Maintaining wellness while pregnant in dental school

I found out I was pregnant within the first two weeks of the spring semester, and I had a zillion questions that rushed through my head. How am I going to get through dental school? Will it affect my grades? How many days will I need to take off? What do I do when I feel sick and nauseous? The anxiety and worry were much greater than my excitement at first. I realized I needed help and a plan for the few months ahead.

I set up my first OB-GYN appointment and prepared a list of questions for my doctor. One of her first pieces of advice was that I plan my doctor’s appointments around my school schedule. I set them up three months in advance at the start of every semester. My doctor also gave me a checklist of things to do, which helped me stay organized, and helped me develop a new game plan for every trimester. Her being located at Temple Medical Hospital made it easier to get to appointments as well. I could go during lunch breaks or whenever an hour was not too demanding at school and be back without having missed a beat. I didn’t miss any school due to appointments.

Next, I focused on how to feel healthy and less tired. I soon realized staying hydrated was key. Getting at least seven hours of sleep was so important, and catching a power nap whenever possible helped immensely. Planning a study schedule well in advance helped, too. I realized my body had changed, and it could no longer stay up all night. I began studying earlier, so I didn’t have to stress right before an exam.

I also developed a diet plan. My husband and I made a routine to go grocery shopping every Sunday, and then cook the entire weeks’ meals in one day. Sometimes my neighbor helped as well, which gave me some well-needed rest. Home-cooked meals are important because they help to reduce sodium intake. And as pregnancy progresses, the body retains a lot of water and sodium contributes to it. It’s also important to eat fruit every time you crave sugar. It’s a better substitute than processed sugars, and a great way to prevent gestational diabetes.

Another consideration was protecting myself from hazards at school. Unfortunately, our profession is not completely safe when you are expecting. One of those hazards was radiation. I always had a colleague take my X-rays for me, and I always wore personal protective equipment in pre-clinic and clinic. Being careful with sharps and cleaning up slowly after each patient to avoid sharps injuries are key.

I was six months pregnant when I entered the clinic this year in June, and this presented new challenges. I wondered how I would manage with patients? Would I be physically able to run around like everyone else? Initially, I thought I should work more than others to make up for the time that I will lose when I take time off. But I soon realized, physically, I could not. I started scheduling one patient every day and for the other half of the day, I would assist, so I was keeping pace with my colleagues. I finished my assist requirements early, and with the remaining time, I scheduled patients based on procedures. Instead of doing two procedures a day, I did one and then would treatment plan with another patient. The important thing was to be in clinic and keep going at a steady pace.

As I got closer to my due date, I informed my patients that I would be out of the clinic for a few weeks, but that my colleagues at school would help them out in case of emergency. The patients felt at ease because I kept them aware of my personal priorities.

Dental school keeps you active, but exercise will help during delivery and postpartum. Prenatal yoga helps relieve stress and connects you with the baby; it can help you remain mentally calm, too. Whenever there was no time to exercise, I took the stairs at school to keep myself physically active. Prenatal massages are great as well because pregnancy enhances the soreness that I had become accustomed to on a daily basis.

There is a lot to do as the third trimester winds down, but focusing on school helps keep me going. Dealing with stress can be hard, so I try to stay as happy and calm by planning my schedule, eating healthy and exercising. Even though dental school is exhausting for everyone, I still got to enjoy my pregnancy by setting priorities and appreciating the process. There was no activity that I missed at school because I was expecting.

I had a great support system from my family and friends at school who I cannot appreciate enough. In the end, it is all about attitude and how you embrace your situation. I embrace this new stage in my life, and I am excited to meet the little bundle of joy this month (Sept. 15). Then it will be a whole new journey of acclimating to being a healthy and happy mom while in dental school.

~Rima Moda, Temple ’20

ASDA’s Wellness Month 2018 is generously supported by ADA student members insurance plans underwritten by Great-West Financial.

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About Rima Modi

Rima is originally from Mumbai, India where she obtained a Bachelor in Dental Surgery in 2012 and then moved to the USA. She is currently a third year dental student at Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry and also ASDA liaison for Advanced Standing Students/ International Dentists. Outside of her professional activities, she enjoys cooking, kayaking and traveling places closer to nature. She can speak 3 different languages: Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati.

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