If you've decided to have a baby, the most important thing you can do is to take
good care of yourself so you and your baby will be healthy. Girls who get the proper
care and make the right choices have a very good chance of having healthy babies.
See a doctor as soon as possible after you find out you're pregnant to begin getting
prenatal care (prenatal care is medical care during pregnancy). The
sooner you start to get medical care, the better the chances that you and your baby
will be healthy.
If you can't afford to go to a doctor or clinic for prenatal care, social service
organizations can help you. Ask a trusted adult, like a parent or school counselor,
to help you find low-cost or free care in your community.
During your first visit, the doctor will ask you lots of questions, including the
date of your last period. This helps the doctor work out how long you have been pregnant
and your due date.
A baby's due date is only an estimate. In fact, women don't usually deliver
exactly on their due dates. Most babies are born between 38 and 42 weeks after the
first day of a woman's last period, or 36 to 40 weeks after conception (when the sperm
fertilizes the egg).
A pregnancy is divided into three phases called trimesters. The
first trimester is from conception to the end of week 13. The second trimester is
from week 14 to the end of week 26. The third trimester is from week 27 to the end
of the pregnancy.
The doctor will examine you and do a pelvic exam. Your doctor may also do blood
tests, a urine test, and tests for sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs). Doctors do this because some STDs can cause serious
medical problems in newborns, so it's important to get treatment to protect the baby.
The doctor will probably recommend that you get some immunizations,
like a Tdap vaccine to protect your baby against pertussis (whooping cough).
Your doctor will explain the types of physical and emotional changes you can expect
during pregnancy. He or she will also teach you to how to recognize the signs of possible
problems during pregnancy (you might hear your doctor call problems "complications").
Teens are more at risk for certain problems during pregnancy, such as anemia, high
blood pressure, and giving birth earlier than usual (called premature delivery).
Your doctor will want you to start taking prenatal vitamins that contain folic
acid, calcium, and iron as soon as possible. The doctor may prescribe the vitamins
or recommend a brand that you can buy over the counter. These vitamins and minerals
help ensure the baby's and mother's health as well as prevent some types of birth
Ideally, you should see your doctor once each month for the first 28 weeks of your
pregnancy, then every 2 weeks until 36 weeks, then once a week until you deliver the
baby. If you have a medical condition such as diabetes that needs careful monitoring
during your pregnancy, your doctor will probably want to see you more often.
During visits, your doctor or nurse will check your weight, blood pressure, and
urine. The doctor or nurse will measure your abdomen to keep track of the baby's growth.
After the baby's heartbeat can be heard with a special device, the doctor will listen
for it at each visit. Your doctor will probably also send you for some other tests
during the pregnancy, such as an ultrasound, to make sure that everything is OK with
One part of prenatal care is attending classes where moms to be can learn
about having a healthy pregnancy and delivery. You can also learn the basics
of caring for a new baby. These classes may be offered at hospitals, medical centers,
schools, and colleges in your area.
It can be difficult for adults to talk to their doctors about their bodies and
even more difficult for teens to do so. Your doctor is there to help you stay healthy
during pregnancy and have a healthy baby — and there's probably not much he or she
hasn't heard! So don't be afraid to ask questions.
Be frank when your doctor asks questions, even if they seem embarrassing. A lot
of the issues the doctor brings up could affect your baby's health. Think of your
doctor not just as someone who can help, but also as someone you can confide in about
what's happening to you.
Changes to Expect in Your Body
Pregnancy causes lots of physical changes in the body. Here are some common ones:
An increase in breast size is one of the first signs of pregnancy, and the breasts
may continue to grow throughout the pregnancy. You may go up several bra sizes during
the course of your pregnancy.
Don't be surprised if people tell you your skin is "glowing" when you
are pregnant — pregnancy causes an increase in blood volume, which can make your cheeks
a little pinker than usual. And hormonal changes increase oil gland secretion, which
can give your skin a shinier appearance. Acne is also common during pregnancy for
the same reason.
