You’re getting ready to meet your baby, which makes pregnancy such an exciting time! Whether you’re a first-time mom or a practiced parent, our free guide to pregnancy and motherhood features expert advice from OB/GYNs, pediatricians, lactation consultants and nurse practitioners. Get the full guide now, or keep scrolling for a glimpse of what’s included.

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You’re in the early weeks of pregnancy and enjoying everything about this miracle of life growing inside of you. Except you’re nauseous, tired beyond belief and contemplating setting up permanent shop in the bathroom.

The miracle of life is – yes – a miracle. But some of the early symptoms – like tender, swollen breasts and increased urination – can leave you feeling a little less than miraculous.

According to Portia Cohens, MD, an OB/GYN at Greater Carolinas Women’s Center University, feeling different is just a normal part of pregnancy. “Pregnancy is a time of immense changes in your body that will feel abnormal but are completely normal,” says Dr. Cohens.

There are a few expected – and unexpected – symptoms you can be prepared for in your first trimester, and throughout your pregnancy.

You’re nauseous

One of the most familiar early symptoms of pregnancy is morning sickness, which causes nausea and vomiting. According to Dr. Cohens, morning sickness typically starts around the sixth week of pregnancy and may last until around the fifteenth week. Despite what its name implies, morning sickness isn’t always limited to the early part of the day. While its effects are strongest in the morning for most, you can experience it throughout the day – and even later into pregnancy.

Although morning sickness is a common symptom of early pregnancy, many soon-to-be moms might worry about the effects vomiting, lack of appetite and even food aversions will have on their baby. But Dr. Cohens says not to sweat it. “During this time, your baby’s nutritional needs are minimal,” she says. “Think about it this way: Your baby isn’t even the size of a pea at this point. Even if you’re unable to keep any food down, your baby is getting the nutrition it needs from what your body storesyour. And you can rest assured you aren’t harming your baby.”

While Dr. Cohens says that morning sickness is a completely normal pregnancy symptom, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’re vomiting throughout the day, dehydrated or losing too much weight.

You have bleeding or cramping

Spotting and cramping raise flags in any pregnancy, but these symptoms aren’t always cause for alarm. According to Dr. Cohens, 1 in 5 women will have some bleeding during her first trimester.

“Bleeding or spotting is not always a sign that something’s wrong,” she says. Although bleeding can be a symptom of a miscarriage, Dr. Cohens says that 20 to 30 percent of women will experience implantation bleeding up to 10 days after conception. Implantation bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus.

Spotting or bleeding during the first trimester can also be caused by having sex, from a pelvic ultrasound, or might indicate a vaginal or cervical infection. “Most of these resolve spontaneously and don’t cause any issue for the pregnancy,” says Dr. Cohens.

Although bleeding, spotting and cramping can be totally normal, Dr. Cohens says to err on the side of caution. “Women who experience heavy bleeding with cramps or severe lower abdominal pain – like a period or worse – should contact their doctor’s office for further recommendations and evaluation.”

You’re so tired

If you’re falling asleep at your desk or taking mid-afternoon naps, we have good news: You’re normal. “Fatigue is very common in the first trimester of pregnancy,” says Dr. Cohens. “During this time, your pregnancy hormone levels are increasing significantly, and your body is supporting a new, developing life.”

As your body changes and does everything it can to help your baby grow, it’s normal to feel symptoms like low blood sugar, low blood pressure, or heightened fatigue. And while healthy eating and staying active will help, it’s important to remember it’s okay to take care of yourself and give your body what it wants: rest.

In some cases, extreme fatigue can be a sign of anemia, or low iron, which is something your doctor will look for when you have your complete blood count checked. Pregnant women need around 27 milligrams of iron a day, says Dr. Cohens. She recommends continuing to take a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy, as they’re full of the daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, including iron.

“It’s also a good idea to incorporate good sources of iron in your diet,” says Dr. Cohens, listing green leafy vegetables; beans; dried fruit; quinoa; barley; and lean beef and turkey as good sources of iron.

