Healthy Beginnings, 3rd Edition

Chapter highlights

Planning a healthy pregnancy includes a unique focus on preconception. Most women understand how important it is to take good care of themselves and their unborn child once they are pregnant. What you may not realize is what you eat and how you keep fit before you become pregnant will also make a difference to you and your unborn child. This chapter addresses key topics such as nutrition – what you should and should not eat during pregnancy. It discusses lifestyle, sexual history, birth control, smoking, and alcohol. It also provides insight on when to consult your health-care provider.

Off to a great start: the first trimester is focused on the first 13 weeks following conception. You can expect to read about weight gain, exercise, travel, sex, types of tests to expect, and tips on everything from morning sickness to seat belt safety.

Gentle growth: the second trimester covers content that is particularly relevant for the 15th to the 25th weeks from conception, the point at which your pregnancy is considered to be well-established. This chapter includes key information on preterm labour, gestational diabetes, and common discomforts during the second trimester.

The home stretch: the third trimester, addresses the final weeks before childbirth. This chapter will provide you with valuable insight about what to expect in hospital, writing your birth plan, and myths and facts about breastfeeding.

Getting ready to give birth is a chapter that essentially serves as a final run-through before you go into labour and delivery. It will encourage you to think about what you should pack for yourself and the baby, common ‘late discomforts’ that you may be experiencing, and will address the topic of overdue babies.

Your time is here offers step-by-step guidance through the four stages of labour and delivery, covering everything from medications, irregularities, complications, worst case scenarios, and bonding with your new baby.

Taking care of yourself is one of the most important thing you can do for your new baby. Looking after a newborn is far easier if you’re well-rested and healthy. So, this chapter will focus on “healing” physically and emotionally after the stress and strain of your pregnancy. Discussed in this chapter are postpartum topics such as the baby blues, postpartum depression, birth control choices, and having sex again.

Taking care of your newborn is often a task many parents (especially first-time parents) may not have prepared for because they sometimes get so focused on the birth.  This chapter provides advice to take you through the first few weeks following the birth of your baby The appearance of newborns, basic first care steps, breastfeeding advice, baby vaccines, circumcision, colic, and pacifiers are all covered.

Finding help. This final chapter rounds out the book with a comprehensive resource guide including a list of credible organizations, websites, suggested reading, and DVDs.

Throughout each chapter, there are journaling pages to help you keep track of information, emotions, and ideas during this special time of your life. Healthy Beginnings contains illustrations, photographs, charts, and checklists to help moms-to-be prepare for pregnancy, navigate through each trimester, work through childbirth, and confidently assume the new parenting role.

Read an excerpt from Healthy Beginnings

The excerpt below is from Healthy Beginnings (4th Edition) Chapter 2 - Off to a great start: the first trimester.(View excerpt as pdf PDF)


Your changing body

During your first trimester, your body will go through some dramatic changes. By the end of the first 13 weeks, you may not look very pregnant, but you will probably feel quite different.

At this stage, pregnancy hormones cause almost all the changes in your body. Remember the placenta? That’s the small organ that grows along the inside wall of your uterus to nourish your baby. Well, it also produces hormones to help your body support your baby, too. This building process is complex and takes a lot of energy. That’s why you feel so tired in your early months.

The changes in your body will not be very noticeable to other people. You may not even notice that your uterus is slowly growing—from the size of a pear to the size of a cantaloupe. Your milk glands develop and your breasts feel fuller, heavier, and more tender. Your heart works harder now because your body has produced extra blood to support the growing placenta and to provide oxygen and nutrients to your baby. You may be more aware of your breathing. Some women feel breathless because of hormone changes. The good news is that your menstrual cycle will stop. If you have any bleeding during pregnancy, consult your health-care provider right away.

Exercise during pregnancy

Whether you are pregnant or not, exercise is good for you. However, it’s important that you not overdo the exercise program you choose. We suggest you try different workouts that can be part of your daily routine: aerobic exercise (with caution), strength training, yoga, and tai chi.

Aerobic exercise

Exercise that makes your heart beat faster than when you are resting is called aerobic exercise. It can include brisk walking, jogging, riding a bike, swimming, or team sports.

If you have been active before you became pregnant, you can likely continue with the same, or a slightly lower, level of activity. Discuss your exercise plans with your health-care provider early in your pregnancy to make sure you do not have any health problems that would make vigorous exercise risky. Most women who are runners can continue to run when they are pregnant without harming their growing baby. If you feel pain in the pubic region, this is a sign that your body is not adapting well to running and you should stop.

Exercise is good for both the mother and the baby and you can begin to exercise during your second trimester without fear of miscarriage or labour problems. If you haven’t been physically active at least two to three times per week before becoming pregnant, you should wait until your second trimester to begin exercising, and only do so after you discuss your choices with your health-care provider.

If you are worried about exercising too hard, try the “talk test.” It’s very simple: you should always be able to carry on a conversation during your workout. Otherwise, reduce your level of effort.

Once your health-care provider says it’s okay to exercise, begin to do so. Walk, swim, or join a fitness class. Some classes are designed just for pregnant women and new mothers. If you are part of a regular aerobics class, talk to your teacher about what you might need to avoid (routines that are high-impact or that put stress on your lower back).

Strength training

Building and maintaining muscle mass is an important part of any exercise program. But be cautious! Remember to breathe continuously and smoothly during each part of the weight training movement. Talk to your health-care provider before you begin or continue a weight-training program.

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