When infertile patients, who have been trying for some time, get the positive pregnancy test result, they go through a roller coaster of emotions where their fear of “Will I get pregnant?” quickly turns into “How do I stay pregnant?”.
These fears and mixed emotions are totally understandable. A lot of infertile patients that get a positive pregnancy test result usually feel anxious about what they can do to help keep the pregnancy. This is why most of these patients often turn to spend hours diving down the internet rabbit hole, researching how they can keep the pregnancy safe.
Although doing your research and getting yourself educated is great, I really want you to know that it is so much better for you to simply enjoy your victory (it’s a big deal!) and directly ask your doctor questions about how you can keep the pregnancy safe. This way, all the tips are tailored to fit your particular situation and are not based on some generalization that you find on the internet.
To help ease your mind, let me list the top 11 things that I tell my patients and friends to do, during the first trimester. You can go over these tips with your doctor so that they can help guide you through the things you should and should not be doing. At the end of the day, we all want one thing: for you to get your dream of being a parent!
- You May Not “Feel” Pregnant. This is a fear that some newly pregnant persons can experience and it unnecessarily leads to a lot of stress. Not experiencing major changes in your body or how you feel, overall, is perfectly normal! Not everyone feels a definite change in their body during the first trimester, even if you have been pregnant before.
- Your Appetite. Appetite during pregnancy differs from person to person. Even though many people use the analogy of ‘eating for two’, you definitely do not need to eat more than what you are comfortable with. As a matter of fact, some pregnant persons experience a drop in their appetite, while some others experience early and very specific cravings.
- Minimal Bleeding is Okay. Light to moderate vaginal bleeding is normal. For some women, this is their first sign of pregnancy. So, do not panic if you experience minimal bleeding. However, if you are pregnant and the amount of bleeding is excessive, you should notify your clinic as soon as possible. A general objective rule of thumb: we consider bleeding where you are completely soaking through two normal maxi pads per hour, for greater than 2 hours, as excessive.
- Avoid Raw Seafood. During pregnancy, there are some seafood that you have to avoid, even when they are cooked. Eating raw seafood can expose your baby to mercury, harmful bacteria, and parasites. If you regularly eat fish high in mercury, this heavy metal can accumulate in your bloodstream, cross the placenta into the fetus’ own circulatory system and then damage your baby’s developing brain and nervous system.
- Take Your Prenatal Vitamins. If you can tolerate it, I suggest you take your prenatal vitamins daily. If you cannot tolerate the vitamins, at least make sure you take folic acid. You need at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. However, if you are pregnant with two or more babies (i.e a multiple gestation), or if you have a history of a seizure disorder, or if you have a prior pregnancy, or had a baby that was born with signs of a folate deficiency (e.g a baby born with spina bifida or meningomyelocele), your doctor will want you to be on a higher dose of folate in subsequent pregnancies. So, check with your doctor before choosing between prenatal vitamins or starting higher doses of folic acid.
- Stop Herbal and Non-prenatal Supplements. There is not much data available on Herbal supplements and their impact on a pregnancy or the fetus. Therefore, we recommend discontinuing all non-essential herbs, vitamins, and supplements, including CoQ10 and DHEA, during pregnancy. If you are not sure whether your supplement is essential, contact your doctor to confirm, right away.
- Continue Taking Your Thyroid, Diabetes, Blood Pressure, Prolactin, or Heart Medicines. Managing these medicines is highly essential for a successful pregnancy. If you have not told your doctor about these medications before, let them know as soon as possible. Patients with poorly controlled thyroid, diabetes, blood pressure or prolactin levels are at increased risk for miscarriages, stillbirth, small (growth restricted babies), certain special birth defects and poor neurological development in the fetuses.
- Exercise Heartily. We suggest moderate exercise during pregnancy. However, you should always first verify what type of exercises and the level of intensity you should be doing, with your doctor. For certain underlying medical conditions in the person carrying the pregnancy, your doctor may even recommend against any exercise at all.
- Continue Taking DHA or Fish Oil and Only Consume Pasteurized Milk Products. DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) or fish oil intake can help prevent preterm labor and delivery, lower the risk of preeclampsia, and may even positively increase the birth weight of your baby. Consuming only pasteurized milk products can help protect you and your baby from harmful bacteria.
- Avoid Hot Tubs or Saunas. It is advisable to avoid hot tubs and saunas because they may cause dehydration, overheating, and even fainting. Exposure to elevated internal body temperatures, like what occurs with soaking in a hot tub or sitting in a sauna for a while, during the first trimester, can also lead to some genetic changes in the developing embryo which, in turn, can result in certain congenital birth defects in your baby. In one study, special heat shock proteins are produced in the fetus as a response to exposure to stressful events such as prolonged high temperatures and these negatively affect your fetus’ development, during the critical period of organ formation and result in anatomical malformation.
- Avoid Alcohol and Limit Intake of Drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, other opiates or other chemicals. These substances are known to cause serious malformations in different organs as well as severe mental disability in babies who were exposed to these drugs while they were in the womb.
All these tips that I have listed above are meant to help you keep your pregnancy safe. However, you should still go over them with your doctor so that they can help safely guide you through your pregnancy. It is also important that you do not let your fears interfere with celebrating your pregnancy. Enjoy this joyous moment and make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions, throughout your journey.