You have tummy troubles

Heartburn, indigestion, constipation and flatulence. Though annoying – and sometimes embarrassing – these are all completely normal symptoms of pregnancy. “The increased levels of hormones, progesterone and relaxin work together to relax the smooth muscle in your digestive tract, causing it to move slower,” says Dr. Cohens. “This results in constipation and indigestion, or heartburn.”

While there’s a perfectly good explanation for constipation and indigestion, they’re hardly enjoyable. To treat constipation, Dr. Cohens recommends drinking lots of water, using probiotics, exercising, and eating fiber-rich foods – like fruits and vegetables. Avoiding refined foods – like white bread and white rice – can help, too.

As far as indigestion is concerned, Dr. Cohens suggests eating smaller, more frequent meals – and eating them slowly. She also says to drink fluids between meals instead of with them and to cut off all foods and liquids about two hours before bedtime. Avoid foods that trigger heartburn, and try sleeping with your head and shoulders elevated. If you do these things and nothing works, Dr. Cohens says that most over-the-counter antacids are safe to use during pregnancy.

You’re full of emotions

Throughout your pregnancy, you might notice that your emotions are all over the place. In a matter of minutes, you can feel joyful, anxious, excited and overwhelmed. On top of hormonal changes, many soon-to-be moms have fears about parenting and financial stress. Add nausea, fatigue and constipation into the mix – and it’s no wonder being pregnant brings such a slew of emotions.

While changes in mood are a perfectly normal part of pregnancy, there are ways to cope and keep your mind as healthy as your body. “If left untreated or unaddressed, depression, anxiety and stress during pregnancy can cause expectant moms to use unhealthy behaviors to cope,” warns Dr. Cohens. “These in turn can lead to other pregnancy problems.”

If you’re battling anxiety or depression during pregnancy, Dr. Cohens recommends talking to your doctor, counseling, behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and in some cases, medication. Joining a mom’s support group or just spending time with a pregnant friend can also help assure you that other women are feeling the same way. And remember to go easy on yourself and try to make time to relax.

Lesser known – but still normal – symptoms

Though symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue might be more common, there are plenty of other symptoms of pregnancy that are less common – but also completely normal. Some women might experience changes to their breasts and areolas, a heightened sense of smell and warmer-than-usual body temperature. Increased saliva and spitting can also be completely normal symptoms of pregnancy.

For some women, it’s not the symptoms that concern them – it’s the lack thereof.

“Not having any symptoms can cause just as much stress as having them,” says Dr. Cohens. “The important thing to remember is that pregnancy symptoms will vary from woman to woman, pregnancy to pregnancy, and even trimester to trimester.”

According to Dr. Cohens, a lack of symptoms is not as uncommon as you might think – and it’s definitely not a sign that anything is wrong with your pregnancy. “Consider yourself fortunate if you’re not experiencing some of the common symptoms,” she says. “But keep in mind that just because you’re not having the symptoms early, it doesn’t mean you'll never experience them. Some symptoms can start later in pregnancy.”

No two pregnancies are the same

The most important thing, says Dr. Cohens, is to remember that no two pregnancies will be the same. “Don’t compare your pregnancy to anyone else’s – not even to people you’re related to or your own previous pregnancy. Every experience will be different,” she says.

If you ever experience heavy bleeding with cramping, severe lower abdominal pain, fever or other symptoms that concern you, talk to your doctor. Your OB/GYN care team is there to guide you through the knowns – and unknowns – of your pregnancy.

The full guide includes:

  • Changes to Your Body, Exercise, Sex Drive and More
  • What You Can – And Can’t – Eat During Pregnancy
  • What You Need to Know About Pregnancy Complications
  • Is Genetic Testing Right for You?

Need an OB/GYN? Find the perfect one for you.



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The birth of your baby will be an exciting moment, as you meet your little one face-to-face for the first time.