Other skin changes caused by pregnancy hormones may include brownish or yellowish
patches on the face called chloasma and a dark line on the midline
of the lower abdomen, known as the linea nigra.
Also, moles or freckles that you had prior to pregnancy may become bigger and darker.
Even the areola, the area around the nipples, becomes darker. Stretch
marks are thin pink or purplish lines that can appear on your abdomen, breasts, or
Except for the darkening of the areola, which can last, these skin changes will
usually disappear after you give birth.
It's very common to have mood swings during pregnancy. Some girls may also experience
depression during pregnancy or after delivery. If you have symptoms of depression
such as sadness, changes in sleep patterns, thoughts of hurting yourself, or bad feelings
about yourself or your life, tell your doctor so he or she can help you to get treatment.
Pregnancy can cause some uncomfortable side effects. These include:
nausea and vomiting (especially early in the pregnancy)
varicose veins in the legs and the area around the vaginal opening
heartburn and constipation
If you have one or more of these side effects, keep in mind that you're not alone!
Ask your doctor for advice on how to deal with these common problems.
If you are pregnant and have bleeding or pain, call the doctor immediately, even
if you are not planning to continue the pregnancy.
Things to Avoid
Smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs when you are pregnant put you and your
baby at risk for a number of serious problems.
Doctors now believe that it's not safe to drink any amount of alcohol when you
are pregnant. Drinking can harm a developing fetus, putting a baby at risk for birth
defects and mental problems.
When a woman smokes while she is pregnant, she can have a
or stillbirth. Her baby might be premature (born early), and sudden infant
death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant who is younger
than 1 year old.
Using drugs such as cocaine or marijuana during pregnancy can cause miscarriage,
prematurity, and other medical problems. Babies can also be born addicted to some
Ask your doctor for help if you are having trouble quitting smoking, drinking,
or drugs. Check with your doctor before taking any medication while you are pregnant,
including over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies and supplements, and vitamins.
Talk to your doctor about sex during pregnancy. If your doctor says it's OK to
have sex while you're pregnant, you must use a condom to help prevent getting an STD.
Some STDs can cause blindness, pneumonia, or meningitis in newborns, so it's important
to protect yourself and your baby.
Taking Care of Yourself During Pregnancy
Many girls worry about how their bodies look and are afraid to gain weight during
pregnancy. But now that you are eating for two, this is not a good time to cut calories
or go on a diet. Both you and your baby need certain nutrients so the baby can grow
properly. Eating a variety of healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, and cutting
back on high-fat junk foods will help you and your developing baby to be healthy.
Doctors generally recommend adding about 300 calories a day to your diet to provide
adequate nourishment for the developing fetus. You should gain about 25 to 35 pounds
during pregnancy, most of this during the last 6 months — although how much a girl
should gain depends on how much she weighed before the pregnancy. Your doctor will
advise you based on your individual situation.
Eating additional fiber — 25
to 30 grams a day — and drinking plenty of water can help to prevent common problems
such as constipation. Good sources of fiber are fresh fruits and vegetables and breads,
cereals, or muffins that have lots of whole grain in them.
You'll need to avoid eating or drinking certain things during pregnancy, such as:
certain types of fish, such as swordfish, canned tuna, and other fish that may
be high in mercury (your doctor can help you decide which fish you can eat)
foods that contain raw eggs, such as mousse or Caesar salad
raw or undercooked meat and fish
processed meats, such as hot dogs and deli meats
soft, unpasteurized cheeses, such as feta, brie, blue, and goat cheese
unpasteurized milk, juice, or cider
It's also a good idea to limit food or drinks that contain caffeine
and artificial sweeteners.
Exercising during pregnancy is good for you as long as you are having an uncomplicated
pregnancy and choose appropriate activities. Doctors generally recommend low-impact
activities such as walking, swimming, and yoga. Contact sports and high-impact aerobic
activities that pose a greater risk of injury should generally be avoided.
