Prenatal Care for Teens: Taking Care of You and Your Baby
If you decide to have the baby, you should take care of yourself and your growing baby. There's a lot you can do. It will help if you learn about problems that can sometimes happen while being pregnant, and what you can do to manage and even prevent them.
First, be sure to get early and regular checkups (called prenatal care). The earlier you get prenatal care, the better your chances are of having a healthy baby. It is critically important for you to be checked early in your pregnancy by a qualified health care professional.
If you're not sure where to go for prenatal care, or you don't have any health insurance, you can get information about prenatal care from your local Planned Parenthood office, other family planning or women's health centers, or your local Department of Family Services.
At your first prenatal care visit, the doctor will ask you all about your medical history. It is very important for your answers to be completely honest and accurate. The doctor will also ask when you had your last menstrual period. This will help determine when your baby is due to be born. You will also be given a pelvic exam at this visit. If you have never had a pelvic exam, ask the nurse or doctor to explain it to you. Most women are also tested for sexually transmitted diseases at the first prenatal care visit. This includes being offered a test for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
During the first few months of pregnancy, you should see your doctor at least once a month. As your baby grows, your doctor will want to see you more often. Be sure to keep these appointments and to call in between appointments with any concerns or questions.
Everything you put into your body can affect the health of your baby. Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or marijuana, or take other illegal drugs while you are pregnant. Even drugs that you get at the drug store should not be taken before talking about it with your health care provider.
Avoid junk food. Though you can still eat many of your favorite foods while you're pregnant, try to eat healthy ones. Eating healthy is best for you and your baby. You need extra vitamins and nutrients for your own growing body. Each day, you should eat:
- Four servings of fruits
- Four servings of vegetables
- Nine servings of whole-grain cereals, breads, rice, or pasta
- Four servings of milk or foods made from milk (yogurt, cheese)
- Three or four servings of meat, poultry (chicken), fish, eggs, beans or nuts
You should also drink plenty of water every day, and stay away from high-sugar and high-fat snacks like candy and cookies. Instead, choose fruit or yogurt.
Your doctor might prescribe a prenatal vitamin for you. Make sure that you take it every day.
Your doctor will also tell you to get plenty of folic acid in your diet. Folic acid is a vitamin that helps prevent certain birth defects called neural tube defects (spina bifida).
To help prevent these birth defects, you should take the folic acid before you become pregnant (if possible) and at the very least during your first three months of pregnancy. If your doctor has prescribed a prenatal vitamin, the vitamin will probably contain the recommended 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. Make sure it does and be sure to take your prenatal vitamin every day.
You can get extra folic acid by eating dark, leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, asparagus, Romaine lettuce), whole-grain breads and cereals, and citrus fruits and juices (oranges, strawberries, orange juice).
How much weight you should gain during your pregnancy depends upon your usual weight.
For a pregnant teen of average weight-for-height, the suggested average pregnancy weight gain is 28 pounds with a suggested range of 25 to 35 pounds. If you are underweight, you can gain as much as 40 pounds. The recommended weight gain range for overweight teens is 15 to 25 pounds.
Do not diet or attempt to lose weight during pregnancy. It is, however, an ideal time for an overweight teen to change her eating habits.
Not gaining enough weight increases your risk of having a smaller than average (low-birth weight) baby.