If this is your first pregnancy – and even if it’s not – giving birth can be full of unknowns. From creating your birth plan to understanding your options, deciding what you want for your baby can be overwhelming.

“It’s never too early to begin learning about your options and thinking about your own wishes,” says Hannah Steele, MD, an OB/GYN at Piedmont GYN/OB - Steele Creek. “A plan opens the door of communication between you and your provider regarding what you want during the labor process and delivery.”

Dr. Steele says you should start writing down your desires for labor and delivery between the end of your second trimester and the beginning of your third trimester. As you develop your birth plan, make sure to consider whether your pregnancy is high risk, which hospital you’ll go to, and what your doctor offers and recommends, as these things can all make an impact on your birth plan.

“Women should consider if they want pain medication during labor, how much they want to move around and who they want to be involved,” says Dr. Steele. You’ll also want to think about how you want your baby cared for after birth, which might include skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord cutting and even how your baby should be fed.

As you begin developing your birth plan, take the time to understand the most common birth options. You can – and should – decide which experience you prefer, but be flexible: Your birth plan might change to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.

Natural birth

Despite the pain management medications available, many women opt for a more natural labor. Natural birth can be less invasive than many of the other birth options, and a lot of women choose it in hopes of feeling more in control of their labor and delivery process.

“An unmedicated delivery allows the patient to remain mobile during the labor process and become mobile more quickly after delivery,” says Dr. Steele. “It also allows for active involvement of the significant other with continued support and coaching through painful contractions.”

Natural birth can be empowering, and it’s unmedicated, which is a main reason many women choose it. But this also means there’s a greater chance of pain and discomfort. “Patients can become exhausted quickly due to the continued pain of labor,” says Dr. Steele. “In some, this can prevent labor from progressing and make effective pushing more challenging.”

If you think you’re leaning toward a natural birth for personal or medical reasons, the most important thing you can do is surround yourself with a supportive labor team. And take time to learn everything you can about natural delivery, either through child birth preparation courses or Doula support. You’ll also want to learn about coping techniques and pain management, like breathing exercises and visualization.

Medicated birth

Medicated birth is one of the most common birth options in the United States. It involves the use of an epidural to manage pain and discomfort during labor, delivery and even into recovery.

“Pain control during labor allows the mother to rest and save energy for pushing and delivery,” says Dr. Steele.

Although medicated birth can make the pain of labor and delivery more manageable, it can make it more difficult to effectively push, which can ultimately delay delivery. Also, patients will be unable to move too much for several hours after giving birth.

That said, many women find that medicated birth helps them fight fatigue and anxiety, allowing for a more positive and attentive birth experience. “It’s important for each woman to be honest with herself regarding her pain tolerance and personal desires for pain management during the delivery process,” says Dr. Steele.

There are different kinds of epidurals, including the regular epidural, walking epidural and epidural block. Your care team will help you decide which is best and safest for you and your baby.

C-section

In a cesarean section, or C-section, the baby is delivered through an incision in the abdomen and uterus.

In some cases, a C-section is a planned procedure. “There are several medical conditions – such as previous pelvic floor disorders, rectal surgery or suspected large babies – that might warrant a C-section,” says Dr. Steele, adding that a woman with a history of cesarean delivery might choose to do it again for future pregnancies. Women with previous extensive vaginal tearing during delivery or who have had other difficulties delivering vaginally might also plan for a C-section.

There are times when the decision to undergo a C-section is completely unexpected and sudden. Some cases that might demand an unplanned C-section include if the baby is breeched, or incorrectly positioned, or if the baby is too large for the mother’s pelvis.

If you and your doctor decide a C-section is the best birth option for your baby, you'll receive an epidural. This will ease the pain while also allowing you to stay awake and alert for the birth. Once the incision has been made, your doctor will be able to reach in for your infant. You’ll hardly notice being stitched up as you savor those first few moments with your baby, who will either be placed on your chest or held close to you. Most mothers can expect to be in the hospital for about three days following a C-section.

