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15 First Trimester To-Dos

Congratulations! A baby is on the way! The first trimester is so exciting. It means that in about nine months, a family will expand and a new baby will arrive.

It's very early, and 40 weeks (or 35 or 36, depending on when a mother discovers the baby on board) seems like a long time. But it isn't too early to get started on a to-do list. In fact, in some areas, it's crucial that a pregnant mom check off a list of items in the first trimester to make sure that she is doing all that she can to ensure that the baby is healthy.

While she shouldn't worry about stocking up on diapers or creating a birth plan just yet, a mom-to-be should start to research her pregnancy and learn about the miracle taking place inside her and how she can take care of it. There are nutrition issues that are very important to get a start on as soon as possible in the first trimester, And pregnancy symptoms start right away, so it is good to start a jump-start on them.

From cutting down on the coffee and starting on the prenatal vitamins, here are 15 first trimester to-dos.

15 Stop Smoking And Drinking

We're going to start off with what may be an obvious idea to some, but we think it is important to mention. If you smoke, stop right away — and if you drink, don't do it in the first trimester.

Smoking cigarettes can have a detrimental effect on anyone's health, but for a baby it can be especially terrible. Women who smoke are more likely to miscarry, and there are a number of birth defects such as clef lip or cleft palate that are more prevalent in the babies of smokers. Smoking can also cause problems with the placenta, which can separate too early and cause bleeding, and it has been linked with low birth weight and premature birth. Smoking during and after pregnancy is one of the greatest risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome as well.

Women should also abstain from using e-cigarettes, which still contain harmful nicotine, as well as flavorings that could be dangerous for the baby.

While recent reports have said that it may be safe to consume a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy, most researchers still believe that ay alcohol can be harmful. In the first trimester, it can impact the baby's facial features, and it can cause development and brain issues throughout pregnancy. It's best to stop drinking and smoking before you become pregnant, but if you learn you are pregnant later, be sure to stop right away.

14 Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins

The first purchase a woman should make after a positive pregnancy test is a batch of prenatal vitamins. Nutrition is very important during the first trimester, as it is the time when the cells are dividing and the baby's organs and features are forming. No matter how healthy a diet a mom-to-be eats, it's still important to take vitamins as a supplement.

One of the biggest benefits of taking prenatal vitamins is the additional intake of folic acide. The B vitamin can reduce the risk for neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Those issues, which are related to the formation of the brain and spinal cord, can lead to paralysis or death, so it is important.

Prenatal vitamins can reduce the chances of many other birth defects, and they can help the mother avoid issues such as preeclampsia and premature delivery. The benefits are so great that doctors encourage women who are trying for a baby to start taking them before they see a plus sign on a pregnancy test. So if you haven't started yet, put it on your first trimester to-do list and get started as soon as possible.

13 Make A Doctor's Appointment

Many women don't believe they are pregnant when they see a positive test; instead they want confirmation from the doctor. As we mentioned, it's a good idea to go ahead and start taking prenatal vitamins and stop smoking and drinking, but the next thing on the to-do list can definitely be making a doctor's appointment.

Many times the doctor's office will schedule the first visit for around 8 weeks, but if a medical concern comes up, the appointment could come sooner. For the most part, the first appointment is about taking stock of the mother's health and talking about how to take care of herself.

The exciting part will be when the doctor does a transvaginal ultrasound and the mom-to-be gets to hear her baby's heartbeat for the first time. At that point, it will feel more real. (And it is worth mentioning that while the possibility of miscarriage still exists, it diminishes greatly after the heartbeat is detected.)

12 Talk To The Doctor About Medications

One of the most important topics to discuss with the doctor during the first trimester is the list of medications that could have an impact on the baby. In fact, if a woman is taking any medications, she should ask the nurse about them on the phone when she is making the appointment.

New research comes out every day on medications that could cause problems in pregnancy, including over the counter drugs like acetaminophen, when was recently linked to ADHD and autism possibilities. Certain drugs used for depression and other mental health issues can be harmful, but a woman can't risk her own health by quitting taking the pills without talking to a doctor about it first.

