Contributor Julie Forbes is back with some great advice for pregnancy first-timers. She just welcomed her 3rd baby, so she’s kind of a pro now.
After 3 pregnancies in 4 years, I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of this baby-growing thing.
Here’s what I wish I would’ve known from the beginning:
1. Pass the Cheese, Please: You’ve probably already read a million times that you can’t eat soft cheese during pregnancy. As a vegetarian, whose only source of flavor seems to come from cheese, I was devastated. So, I read a lot, trying to get to the bottom of this. And, it turns out that it’s risky for you to eat cheese that’s made with unpasteurized milk. That cheese is typically soft cheese; hence the ban on all soft cheeses. But, the thing is, in the United States, it’s really hard to find cheeses that are made with unpasteurized milk.
Unless you’re in an import cheese shop, a fancy French restaurant or on a European vacation, you’re probably fine. Read the label: it will tell you if the cheese was made with pasteurized or unpasteurized milk. If you’re in a restaurant, ask the server (I was surprised at how many readily knew the answer).
2. Free Vitamins!: Don’t pay $10 a month for prenatal vitamins, if your insurance company will pay for them. Of course, every insurance company and plan is different, but I was shocked to find out (in my 3rd pregnancy, ugh) that my insurance company covered my prenatal vitamins with no co-pay. Not only did they pay for the prenatal vitamins, but they paid for the good kind: the all-in-one pills with the DHA included. It’s not so bad choking down those horse pills when you don’t have to pay for them.
3. The best all-natural medicine for morning sickness: Sleep! With my first two pregnancies, I was working the overnight shift and didn’t have the luxury of getting much sleep, so on the 3rd pregnancy, I fully indulged. During the first trimester, I put my two kids to bed at 7pm and did everything possible to get myself to bed by 8pm. Sure, I didn’t get to watch any TV, surf the internet, or get anything done, but I did get at least 10 hours of sleep each night! And, it ended up being the easiest pregnancy of the three. It’s amazing how much worse nausea is when you’re not getting enough sleep.
4. Buy a Powered Toothbrush: I knew gingivitis was a common ailment in pregnancy, so I thought nothing of the fact that I was spitting out mouthfuls of blood when I brushed. Gross, I know. The first two pregnancies, the dentist blew it off, and said it would go away once I was done breastfeeding. On the third pregnancy, a dental hygienist berated me about the permanent damage I was causing to my gums. She told me to spend $5 on a spin toothbrush because it massages the gums and reduces the excess blood and swelling in the mouth. Within a day of using a powered toothbrush, the bleeding was gone.
5. Pregnancy pillows are worth every penny: Enough said.
6. Stock up on postpartum clothes: Sure, you’ve already invested in a ton of maternity clothes, and you don’t want to waste any more money on temporary clothing. I get it. But, maternity clothes don’t look as cute when there’s not a round little belly in them. Before you deliver, stock up on a supply of bigger-than-normal clothes that you can fit into. Think: oversized button ups, baggy shirts, sweats etc.
I never realized how form-fitting all of my clothes were until I tried squeezing my postpartum belly back into them. If you’re not feeling great about yourself anyway, the last thing you want to do is wear tight or small clothing. While you’re at it, buy some bigger-than-normal full coverage underwear too.
7. Pack lightly: For my first baby, I honestly brought two huge suitcases to the hospital, complete with diapers, nursing pads, my own pillow, a breastpump and tons of books. I didn’t read a page, and the hospital had everything else. Sure, you can bring it all with you, but in case there’s an emergency and you don’t get to bring your hospital bag with you, don’t panic. The hospital has you covered.
8. Colace: The one thing you should pack in your hospital bag: a stool softener, like Colace. The hospital will give this to you, but the nurses can be stingy handing it out. If you don’t need it at the hospital, you’ll need it once you get home. Trust me. If you thought contractions and labor were painful, just wait for your first postpartum bowel movement.
9. Remember the Nurses’ Names: Bring a notepad to write them down or save them in your phone. Once you get home, you’re going to feel like you owe those nurses the world. If you have their names, you can write them a simple thank you card or send a gift basket to the floor. After each of my deliveries, the hospital had a company call to do a follow-up survey. The caller always asked if there were any employees who I would like to mention who did an exceptional job, and I could never remember any of the nurses’ names.
Sleep deprivation kills your memory. If you encounter anyone who goes above and beyond for you, write their name down.
10. Fresh Face: I wanted to look cute in the first photos of the baby’s life, so I did my hair and make-up before I left for the hospital. I’m embarrassed to admit this now. By the time the baby was born, that make-up was all over the pillow and my hair was matted against my head. Don’t bother. No one is looking at you anyway.
11. Lactation Consultant: If breastfeeding is important to you, don’t leave the hospital without having a meeting with the hospital’s lactation consultant (if they have one). These women have seen it all, so they can answer just about any question you may have, and can help get the baby latched on properly, so that you’re not in a ton of pain. (Breastfeeding doesn’t come as naturally as you might think.) I’ve had friends hire lactation consultants once they get home, and they can be pretty pricey. Take care of it in the hospital while your insurance company is footing the bill.
12. Breastfeeding Doesn’t Always Help You Lose Weight: I gained more weight than I should have with my first pregnancy, but I didn’t worry too much because I’d heard all of the stories about how breastfeeding melts the weight right off. For me, it was the exact opposite. Instead of the weight falling off, I felt like my body was doing everything in its power to hold on to it… no matter how much I dieted or exercised. I thought I was losing my mind, until I read a study that said in 70% of woman, the weight comes right off with breastfeeding. But, for an unlucky 30%, your body actually holds on to the weight until you’re done breastfeeding.
My doctor said she has seen those percentages play out in her own practice. She said there are two groups of women: 1) the ones who are skinnier than they were before they got pregnant at their 6 week appointment, and 2) the other women who hold on to an additional 10-15 pounds until they stop breastfeeding. Don’t let it discourage you from breastfeeding; just know you may need to be patient in getting that pre-baby body back.
What else would you add to this list?