Induced labor

For as natural as the labor and delivery process might seem, sometimes your body needs a little help getting started. If labor isn’t happening on its own, induced labor can help encourage contractions.

“There are many conditions in both the baby and mom that warrant induction of labor,” says Dr. Steele. For example, if you’re diagnosed with preeclampsia or gestational diabetes during pregnancy, or if your baby is past their due date, your doctor might recommend inducing labor.

How labor is induced can vary from medications to artificially rupturing the amniotic membrane – but your doctor will make this decision based on your body and your pregnancy. “Different strategies can be used during the induction process,” says Dr. Steele. “The method chosen is generally based on how thin or dilated a woman’s cervix is at the start of the induction.”

According to Dr. Steele, there’s no significant rush once induction has started, especially if mom and baby are both healthy. “As long as mom and baby are both doing well, we’re patient with the induction process to increase the chance of a successful vaginal delivery,” she says.

Most moms can expect the induced labor process to take up to two to three days and can prepare for the procedure just as they would for any other delivery.

Plan to change plans

You know what they say about the best-laid birth plans: Your baby doesn’t read them anyway.

No matter how much you prepare, babies rarely stick to the birth plan perfectly. And even the best plans can go completely out the window during labor and delivery. “It’s important to realize and remember that labor and delivery are unpredictable, and the primary goals are to deliver a healthy baby and keep mom healthy,” says Dr. Steele.

Remember that your care team and providers are your biggest advocates. They want your labor and delivery process to go just as you planned it – but sometimes the plan must change! They’ll be there to guide you when the labor process takes an unexpected turn and will help you adjust the plan as necessary to keep you and your baby healthy.

The full guide includes:

  • Ultrasounds: Seeing Your Baby for the Very First Time
  • What Your Food Cravings and Aversions Really Mean
  • Gestational Diabetes: Who’s at Risk?
  • Everything You Need to Know About Maternity Classes


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You can’t wait to welcome your baby home – but there’s so much to do before then!

According to Elaine Porter, MD, a pediatrician at Shelby Children’s Clinic, moms should get a head start on getting their home baby-ready. Not only will it help ease the stress, but it’ll keep you prepared in case of an unexpected early arrival. “Your mind will be more at ease knowing you have some items ready for your newborn,” says Dr. Porter.

Thanks to online stores and expedited shipping, shopping for your baby has never been easier or more convenient. But when it comes to baby products, Dr. Porter recommends sticking to what you need and staying savvy against marketing ploys trying to get you to buy more. “Your goal is to get what’s necessary,” she says.

Shopping around

Shopping wisely will do more than help you compare prices and score discounts. You can also confirm the safety of a product by checking if there have been any recalls, reading up on the safety guidelines and learning more about its durability.

And here’s one piece of shopping advice we can’t emphasize enough: Read product reviews. Reviews from moms like you will give you some honest feedback before you buy. In addition to online reviews, get real-life feedback on products from friends and family members who have been there, done that. “Trust other moms and family members who have used certain products,” says Dr. Porter. “You don’t have to decide based on the recommendations, but they can be useful guides in shopping for your baby.”

Online shopping is easy, but some products are better bought in person – such as cribs, car seats and strollers, to name a few. “As a general rule, most furniture items for the nursery are best when purchased in-store,” says Dr. Porter. “It’s less hassle to put together, and you get a better feel for what you’re buying.”

As your due date gets closer, you might have family and friends offering hand-me-down baby products. It’s a generous gesture – but should you accept them? If you know and trust the source well, Dr. Porter says accepting certain used items is okay, as long as they’re in good condition. Just be sure to wash used clothes, and if you do accept a previously owned crib, make sure it’s sturdy and safe.

“As a general rule, don’t accept items that have been in the mouth before,” says Dr. Porter. This includes pacifiers, nipples and bottles. Car seats and breast pumps are other items best purchased new.

