Understanding Ultrasounds

Most new moms-to-be can’t wait for the moment they first see their baby on an ultrasound screen. It’s likely you’ll leave your doctor’s appointment eager to discuss the fingers and toes you spotted on the screen or what position your baby was in with friends, family, and anyone who will listen. But before you go in for your first ultrasound, it’s helpful to know what to expect.

Ultrasound basics

During an exam, your health care provider or an ultrasound technician (also called a sonographer) moves a transducer -- a device that produces high frequency sound waves -- across your stomach to see inside your abdomen. This produces an image of the fetus, called a sonogram. The image can be saved, printed, and taken home as a memento of your new baby. Ultrasound techology is a safe way for health care providers to monitor the health and safety of your baby and can help determine the due date along with information such as your fetus’s age, gender, expected weight, and potential birth defects.

Safety first

You can feel confident going to your ultrasound exam knowing that the procedure is considered very safe. However, because the long-term effects of multiple ultrasounds aren’t fully known, it’s not recommended that you get an ultrasound for nonmedical reasons. For this reason, steer clear of places that give 3-D ultrasounds, which offer keepsake images but provide no medical benefit.

When to go

Ultrasounds can be performed any time during a pregnancy. However, it’s common to have one in the first trimester to determine your due date, and then another in the second trimester (between 18 and 20 weeks) to get a better look at your developing baby and determine the sex of your child. If your doctor wants to carefully monitor your pregnancy for any reason, you may need to come in for more ultrasounds during the third trimester. Finally, towards the end of your pregnancy, your health care provider may also do an ultrasound to determine the position of your baby.

What to expect

In order to get a good picture, it’s important to have a full bladder, so your doctor may ask you to drink a few glasses of water before coming in for your appointment. Otherwise, you don’t need to do anything to prepare for your ultrasound -- aside from getting excited to see your new baby!

If you have any questions about the ultrasound process or your baby's development, just ask. And enjoy poring over those incredible pictures of your new baby!

Toddler Care When You’re Expecting

Being pregnant with a toddler running around can be challenging, to say the least. You may not always have the energy to keep up with your little one, and getting ready for a new baby can rob you of precious together time. But it is possible to bond with your older child, tackle your new baby to-do list, and even reserve a few hours for yourself during these months. Check out these tips for making pregnancy with a toddler in tow as smooth as possible.

Take advantage of naps. Your new best friend: the afternoon nap. Life with a toddler while pregnant leaves little downtime, so use his naptime to catch some shut-eye yourself. Pre-nap, wind down together with a calming activity such as reading a book or listening to music, which will help prepare him for sleep. He will love the extra cuddling with you and you’ll appreciate the peace and quiet. Afterwards, head to bed for much needed rest.

Bring in a babysitter. Consider hiring a mother’s helper for a couple of afternoons a week. Your child will enjoy the additional attention during this phase when so much focus is on the new baby, and you can use the afternoon to catch up on your rest or do a few things outside of the house. Schools and places of worship are great places to get referrals for local mother’s helpers. If you’re not comfortable leaving your child alone at first, you can always stay at home in a separate room.

Involve your toddler in baby preparations. Toddlers will delight in helping you get ready for your new addition, and you’ll simultaneously be able to check tasks off your new baby to-do list while hanging out with your older child. It’s a great opportunity to bond and talk about what to expect after your new baby arrives. Your tot can help fold baby clothes, place clean diapers in baskets, or arrange baby books on a shelf.

Prioritize your time. Accept that you may not be able to do everything you'd like to when you’re pregnant, with a toddler in tow. Let a few things slide in order to fit in special bonding time. Mopping the floors or updating your blog can wait. Spending those extra hours with your child before the new baby comes will help your toddler feel secure during the transition.

Remember to give yourself a break if things don’t go exactly as planned. This is a big change for your household! Before you know it, you'll be watching your firstborn become a proud big brother or sister to your new baby.

Pregnancy Weight Gain Guide

You’re already gaining weight, so it makes sense that many new moms might think of pregnancy as an excuse to fill up on favorite foods. But it’s actually important for you and your health care provider to monitor your weight gain during pregnancy. Experts now know that putting on too many pounds can increase the risk for developing serious pregnancy conditions, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, and also up the chance of a premature delivery. Keep these tips in mind in order to gain at a healthy pace while expecting.

Gain gradually

Experts says that most of the weight gain should occur during the second and third trimesters, and at a gradual pace. Your health care provider is the best resource for how much and when to gain during your pregnancy, and you'll be weighed at each prenatal visit. If you’re gaining too much, too fast, opt for healthier food choices, eat six small meals throughout the day instead of three larger ones, and talk to your doctor about starting an exercise routine. If you gain an excessive amount, your doctor may suggest waiting until after your pregnancy to lose the weight.

Eat well

Turns out that you don't need to eat a lot more to properly nourish yourself and your new baby when you're pregnant. You only need an additional 150 to 200 healthy calories each day when expecting during the first trimester, and about 300 during the second and third. Instead of munching on junk food, look for nutritious snacks that are high in protein and vitamins to support your growing baby. Cheese and whole wheat crackers, nut butter and apple slices, sliced vegetables with hummus, and even frozen fruit bars are all good options.

