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It takes a village …

If you’re like the majority of women, learning of an unexpected pregnancy is a dilemma you never want to face. Pregnancy — and the ensuing responsibilities of parenthood — is a life-altering experience. After the home test proves positive or after the just-in-case blood test at Student Health Services has confirmed your new status as a sort of walking incubator, a million and one questions, concerns and fears begin hurtling through your mind. Should you go through with the pregnancy? Who is the father? What will he say? What will your parents say? What about school? What do you do next?

Your next move depends on a few things. First, how far into your pregnancy are you? According to the Liberty Women’s Healthcare of Queens, New York Web site, there is a window of about 63 days after which the embryo is considered a fetus and the first trimester is ended. If one should decide on abortion, the earliest possible time to have the procedure is at four weeks or two weeks after conception. The procedure becomes riskier the longer you wait. Those who disagree with abortion but do not feel comfortable caring for the child could consider adoption as an alternative. No matter what your decision, there are consequences.

If you decide to have the baby, then you must take immediate steps toward changing your lifestyle to make it as baby-friendly as possible. No more throwing back beers with friends, no more recreational drug use — get rid of that pack of cigarettes, and if you can’t stop drinking caffeine altogether, cut back drastically, doctors say.

If you aren’t seeing a doctor regularly, you should start. You will need to find an obstetric/gynecologist or a nurse/midwife,depending on your preference, to monitor you and your baby’s health as the pregnancy progresses and during labor and delivery. Usually your first appointment is at about 8-10 weeks, or well into your second month of pregnancy.

Since your nutritional needs change when you are pregnant, you will need to consume about 300 more calories a day depending on your pre-pregnancy weight. You may also want to consider taking a prenatal supplement with iron, zinc and folic acid. Because you may experience nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea and constipation, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, 100 percent fruit juices and milk. Liberal fluid intake is one way to fight constipation, urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancies,hemorrhoids and water retention. Water is the preferred fluid of choice, and you should drink at least six to eight, 8 oz. glasses per day plus one 8 oz. cup for each hour of light activity. And because nausea is sometimes aggravated by an empty stomach or low blood sugar, you should keep saltines by your bedside or in your purse or book bag just in case.

According to, you should eat at least every four hours because the baby may be hungry even if you are not. Some tasty but healthy snack ideas: banana smoothie (instead of ice cream) and yogurt-covered pretzels or trail mix.

Once the nausea and vomiting subside and the hunger pangs begin, don’t go on an ice cream-and-cake binge, because you’re eating for two now. Contrary to popular belief — although an expectant mother’s metabolism does speed up during pregnancy — if you consume too many empty calories or just too many calories in general you will most likely gain more than the optimum 25-35 pounds. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but remember that nine to 10 months down the line a 7-pound baby may be easier to deliver than a 10 1/2 pound baby. Most experts agree that you should plan to gain weight gradually, gaining the least in the first trimester and the most in the second and third.

Exercise is also important both pre- and post-pregnancy. If you’re not already on a regimen, you should consult your doctor before beginning any type of program. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg and Sandee Hathaway, B.S.N., says, “Moderate physical activity (thirty minutes a day) is now considered not only thoroughly safe, but also extremely beneficial for most expectant mothers and their babies.”

Although changing your lifestyle, diet and fitness habits are important steps to take upon discovering you are pregnant, good mental health is even more important. Stress management is now vital in ways it may have never been before. Five good ways to manage stress are:

Practice relaxation techniques on a daily basis.

Substitute negative thoughts with positive ones.

Ask for support when you need it.

Try meditation.

Develop a sense of humor about life.

Being pregnant isn’t an illness or a psychosis. It’s a normal event in a woman’s life that should be met with courage, elation and even personal pride. Physiologically you are already equipped with most of the essentials. Once you find out you’re pregnant, it’s up to you to keep yourself educated and informed; it’s your obligation to yourself and your baby to surround yourself with positive and supportive influences. After all, it has been said that it takes a village to raise a child.

Sources used :
What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 3rd edition