If you’re starting a baby registry, include a wide assortment of sure-to-last items with reasonable prices. It’s also a good idea to register for products you’ll need down the road – your baby will grow quickly over the first few years, so you may only use some products for a short time.

Tackling the diaper dilemma

While cloth diapers are cheaper and more environmentally friendly, disposable diapers offer more convenience, especially when traveling. So, cloth or disposable: Which will you choose? Or – maybe the bigger question – which should you choose?

“The choice of diapers is actually a personal preference,” says Dr. Porter. “The reality is there are pros and cons of each. Most families will end up choosing the diaper that fits their lifestyle best. In fact, some may opt to use both in different settings.”

That’s because it’s not which diaper is best – but which diaper is best for your baby.

Though cloth diapers have traditionally been better for babies with sensitive skin who are more prone to diaper rash, disposable diapers are introducing new moisture-wicking technology.

“Some infants may be very sensitive to certain ingredients in different brands of disposable diapers, but you won’t know until you’ve tried that specific brand,” says Dr. Porter. “The best advice I can give here is that when you find one that works for your baby’s skin – stick to it!”

Knowing what to avoid

Knowing what you shouldn’t buy for your baby is just as important as knowing what you should – and it can be twice as difficult because even common baby products can pose big risks for your little one.

Take crib bumpers, for instance. Though popular and well-intentioned, they have the potential to cause sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. If you must have crib bumpers, make sure they’re breathable and thin. “This way, you’ll prevent your baby’s arms and legs from getting stuck between the bars on the crib, while allowing air to easily flow,” says Dr. Porter. And be sure to check the fastenings every day – when not secured properly, crib bumpers can potentially fall over and into the crib.

Also, be wary of co-sleepers and nursing pillows used to prop a sleeping infant – both of which can make it hard for your baby to breathe. Dr. Porter recommends co-sleepers that are kept close to the bed, but still give babies their own sleep space.

As you shop around, steer clear of products known to be toxic, including baby powders with talc. And when it’s time for your baby to eat solid foods, Dr. Porter recommends sticking to organic varieties whenever possible.

Getting your home baby-ready

As you get all the products your baby needs, you’ll also be getting your home ready, starting with the nursery. The focus in the nursery should be all about comfort for you and your baby, as well as safety. “Focus on a sleep space for the baby and a comfortable place for mom to sit and nurse,” says Dr. Porter. She recommends placing the crib or bassinet away from vents and windows to avoid rapid changes in temperature or drafts.

And before you pick out paint, here’s something to remember: Keep it simple. “Simplicity is best,” says Dr. Porter. “Use calming, neutral colors.”

The nursery isn’t the only room in your home you’ll need to get ready for baby. Your entire house needs to be baby-proofed, especially as your little one gets up and moving. “Once your baby starts to get mobile, breakable items need to be placed higher, and you may need to consider bumpers for sharp edges,” advises Dr. Porter.

How else can you make sure your home is safe for baby? Put gates on stairways, make sure medicine is locked away, and put small objects like coins and beads out of reach.

Bringing a newborn home can be overwhelming, and that’s without all the checklists, must-haves and things to avoid. When your house is ready and baby is home, Dr. Porter offers this final bit of advice: “You’ll still need time to yourself,” she says. “Take the time when given.”

The full guide includes:

  • The Basics of Breastfeeding
  • Tips for Finding the Right Pediatrician
  • Meeting Your Baby for the First Time
  • Deep Breaths: Getting Ready for Labor and Delivery
  • Is Co-Sleeping Ever a Good Idea?


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Well-baby visits are important – so important that you can’t leave the hospital until you’ve scheduled your baby’s very first pediatrician appointment. Most pediatricians offer appointment spots just for newborns, so if you haven’t yet, find the best pediatrician for your baby.

“Well-visits are an important way for parents and pediatricians to develop the trusting relationship needed to keep the baby physically, mentally and socially healthy,” says Arthur Spell, MD, a pediatrician at Charlotte Pediatric Clinic-Blakeney.

