So you’re having a baby. Isn’t that wonderful? I know exactly how unreal that feels! But once you and your husband or partner are done jumping up and down for joy, you may need to sit down and start the ‘family’ talk – if you haven’t done already. Being pregnant is just the beginning of a lifetime commitment to put someone else’s needs, wants, convenience, happiness well ahead of yours. As a first time soon-to-be parent like me, you may also be wondering what exactly needs to be done next. Well, besides getting your husband/partner involved every step of the way, here are some of the most important things to tick-off your pregnancy checklist.
Before Getting Pregnant
1. Get a comprehensive health insurance. Actually, this is something that you and your partner should have already planned for even before getting pregnant. If possible, get one that covers pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal in full – especially if you live in an expensive country like Singapore. Hubby and I decided to go for Bupa Health Coverage, on the advice of some friends, sometime in July/August last year. At that time, the holding period was only around 10 months and any pregnancy-related expenses, including delivery, and post-natal, after the 10th month will be covered 100%. Shortly after we took the policy, the maturity period was changed to 24 months, so it really was a good call when get insured at the time that we did. Bupa has an excellent health coverage program and even if you have to pay a slightly higher premium, you know that you will not be left out cold when you need it the most – especially when the bills start piling up during the course of your pregnancy.
2. Find a great OB-Gyne with whom you can entrust your body and your baby. Just like in number 1, it would have been ideal if you already have an OB for your regular non-pregnancy related check-ups even before getting pregnant. In my case, I had to find an OB shortly after moving to Singapore because of my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which needs to be monitored regularly. And once Hubby and I decided to get pregnant and I had to get off the hormonal pills I was taking, he was also the one we consulted about it.
3. Keep fit and healthy. If you’ve been living a healthy lifestyle even before deciding to get pregnant, then props to you! Making sure that your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals for yourself and your growing baby is a very important task. Start with having more vegetables, fruits and meat/fish in your diet. Also, ask your OB about prenatal multivitamin supplements as these can help fill in the nutritional gaps in your diet.
When it comes to fitness, continue with whatever workout regimen you already have prior to pregnancy, but make sure to adjust the intensity according to the stage of your pregnancy. Remember, we are not created equal – so whatever works for other pregnant women may not necessarily be your cup of tea. In my case, I was doing a lot of running and yoga before I got pregnant, but I had to stop running at some stage and I also switched to prenatal yoga when I entered the second month of my pregnancy. In large part due to my age-related paranoia that I might end up causing harm to my growing bub if I get too intense with any of my workouts. Instead of running, I have been doing a lot of walking these days, averaging about 8,000 steps daily.
4. Get a good anti-stretchmark cream. Trust me, your body will thank you later for it. I started using this product called Elancyl, which I discovered when I Googled “Top anti-stretchmark creams for pregnant women” days after I found out that I’m pregnant. I started applying the product on my 8th week, even before the bump became pronounced. It is essential to keep the skin around your tummy, thighs, buttocks and breasts supple and elastic especially when they start expanding and stretching to accommodate the growing baby in your belly.
Another product that has mothers raving about is Bio Oil, which is a much cheaper alternative to the branded stretchmark creams available in the market. In order to stretch the life of the slightly pricey Elancyl, what I normally do is alternate the use of both. I apply a generous quantity of Bio Oil on prescribed areas at night before bed time, and use Elancyl during daytime, after my morning shower.
Another alternative is the ubiquitous Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Anti-Stretchmarks Massage Cream. Slightly more expensive than Bio Oil but cheaper than Elancyl or Clarins, this product is also endorsed by a lot of pregnant women. I forgot to bring my Elancyl when we left for Bangkok and for some weird reason, we couldn’t find it in Boots or Watson’s so I bought Palmer’s instead. I love the buttery scent of the cream but I still prefer Elancyl. Will definitely stock up on the latter when we’re back in Singapore.
5. Get educated. Read up on pregnancy but try not to get so obsessive about it that it causes you to be super scared and paranoid about your condition. I tend to fall prey to Googling weird stuff about pregnancy that I sometimes get so scared of stepping out of the house for fear that I might harm my baby. There are books and resource materials aplenty but in my case, I have found some of the best tips and information from this book called What To Expect When You’re Expecting, which was loaned to me by Yats, and this goldmine of a novel by an American writer living in Paris called Bringing Up Bébé, which essentially extolls the virtues of raising your children the French way.
6. Pamper Yourself. As our body goes through a plethora of hormonal changes, so does our mood. Pregnant women tend to become overly sensitive, not only about their surroundings but especially about their bodies. At the beginning, I was also a bit alarmed by the weight gain, the appearance of cellulites on my thighs, the thickening of my arms and thighs, etc. And if you are every bit as vain as the woman sitting next to you, it’s not very difficult to feel fat or unkempt. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. By all means, get a haircut, a Brazilian wax (a word of caution: Your skin actually becomes more sensitive especially around the pubic area so if you can’t take the pain of getting the hair pulled, then feel free to skip this), mani-pedi treatment, antenatal massage, etc. You may be losing your hourglass shape, but that doesn’t mean you need to let go completely.
7. Invest in fashionable yet durable maternity clothes. But don’t go on a rampage when you’re not even showing yet. I suggest you start buying only during your second trimester when your bump is already visible. And even then, go for pants or skirts that have elastic waistbands or those beautiful tunic dresses that you can keep until the the last trimester. Maternity clothes are not the easiest to find, I know, and are often more expensive than normal casual clothes, but with a little bit of patience in going through online shopping websites, you’ll soon be turning heads with your radiant pregnant look.
8. Schedule maternity visits and pick your hospital (for delivery) soon. In a way, I feel very lucky to be living in Singapore for a multitude of reasons, including having so many great maternity hospitals to choose from. From Mount Elizabeth, Mount Alvernia, Thomson Medical, Gleneagles, KK Hospital, etc., you can have your pick of a great hospital to deliver your baby. Deciding on the hospital early is very important as it will also help you and your partner to figure out the finances. Having a baby in Singapore is such an expensive business which is why, I cannot emphasise more on the importance of securing a top-of-the-line insurance coverage earlier on.
9. Get your husband/partner involved. Always remember that it’s not only you who’s probably scared and overwhelmed about having a baby. Make it a point to have regular open and sincere discussions about the baby and starting a family as this will also bring both of you closer than ever. Discuss parenting decisions, religious faith, child education, etc. all throughout this magical journey so you are both on the same page and the foundation of marriage and family life is more fortified than ever before.
10. Embrace the journey. The next nine months and the years after that are going to change your life in ways that you’ve probably never imagined. My husband and I are still befuddled by the changes and the coming responsibilities but we both love where we are now and where we’re headed for. That, to me, is just as important as all the other tips I have shared. There must be, first and foremost, an overflowing supply of love and respect in the home for you wouldn’t want to bring forth a child in a chaotic, stressful environment. Make time, as a couple, to sit back, relax and just bask in the joys of pregnancy even as you get ready for the next phase of becoming les parents.