Pregnancy: A healthier you can mean a healthier baby

March 2, 2017

When you're pregnant, a lot of things that you do can have an effect on your baby—an effect that continues long after your baby is born.iStock-525033368.jpg

That's why it's crucial to make good decisions about diet, exercise, health care and lifestyle habits during this important time.

The best way to take care of your baby is to take care of yourself.

Prenatal care

Prenatal care is the care you receive during your pregnancy. Pregnant women who see a health care provider regularly decrease their risk of pregnancy complications.

During your prenatal visits, your provider will talk with you about the best ways to give your baby a healthy start in life, answer any questions you might have, and check to make sure you and your baby are healthy.

Regular prenatal care also gives your provider a better chance to detect and treat potential problems early, according to the Office on Women's Health.

Diet

Another way that you can take care of yourself and your baby is by following a healthy diet.

Aim to eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and low-fat dairy products. Make sure to include two servings of fish each week.

You should avoid certain types of fish that may contain high levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Cook meat, eggs and fish thoroughly. Avoid unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses.

Exercise

Following a regular exercise program during pregnancy may help labor and delivery go more smoothly, and being in good physical condition may make it easier to get back in shape after childbirth.

If you were exercising before you became pregnant, it's usually OK to continue. But ask your provider about which exercises are safe for you.

Your changing body can affect your balance and increase your risk of a fall. Avoid exercises that involve jumping, quick stops and starts, and change-of-direction movement.

If you don't already exercise, start slowly and don't overdo it. Consider light exercises, such as walking or swimming, unless your provider says otherwise.

More healthy hints

The March of Dimes and other experts offer these additional tips on keeping you and your baby healthy:

  • Do not smoke or use alcohol or illegal drugs during pregnancy. Ask your provider for help with quitting, if necessary.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications or supplements you are taking.
  • Limit coffee and other caffeinated drinks to one or two cups a day.
  • Ask your provider how much weight you should gain. For many women, 25 to 30 pounds is about right, but you may need to gain more or less depending on your weight before pregnancy. And don't try to lose weight during pregnancy.
  • Be sure to get enough folic acid. To help prevent certain birth defects, pregnant women should get 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid a day. Ask your provider about taking a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin to make sure you're getting enough of the proper nutrients.
  • If there is a cat in your home, have someone else change the litter box. This can help prevent toxoplasmosis, a disease that can seriously harm unborn babies.
  • Ask your provider whether there are vaccinations you may need.
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