Some alternative therapies are safe, but others have been linked to premature labor, birth defects or worse, so it is important to talk to a healthcare provider about all aspects of your healthcare.

11 Buy A Baby Book Or Download An App

Whether it is a mom's first baby or her fifth, every mom wants to know all about the baby growing in her belly. She can't see the little one, but she can imagine the changes going on, and sometimes it can make her feel better by knowing more about it.

The first trimester is a great time to download a pregnancy app or buy a baby book on the subject. Many of them have week-by-week guides that describe how big the baby is and which organs are developing at that point. They also have information about what is going on with a woman's body and tips about how she can take care of both herself and the baby.

Information can be empowering, and it can help a mom-to-be get a good handle on her health as well as her baby's as well as life as a parent.

10 Eat Healthy

There isn't much that a newly pregnant woman can do for her baby at this point. She can't count kicks and she may be superstitious about planning a nursery until the first trimester ends. But she can lay the foundation for her baby's health by eating well herself.

Pregnant women will quickly learn that there are many limitations in a healthy diet. Deli meat can pose a risk, as can sushi and soft cheeses. But the doctor won't say anything negative about fruits and vegetables (as long as they are cleaned properly).

Babies can smell food while they are in the mother's womb by the end of the first trimester, so the mother's diet can set them up to have food preferences very early on. A mom should take this opportunity to establish healthy habits from the beginning, and she will feel better about her own health and the health of her baby.

9 Stock Up On Crackers And Ginger Ale

The first trimester can be a trying time for a mom-to be. Nearly three-out-of-four pregnant women experience nausea in those first three months and about half deal with vomiting. Morning sickness can put a damper on the excitement, but some tips might help.

For example, some women find that if they have a little something on their tummy they can avoid the worst of the nausea. That can mean taking a few bites of a breakfast bar before getting out of bed or snacking on crackers throughout the day.

Many times, morning sickness is related to food aversions and the heightened sense of smell that can come with pregnancy, so a woman should avoid anything that could set off the vomiting.

Ginger ale — or ginger snaps or ginger bread, you get the idea — is known to help, but in the worst cases, a woman may have to talk to a doctor about medications. Dehydration is a worry, so be sure to drink water as well.

8 Indulge The Cravings — Within Reason

For some women, one of the biggest perks of pregnancy is being given permission to indulge in cravings. And we admit, it is good to know that you have some extra calories coming some days. What woman wouldn't enjoy a little ice cream every evening? As long as the weight gain doesn't increase too much, it's good to indulge a little.

First trimester cravings, though, can sometimes go off the rails. It's good to listen to your body when it says it needs a little red meat — that could be a sign that a mom is a bit anemic and needs a little more iron. But cravings can go beyond the pickles and ice cream variety that makes some people scoff. Some women deal with pica, a disorder that makes women crave things that aren't real food, such as chalk or glass. A mom-to-be should draw the line at ingesting dangerous substances.

7 Cut Down On The Coffee

The amount of caffeine that is safe for a pregnant woman has been highly debated, and in recent years numerous scientific studies have lessened the concern. However, the March of Dimes, which supports research into premature births, says the contradictory information in the studies shows that more research has to be done and until that time, pregnant women should limit their intake. Better aafe than sorry, after all, since some studies show a possible link to miscarriage.

The current recommendation is to stay under 200 milligrams a day — that is about a cup and a half of coffee or one 20-ounce serving. Some women choose to switch to decaf and abstain from soft drinks. There is caffeine in chocolate and other foods, but not in high amounts. For some pregnant moms, it's impossible to imagine getting up in the morning without a cup of joe, but it's important to limit the intake and talk to your doctor.

6 Consider Prenatal Testing

As much as a mom-to-be is during her first trimester, there can also be a lot of fears, including concerns that there could be something wrong with the baby, especially if certain conditions run in the family. There are many options for detecting problems during pregnancy, including a screening that can be done in the first trimester.

