The mother-to-be in your life needs help to have a healthy, happy pregnancy — that’s where you come in.
1. Attend OB appointments.
Good, consistent prenatal care is critical, which means she’s going to be seeing her provider a lot. Having someone there to help absorb all of the information and to ask questions will ease the process for her. Unsure when to tag along? You may want to consider attending any appointments that will include an ultrasound — especially the anatomy scan around 19-22 weeks — as well as the early appointments and those closest to her due date when the most changes will be occurring in her pregnancy.
2. Learn about the changes she’s experiencing.
“Is this normal?” You’re going to hear this question a lot. Help her navigate all the changes she’s experiencing by reading up on common discomforts, and by signing up for an app or email that will update you weekly on her pregnancy’s progress. Help her brainstorm a list of questions before her appointments so she’s prepared.
3. Make healthy choices, too.
It can be hard to make big lifestyle changes at a time when you’re already struggling with all the fatigue and discomfort a pregnancy brings. Having an accountability buddy — someone who’s also eating a balanced diet and forgoing alcohol and smoking — will help her ease into her mother-to-be lifestyle. Unsure about what she can and can’t do? Brush up on the dos and don’ts, and then follow them right along with her.
4. Encourage her to rest.
On top of all the hormone fluctuations and changes occurring in her body — an increase in blood volume, a slow-down of digestion, loosening joints — she’s also working around-the-clock on creating a human. All that adds up to a whole lot of fatigue. More than ever, she needs her rest. Help her take a break by offering to do chores or errands, and make sure she understands that a nap or two is not just helpful — it’s necessary.
5. Help prepare for labor and delivery.
If you’ll play a role in the big day, make sure you’re in-the-know about the delivery process. Ask if she’d like help crafting a birth plan, which is a helpful tool to ensure that her team (including you!) understands her desires for delivery. Consider taking parenting or empowered birthing classes together, and be sure to ask any and all questions that you’ve been wondering. Being knowledgeable about what to expect well in advance will help you help her when she needs it most.
6. Understand how you can help with breastfeeding.
Sometimes breastfeeding is easy. More often than not, though, it’s not. If she intends to breastfeed, anticipate some of her breastfeeding questions and, if possible, encourage her to take a class before her due date. After delivery, be her advocate by following tips for early breastfeeding success.
7. Know the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression.
Many women will experience what’s known as “the baby blues” as their bodies and hormones adjust after delivery. This is completely normal, and will likely improve within a week or two. However, if symptoms persist — she’s refusing to do things she normally enjoys, having trouble sleeping, feeling guilty or blaming herself, experiencing anxiety or having thoughts of harming herself or the baby — intervention is important. Read up on the warning signs of postpartum depression, and encourage her to seek help from her provider as needed.
Marylou Smith, MSN, CNM, BSN, is a wife, mother and advance practice nurse serving the women of Wilson County and beyond. After graduating from Vanderbilt University with her master's degree in Nursing and Midwifery in 2006, she joined Renaissance OB-GYN, a small private practice in Cortland, NY, where she attended the birth of more than 600 babies and provided care for women throughout their lifespan. In 2013, she joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she is now Assistant Division Director for Advance Practice Nurses in the Department of OB-GYN. She makes her home in Mount Juliet with her husband, son and daughter.