Also, working at a job that involves heavy lifting is not recommended for women
during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether particular
types of exercise are safe for you and your baby.
It's important to get plenty of rest while you are pregnant. Early in your pregnancy,
try to get into the habit of sleeping on your side. Lying on your side with your knees
bent is likely to be the most comfortable position as your pregnancy progresses. Also,
it makes your heart's job easier because it keeps the baby's weight from applying
pressure to the large vein that carries blood back to the heart from your feet and
Some doctors recommend that girls who are pregnant sleep on the left side. Because
of where some of your major blood vessels are, lying on your left side helps keep
the uterus from pressing on them. Ask what your doctor recommends — in most cases,
lying on either side should do the trick and help take some pressure off your back.
Throughout your pregnancy, but especially toward the end, you may wake up often
at night to go to the bathroom. While it's important to drink enough water while you're
pregnant, try to drink most of it during the day rather than at night. Use the bathroom
right before going to bed.
As you get further along in your pregnancy, you might have a difficult time getting
comfortable in bed. Try positioning pillows around and under your belly, back, or
legs to get more comfortable.
Stress can also interfere with sleep. Maybe you're worried about your baby's health,
about delivery, or about what your new role as a parent will be like. All of these
feelings are normal, but they may keep you up at night. Talk to your doctor if you
are having problems sleeping during your pregnancy.
Your doctor may recommend that you get several vaccines during pregnancy. The flu shot can lessen the awful
effects of that illness. And the vaccine is safe — studies show no harmful effects
to a fetus. It also helps protect a mother and her baby from getting the
flu (and other viruses) in the baby's first year of life. Pregnant women should
only get the shot made with the inactivated virus. The flu vaccine previously also
came in a nasal spray (or mist) form, but it contained live strains of the virus and
was never safe for moms-to-be. Currently, the nasal spray is not recommended for anyone
because it didn't prevent cases of the flu between 2013 and 2016.
The Tdap vaccine (against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) is now recommended
for all pregnant women in the second half of each pregnancy, regardless of
whether they've gotten it before or when it was last given. This recommendation is
in response to a rise in pertussis (whooping cough) infections, which can be fatal
in newborns who have not yet had their routine vaccinations.
It's common for pregnant teens to feel a range of emotions, such as fear, anger,
guilt, confusion, and sadness. It may take a while to adjust to the fact that you're
going to have a baby. It's a huge change, and it's natural for pregnant teens to wonder
whether they're ready to handle the responsibilities that come with being a parent.
How a girl feels often depends on how much support she has from the baby's father,
from her family (and the baby's father's family), and from friends. Each girl's situation
is different. Depending on your situation, you may need to seek more support from
people outside your family. It's important to talk to the people who can support and
guide you and help you share and sort through your feelings. Your school counselor
or nurse can refer you to resources in your community that can help.
Sometimes girls who are pregnant have miscarriages and lose the pregnancy. This
can be very upsetting and difficult to go through for some girls, although it may
bring feelings of relief for others. It is important to talk about these feelings
and to get support from friends and family — or if that's not possible, from people
such as counselors or teachers.
School and the Future
Some girls plan to raise their babies themselves. Sometimes grandparents or other
family members help. Some girls decide to give their babies up for adoption. It takes
a great deal of courage and concern for the baby to make these difficult decisions.
Girls who complete high school are more likely to have good jobs and enjoy more
success in their lives. If possible, finish high school now rather than trying to
return later. Ask your school counselor or an adult you trust for information about
programs and classes in your community for pregnant teens.
Some communities have support groups especially for teen parents. Some high schools
have child-care centers on campus. Perhaps a family member or friend can care for
your baby while you're in school.
You can learn more about what to expect in becoming a parent by reading books,
attending classes, or checking out reputable websites on child raising. Your baby's
doctor, your parents, family members, or other adults can all help guide you while
you are pregnant and after the baby is born.