Pregnancy 101: What Every Woman Should Know

By Gonzalo Garretón, MD, FACOG

Everyone has a story about a friend’s difficult labor. It’s essential that you remember that pregnancy is a natural process. Ninety-eight percent of pregnancies result in a healthy baby and a healthy mother. The best way to dissipate your fears about having a baby is to talk to your doctor, midwife or nurse practitioner.

Here are some common questions expectant mothers ask me every day:

What can I do if I think I’m pregnant?
Set up an appointment with your doctor rightaway. Not only is this important for the health of you and your baby, but talking with your doctor can also help you emotionally. It’s important to refrain from drinking, smoking or taking other drugs even before you know for sure if you are pregnant.
What are my options if I am pregnant?
Every woman reacts differently. One patient of mine decided it was a sign that she should get healthy. She signed up to train for a marathon! Although that was not the right choice of exercise for that period in her life, her impulse to get healthy was right.
For those who want to end the pregnancy, in the state of California you have that right, no questions asked. Planned Parenthood is often the most accessible. However, most clinics, both public and private, can provide these services. Adoption is also an option.
Prenatal care is essential to having a healthy pregnancy. If you don’t have health insurance, there are many public clinics and non-profits that offer it for free. Don’t worry if you are not a legal U.S. resident. Physicians are not required by law to report any patient’s legal status, and doctors have long resisted any pressure to report undocumented persons. You may not be eligible for state-run programs, but there are many community groups that have programs to help you get the care you need.
Does being pregnant mean I can eat anything I want?
I tell every one of my patients to eat more fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to forget the fat content in butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream and fried foods. Avoid excessive sugars and sweets.
By getting eight hours of sleep a night and walking 30 to 60 minutes daily, you can reduce many of the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy.
Will one beer or one cigarette really affect the baby?
There is no safe amount of smoking or drinking during pregnancy. Smoking and alcohol have the same basic effect on the fetus – they inhibit its development. Alcohol causes physical, mental and behavioral problems, while smoking decreases blood supply to the baby.
I’ve heard horror stories about morning sickness. Will I be sick for nine months?
Morning sickness is the term for symptoms many women feel in the first trimester of pregnancy. Here are tips to lessen your discomfort:
• If you’re nauseated, don’t drink fluids. Try to eat something dry in small amounts, like dry cereal, toast or a hard-boiled egg.
• When the nausea quiets down, drink fluids only by the teaspoon.
• Try dividing meals into smaller meals, from three to six servings a day.
In the next “Doctor’s Word,” Dr. Garretòn will answer more questions about pregnancy, including postpartum depression.
Dr. Gonzalo Garretòn specializes in pelvic surgery, obstetrics and gynecology at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Harbor City.
Email Dr. Garretòn at: doctors-word@kp.org