The optional testing includes a blood test and an ultrasound, and it can detect chromosomal normalities such as Down Syndrome and may be able to detect other issues including cardiac problems. It is pretty accurate at determining if further testing is needed, although some second trimester tests are also good for determining neural tube defects.

The 20-week ultrasound is the most thorough check of the baby's health, but if a mom wants some answers early, she has options that she can investigate her options for the first trimester.

5 Take All The Naps You Can Take

Pregnancy is hard work — after all, you are making a human — and it can be exhausting. The fatigue of the first trimester is more than any woman may have experienced in her life, thanks to the hormones and things working in the womb to form the fetus and the placenta. Even before a woman gains a pound, she can feel the drain as the baby pulls nutrients from her body and into its own.

While a woman may not be able to sleep at night between dashes to the restroom and heartburn, this period is important to get as much rest as possible. Sometimes a mom-to-be will want to work on her to-do list, but the best move in the first trimester may be just to lay down and take a nap. Don't worry, by the beginning of the second trimester, the body will adjust and some of that energy will return.

4 Buy A New Bra

Pregnancy brings lots of changes to a woman's body, and some of them start right away. The body prepares for breastfeeding from the very beginning, and long before the baby bump starts to grow, the mom-to-be's breasts can begin to expand.

Many women experience the changes differently, but some pregnant women have to go out and buy a bra within a few weeks, and they may change sizes a few times in nine months. It may be good to wait to invest in a more expensive nursing bra until later on.

Most moms-to-be don't need to invest in maternity clothes in the first trimester, although the baby bump can come by two or three months for second- or third-time moms. But usually she can't wait that long for a new bra.

3 Investigate Your Company's Maternity Leave Policies

Many women chose to wait until the end of the first trimester to tell people about her pregnancy, and that is just fine. But pretty soon the evidence will begin to appear, and a woman will have to tell people about her situation. It becomes especially important if a woman is working and plans to return to the office after the baby is born. In that case, she likely won't want to burn any bridges and give her workplace plenty of notice about her impending absence. (She also may need to talk to her boss and human resources rep a little earlier than she intended if she is suffering from intense morning sickness that requires frequent absences or accommodations.)

A woman should be aware of her rights and her company's policies before she works out a maternity leave plan. U.S. law requires that a woman be allowed to take 12 weeks of maternity leave before returning to her job. However, the law does not require any compensation during that time. Some companies have compensation during a maternity leave period, but it may not be as long as the law allows, and some women can get short-term disability benefits that pay partial salaries for six to eight weeks.

A new mom can decide to take the entire 12 weeks, but sometimes that decision can be based on the financial factors. Having an idea of what she hopes to do can help when the time for the conversation comes.

2 Start Doing Kegels

Even when a baby's delivery is still eight or so months away, the due date can feel like a ticking time bomb. A mom-to-be dreads the moment she has to push a baby out, so it's never too early to start practicing kegel exercises.

Moms who did kegels during pregnancy say that they have easier deliveries, and we understand why. It's because they have strengthened the pelvic floor that can help the baby get through the birth canal.

Kegels involve tensing and relaxing the muscles of the cervix and vagina, and starting early can help build endurance. It's a good idea to add them to the to-do list in the first trimester.

1 Plan The Pregnancy Announcement

We know that three months can seem like a really long time to keep such a big secret. Not only are the parents-to-be super excited, but a pregnant woman has to keep her lips sealed while battling morning sickness and fatigue, not to mention crazy hormones.

But at least the first trimester can give the expecting couple plenty of time to plan an awesome pregnancy announcement. In recent years, the pressure has risen to make an amazing announcement, and some parents can't wait to up the ante. They scour Pinterest for ideas and schedule awesome photo shoots. It can take time and planning, and that can fill the void during the first trimester.

In just a couple months it will be time for the big gender reveal, and then the baby announcement. But for now, it's all about the pregnancy reveal. Breaking the news can be an exciting and epic end to the first trimester to-do list.

Sources: CDC, Baby Center, WebMD, Parents, March of Dimes, FitPregnancy, First Trimester Screen

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