First Trimester Checklist: Your Guide for the Early Part of Pregnancy

Although many women are waiting longer to become mothers in the US, parenthood is still very much a rite of passage for countless women. In fact, there were 3.86 million births nationwide during 2017 alone. If you recently found out that you’re expecting, you’re probably ready to start planning for your baby’s arrival. While this initial part of your pregnancy journey is certainly an exciting one, soon-to-be moms often feel nervous during this period. You’ll likely welcome all the good advice you can get. To ensure your pregnancy is a happy and healthy one, start with these tips for your first trimester.

Visit your gynecologist regularly

From the start, proper prenatal care is immensely important. One study found that nearly half of OB-GYNs consider themselves to be primary care doctors, providing a number of services for overall health. Whether you already have a great gynecological care provider or want to seek out alternatives, you should start planning now. Your first prenatal appointment probably won’t take place until at least eight weeks into your pregnancy, but you’ll need to make that appointment well ahead of time.

At your initial appointment, your doctor will determine your due date, talk to you about current medications, and perform a comprehensive physical examination. This is a great time to ask questions about what you can expect or talk to your doctor about any medical concerns you might have. You’ll typically see your doctor monthly until you’re six months into your pregnancy, after which the frequency of these visits will increase.

Embrace a baby-friendly diet

You may be eating for two now, but you still need to watch your diet. That doesn’t mean depriving yourself, but it does mean you’ll need to educate yourself about the best and worst kinds of foods for pregnant women to eat.

Most experts agree that you should eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to stave off morning sickness. You’ll want to avoid dishes that are spicy, greasy, or rich to avoid upsetting your stomach. The American Pregnancy Association cautions that you should refrain from eating foods that could contain bacteria, parasites, or other contaminants such as raw or undercooked meat or seafood, deli meats, soft cheeses, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk or juice, and unwashed vegetables. You should also limit your caffeine intake and cut out alcohol entirely.

On the flip side, you should increase your consumption of dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, lean proteins, whole grains, avocados, berries, and water to support your growing baby and your immune system as a whole. Bland foods (such as crackers, chicken broth, ice pops, and pretzels) are ideal for when you’re feeling nauseated. Make sure your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy options to promote a well-balanced diet.

Prioritize your health

It’s time to prioritize your own wellness even more than before. If you smoke, you’ll need to quit immediately. Cigarettes have been linked to a number of serious birth problems, including a higher risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, cleft palate development, and other issues.

You should be taking prenatal vitamins to ensure your folic acid intake is adequate. You may also consider taking other supplements such as vitamin D and vitamin B6, though you should always talk to your doctor before doing so. Your dental health should be priority during this time as well, since pregnancy can make you more vulnerable to developing gingivitis.

Pregnancy can take a lot out of you, so you’ll need plenty of rest. If possible, rearrange your sleep schedule so you can hit the hay early, and don’t be afraid to start napping. You may also want to get used to sleeping on your side, because it’ll be safer for baby down the road.

You’ll also want to get a clear idea of which activities are off-limits and which are encouraged. Unless you have specific health concerns that would prohibit it, regular exercise is an excellent idea. You may, however, need to refrain from certain household chores because of the physical demands or toxic hazards.

You should take this time to educate yourself on any health-related concerns during your pregnancy and beyond. Sign up for birth classes, find pregnancy support groups, and learn more about the services your health insurance will cover. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with your job’s maternity leave policies, because 40 percent of women don’t even qualify for the Federal Medical Leave Act, and only 12 percent of women in the private sector have paid maternity leave at all. This can help you budget for the costs of pregnancy and childcare or solidify the importance of getting your health in check now so that you can recover more quickly.

Shop for the essentials

Your body will change quite rapidly, but that doesn’t mean you can put off your shopping until after the first trimester.

Start with some pregnancy books and a pregnancy journal so you can feel informed, and involve your partner throughout every stage of this process. You don’t need to go shopping for nursery items right away, but preparing a space with a few little items can put you in the mindset to welcome your child into the world.

And while you may not want to buy all of your maternity clothes during the first three months of your pregnancy, you’ll probably need to get started during the last part of this trimester. You’ll want to invest in some supportive cotton bras, maternity underwear, some stretchy pants, and comfortable items that can accommodate your growing body. A good body moisturizer is a must, too.

Preparing for baby can be intimidating, but it’s also one of the greatest thrills in the world. With these tips in mind, you’ll feel more informed and ready to embrace both the ups and downs of your first trimester.