Don’t rush it

It may be tempting to get back to your pre-baby size as soon as possible, but losing the baby weight too fast can leave you without enough energy to properly take care of your new baby. Stick to a nutritious diet and exercise routine (once your doctor gives you the go-ahead), and put the focus on your health instead of your weight.

Of course, pregnancy is definitely a time to indulge a little. While it’s fine to give in to cravings occasionally, it’s important to keep control of your weight and your diet, not only for your sake, but the health of your new baby, too.

Nine Pregnancy Tips for Moms of Multiples

If you’re expecting multiples, t there are also some extra steps you’ll need to take while you’re pregnant to ensure that your little ones are healthy. Whether you’re having twins, triplets, or more, keep these nine pregnancy tips in mind.  

Pregnancy tip #1: Find out if you’re having fraternal or identical twins. If it’s the latter, your doctor will want to keep a closer eye on their development.

Pregnancy tip #2: Eat wisely. A healthy diet is a must to ensure a healthy birth weight, especially when you’re having multiples. Load up on fruits and veggies, since your growing babies need micronutrients like folic acid, iron, and vitamins, as well as lean proteins.

Pregnancy tip #3: Watch your weight. You may gain more weight when carrying twins as opposed to if you had a single pregnancy, but you’ll still need to monitor your weight and aim for a healthy mark. Talk to your doctor about what's appropriate for your situation.  

Pregnancy  tip #4: Drink up! For moms carrying multiples, dehydration can lead to preterm labor. Aim to drink a minimum of eight glasses of water a day.

Pregnancy tip #5: Don’t skip the supplements. If your health care provider recommends or prescribes prenatal vitamins and/or supplements, be sure to take them. Many women may need extra folic acid to help prevent birth defects.

Pregnancy tip #6: Spend time with the doctor. You’ll need a good amount of monitoring throughout your pregnancy if you’re carrying multiples, so be sure to stay on track with your doctor appointments.

Pregnancy tip #7: Know your risks. The chance of conditions such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are higher if you’re carrying multiples. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to minimize your risk.

Pregnancy tip #8: Be ready for an early labor. Women carrying twins tend to go into labor earlier (usually around the 35th to 37th week) than those carrying a single baby. Have your overnight bag packed and ready in case you need to head to the hospital earlier than expected.

Pregnancy tip #9: Talk to your doctor about your delivery plan. The chance of a cesarean is higher with multiples. Discuss your preferred birthing plan with your doctor, but be ready in case you need a cesarean for safety reasons.

While a multiples pregnancy may be a little trickier to navigate, just remember that more new babies means even more love and attention. All that care during pregnancy will help ensure a healthy and happy family.

Oral Hygiene: What New Moms Need to Know

It wasn’t long ago that pregnant women were advised to steer clear of the dentist out of concern over how various procedures might affect their unborn child. Turns out that routine cleanings and dental work are considered safe for most expectant moms and  may play an important role in a baby’s safety and health, too. Because of hormones, expectant mothers are more prone to oral infections and gum sensitivity, which can lead to early labor. Here are some easy-to-follow pregnancy tips for keeping your mouth (and your new baby) healthy.

Oral hygiene pregnancy tip #1: Keep your appointments. Regular cleanings and checkups are an essential part of anyone's oral hygiene regimen, but are especially crucial for pregnant women, whose hormonal changes put them at risk for a number of dental problems.  While these routine visits are safe for most women, it’s still important to let your dentist know you’re having a baby and to discuss any medical issues related to the pregnancy. Occasionally, women with high-risk pregnancies are advised to postpone certain treatments until after the new baby has arrived.

Oral hygiene pregnancy tip #2: Don’t fear simple procedures or X-rays. Although it’s always better to save elective procedures for after your due date, cavities and other common dental problems can and should be treated in order to avoid infection. Second trimester is the ideal time to take care of such issues, as the dentist’s chair can be quite uncomfortable by your third trimester!

While routine X-rays are commonly delayed for pregnant women, advancements in technology have greatly reduced the threat of radiation exposure. Should an X-ray be needed for an emergency procedure, your dentist will take extra precautions to ensure your baby’s safety.

Oral hygiene pregnancy tip #3: Watch your gums. Don’t focus only on your pearly whites: The hormonal surges that come with having a baby can also wreak havoc on your gums. Pregnancy gingivitis -- which results in inflamed and sore gums  -- and “pregnancy tumors” -- benign but sometimes painful lumps along the gum line  -- are particularly common. If you notice anything abnormal going on with your gums, call your dentist.

Oral hygiene pregnancy tip #4: Make oral hygiene part of your daily routine. As helpful as your dentist may be, oral health begins and ends at home. If you have morning sickness, try a more mild or bland toothpaste (ask your dentist or mommy-friends for suggestions). On the other hand, avoid brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting, as the still-present stomach acids can eventually cause teeth erosion and wear away at your enamel. Instead, rinse out with a combination of baking soda and water, which will leave your mouth fresh until it’s safe to brush.

You have a lot on your plate during pregnancy, but making the time for proper oral hygiene will go far to boost both your and your new baby’s health.