The decision to have a baby is life-changing for all parents. For pregnant women, those changes begin as soon as a few weeks from the time of conception.
While nine months seems like a long time, the female body undergoes many rapid changes during pregnancy. During early pregnancy, you might experience symptoms like:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Frequent urination
- Breast tenderness and swelling
- Food aversions
In addition to these physical symptoms, you may experience emotional changes as you prepare to enter this new phase of life. All of these symptoms are normal signs of a healthy pregnancy. As the body enters the second trimester, many of these symptoms will fade.
As you progress through your pregnancy, you may find yourself needing more hands-on support as you begin to prepare for motherhood. In addition to your regular health care provider, most women seek the services of a professional who specializes in the care of pregnant women. Obstetricians, midwives, and doulas all work to support expecting families. It’s important for expecting families to understand the scope of each of these professions in order to make the best decisions for their needs.
A doula is a professional who supports expecting parents throughout the process of pregnancy and childbirth. Doulas are permitted in delivery rooms, but they are not medical practitioners. A doula’s role is to provide emotional support and encouragement to pregnant women, and to help expecting parents prepare for labour and delivery.
Midwives are trained health care professionals who support expecting families through every stage of pregnancy, delivery, and for up to six weeks postpartum. Midwives specialize in low-risk pregnancies and are trained to perform only certain medical procedures.
Obstetricians (or OBs) are doctors specializing in the care of pregnant women. Like midwives, OBs provide care to expecting parents, assist during labour and delivery, and provide postpartum support. OBs are highly qualified and trained to provide care during all pregnancies, including ones considered ‘high-risk’. Pregnant women living with pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or women who have not yet given birth may be assessed as higher risk. OBs have the same skills as midwives, and are additionally qualified to administer emergency treatment if complications arise during delivery.
Throughout your pregnancy, it’s also important to continue to see your regular family physician. While your pregnancy may be the most important thing on your mind, it’s important to pay attention to every part of your body. Your family physician will support you before, during, and after your pregnancy by making recommendations to keep you and your baby healthy.
Once your baby is born, you may choose to breastfeed. Breast milk is widely considered to be the best food source for newborns, and the World Health Organization and Health Canada recommend that babies consume only breast milk for the first 6 months of their lives. For various reasons, some women are unable to breastfeed their children. If you are unable to breastfeed your child, you are not alone. Consult your healthcare provider to seek recommendations for an alternative diet for your new baby.
Obstetricians and midwives are both trained to assist new mothers with breastfeeding. As you learn to breastfeed your baby, you may have questions or concerns about whether your baby is “latching” properly or getting enough milk. Your OB or midwife can answer these questions, and work with you to find comfortable feeding positions for you and your child. You can also consult with them if you have questions about pumping and storing breast milk.
It’s completely normal to find breastfeeding challenging when you first start out. While breastfeeding is a natural and healthy process, it can take some time for you and your baby to adjust. Remaining patient and working closely with your healthcare provider are the best things you can do to overcome breastfeeding challenges.
As you begin your journey into parenthood, your new baby will need their own healthcare provider. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends choosing a paediatrician early on in your pregnancy so you can begin your schedule of well-child exams soon after your baby is born.
Well-child visits are short appointments with a paediatrician in which your child’s health is monitored. Your first one should occur sometime during the first week after birth. At this time, your paediatrician will check the general well-being of your child and answer any questions related to feeding, weight gain, and general health.
Subsequent well-child visits should be scheduled at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, and two years. During these visits, your paediatrician will monitor your child’s development, administer vaccines, and help you to understand your child’s behaviour.
After your child turns two years old, you can consult with your paediatrician for an annual checkup and any time your child gets sick.