With visits starting just 3 to 5 days after birth, you can expect to see your pediatrician a lot during your baby’s first few months. After the first newborn visit, most babies will see their pediatrician again at 1 month, 2 months and 4 months of age. Of course, more frequent appointments can be made for specific concerns, such as weight loss or slow weight gain, feeding issues and jaundice.

What to expect

You can expect your baby’s first pediatrician visits to start kind of like your own wellness visits. After checking in at the front desk, you and your baby will be taken to an exam room, where their little bodies will be weighed and measured. Just make sure their diaper is dry for weighing because accurate measurements are crucial for newborns.

Your baby’s pediatrician will perform a full physical examination of your baby newborn and will take a look at everything from how they’re growing to how the two of you interact. They’ll see how your baby reacts to the environment and will make sure they’re meeting the right milestones for development either by screening or simply by observation.

“As babies approach 2 months, they typically have developed a social smile, can calm themselves – at least temporarily – and begin to recognize their parents’ faces,” says Dr. Spell. At around that time, your pediatrician will observe your baby’s reflexes, hearing and sight, as well as their coordination and strength.

Your baby’s pediatrician will also want to hear about how they're sleeping, eating and pooping – how often and how much. “Write these things down, or track them on an app,” suggests Dr. Spell. Be ready to discuss your pregnancy, family history and your baby’s nursery stay, as these things can provide many details that will be important in caring for your child.

Oh, and one more thing: Plan ahead.

“Everything takes longer with a newborn,” says Dr. Spell. “Give yourself extra time to get to the office. Bring a diaper bag, along with an extra change of clothes, and have a plan to feed your baby away from home.”

Following a vaccine schedule

In addition to your baby’s health and development, your well-baby will also focus on prevention, and your pediatrician will talk to you about the next steps for vaccines. Just looking at the list of vaccines can be overwhelming, but your pediatrician will help guide you through the standardized schedule to make sure your baby stays healthy and happy.

“Vaccines are very safe and very effective,” says Dr. Spell. “The standard vaccine schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is designed to protect infants against dangerous infections as early as possible, and at a time when they’re at the highest risk.”

Your baby’s vaccine schedule exists to make sure they're getting the right vaccines at the right time. But don’t stress: Your pediatrician is there to walk you through everything and will most likely give you a printed copy of the schedule so you know what’s coming up.

It’s your visit, too!

Believe it or not, visits to your baby’s pediatrician aren’t just about your baby – they’re about you, too. And your baby isn’t the only one who needs protection against dangerous diseases. To help protect your baby from other contagious infections, Dr. Spell recommends parents get vaccinated against things like whooping cough and influenza during flu season. As a standard part of your baby’s visits, your pediatrician will also offer screening for things like postpartum depression.

In addition to monitoring your baby’s growth and development and focusing on prevention, well-baby visits are the perfect opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns you might have about caring for your newborn.

“It’s the internet age,” says Dr. Spell. “There’s a plethora of information out there – and much of it is unreliable. Pediatricians are extensively trained in not only providing care to infants, but also giving advice and direction to parents.”

The most important thing to remember, says Dr. Spell, is that your pediatrician is here for you and your child, and so are pediatric nurses. Even if it’s the middle of the night, you can call your pediatrician’s office and talk to a nurse about your questions or concerns. You don’t have to wait between visits to talk to your baby’s health care team – after all, they want the best for your baby, just like you.

The full guide includes:

  • Safe and Sound: Keeping Your Newborn Out of Harm’s Way
  • Taking Care of Yourself After Delivery
  • How Much and How Often: Feeding Your Baby
  • Everyday Advice for Keeping Your Baby Healthy
  • Bath Time: Less is More


Find Your Pediatrician

If you haven’t yet, now is the perfect time to pick a pediatrician. We’ll help you choose from some of the region’s top pediatricians and find the right care for your newborn.



Get Your Guide to Pregnancy & Motherhood Now!







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