen your doctor, hired your doula or certainly haven’t started Childbirth Education In the early weeks of pregnancy, so how will you know what to do about morning sickness? Or better how will you know ways to prevent it?  This is linked in with nutrition because while many of us our told to eat crackers, toast and gatorade those foods can work against our bodies making morning sickness worse.  When we nurture our bodies before conception and during the early days of pregnancy with real foods, proteins, dark leafy greens and broth we may see a decrease in nausea. Crackers and nutrition aside the most important part of this conversation is how to know if it is more than morning sickness.  Some moms are dealing with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and the kicker is their OBGYNs may not diagnose it properly. When a mom has HG she needs medication and to be monitored by a health care professional.  If you suspect you may have HG use the chart below from the HER Foundation for clarification.  Also join the Facebook HG Facebook Page for support from thousands of HG moms.

Hypermesis Gravidarum

Interviewing Care Providers

That’s right! I said “interview”.  Did you know that when you choose a doctor to provide your prenatal care and deliver your baby you are hiring them?  You should have a list of questions and expectations.  What is their personal Cesarean rate, their practices cesarean rate and the delivering hospitals cesarean rate? Do they catch babies in upright positions?  How comfortable are they with a natural birth?  If planning a cesarean will they provide a gentle cesarean with skin-to-skin directly after and do they support breastfeeding in recovery?  These are just some of the questions you should be asking and if the doctor is annoyed or doesn’t have time to answer them its time to interview someone else.

Hiring a Doula

Amanda Woolen (The Grateful Moms Doula) supporting a mom as she labors in her birth pool at home.

A Doula is a hired support person who provides prenatal support late in pregnancy, continuous labor support in any setting and sometimes postpartum care.  You may be wondering if a Doula is right for you or which Doula to hire.  The best way to find out is to go meet Doulas.  Find a “Meet the Doulas” event in your town, set up birth consultations, go to events where local doulas speak or start following your area doulas on social media.  Hiring a doula can happen anytime before labor, but the earlier the better. My advice is don’t hire the first doula you meet.  Meet with 2-3 Doulas before making a choice since it is important you choose the best doula for your family rather than the most convenient one.  It isn’t something that can be rushed, but waiting until the last minute can heavily decrease your choices.

Choosing A Birth Location

You may think that the only location for birthing a baby is labor and delivery at your local hospital, but it in fact is not.  Your town may have home birth midwives or birthing centers to choose from when selecting the perfect place to have your baby.  If you live in a state that doesn’t have birth centers (like I do) check into neighboring states.  For instance my town may not have a birth center, but Baby & Co Nashville is 1 hour away, Infinity Birth Center is 2 hours and The Farm Midwifery Center is 2.5 hours away making them all options to consider.  The majority of states have access to home birth midwives, but even if your state doesn’t recognize Certified Professional Midwives home birth with a CPM may still be an option.

Baby’s Development

From finding out you are pregnant until the 1st ultrasound (or for some birth) you may not have a strong idea of what baby looks like, what they are spending their time doing, what their environment looks or sounds like.  It can ease your mind to have a true understanding of what is happening inside your body. You can learn about development by attending an early pregnancy class, checking out books like The Pregnant Body Book or watching the PBS Documentary 9 Months That Made You (available online and Netflix).

Body Changes

“Weight gain itself doesn’t cause stretch marks—it promotes the hormonal changes that cause them,” and “genetics play a big role in whether someone gets them [stretch marks],”

Your body is going to go through changes over pregnancy and it is helpful for you to know what is common and what changes can be managed. Some common changes are tender or swollen breasts, frequent urination, tiredness and nausea. Your areola’s can become enlarged and may become dark in color. Some moms will notice small amounts of colostrum leaking from their breasts. Obviously with pregnancy comes weight gain and for some stretch marks. Weight gain is controlled with the  good nutrition we talked about above. Of course Knowing that some of your weight gain in pregnancy is out of your control is helpful since its made up of increased blood volume, enlarged uterus, amniotic fluid, a baby and other important components of pregnancy. On the topic of stretch marks its mostly up to genetics whether you’ll get them or not. New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco explains in an article with Real Simple that  “Weight gain itself doesn’t cause stretch marks—it promotes the hormonal changes that cause them,” and “genetics play a big role in whether someone gets them [stretch marks],” So save your money on all the creams, drink tons of water, eat well and cross your fingers.  Besides, They’re nothing to be ashamed of; most of us have them.

Rights of a Childbearing Woman

It is never a bad idea to know your rights, but as a childbearing woman its essential. I give all my students this handout from childbirth connection titled (you guessed it) Rights of a Childbearing Woman.  After you fully understand your rights then go over to Birth Monopoly and readYou’re Not Allowed to Not Allow Me” by Cristen Pascucci.  Knowing your rights and understanding informed consent is crucial to navigating pregnancy and birth. Cristen sums it up by saying, “The truth is that women, like all other U.S. citizens, have the right to make decisions about their bodies based on informed consent—a legal, ethical standard which requires the provider to convey all of the information around a suggested procedure or course of treatment, and the person receiving the procedure or treatments gets to decide whether or not to take that advice. ”

Your Top 10

There was actually a few very important topics that didn’t make it in this top 10.  Can you guess those topics?  They’ll need a blog post all for themselves.  What would make your top 10?  What do you wish you had known before pregnancy or early in pregnancy?  Leave your feedback in the comments!

Look for Lamaze Educators like me in your area who offer Early Pregnancy classes, Pregnancy Prep Workshops and Wellness in your childbearing years courses. Visit our Network page to find a doula right for you in Southern Ky.

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