Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Tip #1: Go See a Doctor

Pregnancy is an experience that can bring delight and possibly anxiety especially if it is your first time. The first step to follow if you believe you are pregnant is take is to make adoctor’s appointment. A pregnancy test done at a doctor’s office will give you the most accurate results. During your appointment you will probably meet with a Health Advisor, or nurse, who will advise you on nutrition, doctor’s appointments, exercises, classes, etc. The Advisor will likely ask you personal questions such as:

  • “Have you decided whether or not you are going to carry the baby to term?” (Meaning are you going to go through with the pregnancy or get an abortion.)
  • “Is the father of the child going to help you through the pregnancy?”

The Advisor may also ask you about future plans that pertain to the baby such as:

  • “Where are you going to live and who are you going to live with?

These questions are important and necessary so do not be afraid or embarrassed to honestly answer them. You may be referred to a counselor to provide emotional support throughout your pregnancy. This will help alleviate the stresses of pregnancy and does not mean there is something wrong with you.

 

Important Prenatal Care Tests

          Prenatal Screening: A prenatal screening is done to check for any diseases or deformities in your unborn child. All pregnant women should consider getting one performed if there is a family history of any hereditary conditions. The testing should be done between fifteen and twenty weeks into your pregnancy while the best time is between weeks sixteen and seventeen. The cost is around $162 but most insurance companies will cover part if not all of it. Ask your or doctor or insurance provider for more information. If you live in California you can also check out the California Department of Health Services website or you can search online for the Department of Health corresponding to your residency.

          Infections and STD Testing: The fetus can greatly suffer if the mother has an STD or certain infections while pregnant. A woman should get tested for her immunity to German measles (rubella) before pregnancy because the fetus can suffer serious developmental defects such as deafness and intellectual disability. It is also important to be tested for HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) because a woman can pass the virus on to the fetus during pregnancy or at birth.  It is also wise to get tested for STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) such as genital herpes and chlamydia, which can cause damage to the fetus, premature birth, and neonatal eye infections. It is also important for an expecting mother to take extra safety precautions (ex. wearing a condom) to ensure that their partner does not infect them with a STD that can potentially harm the fetus. Talk to your doctor about getting tested or find a Planned Parenthood location to get tested for STD’s.

 

Tip #2: Eat Right

Maintaining a healthy diet before, during, and after pregnancy is essential to having a healthy baby. An inadequate diet increases the baby’s chance of contracting a disease or being born underweight. Therefore, it is extremely important to make sure you are getting all of the necessary nutrients through a variety of foods.

Your goal diet should include:

 - 6-11 servings of breads/grains

 - 2-4 servings of fruit

 - 4+ servings of vegetables

 - 4 servings of dairy products

 - 3 protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans)

It is important to remember that you are providing for your baby in addition to yourself and will need more energy. However, even though you’re eating for two, it’s only necessary to add about 300 more calories to your diet.

 

There are also a few necessary nutrients such as:

  • Calcium
    • 1000-1300 mg daily or about 4 servings of calcium rich food/drinks such as milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, spinach and beans.
  • Iron
    • 27 mg daily or about 3 servings of iron rich food such as meat, seafood, some vegetables, legumes, fruits, and breads/cereals.
  • Folic Acid
    • Found in dark green, leafy vegetables, veal, and legumes (black beans, lima beans, and chickpeas).
    • 0.4 mg daily. It’s important in preventing neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
  • Vitamin C
    • 70 mg daily or one good source (strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, green peppers, brussel sprouts).
  • Vitamin A
    • One source every other day (carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach).
    • Excessive intake may be associated with fetal malformations.

*If you are not getting all the necessary nutrients during pregnancy than it may be recommended to take Pre-Natal Vitamins. For more information, see our page on Pre-Natal Vitamins and consult your doctor.

**Do not diet while pregnant. You will lose some of the pregnancy weight the first week the baby is born.

 

Food Cravings

Food cravings are a normal occurrence during pregnancy and about two-thirds of pregnant women will get them. It is absolutely okay to indulge in your food cravings if they provide energy or an essential nutrient. However, if they are preventing you from getting other essential nutrients in your diet then you should try to keep a more balanced diet and consult your doctor. It is also important to never give in to non-food cravings and consult your health provider if they are causing you problems.

Dealing with Morning Sickness

  • Eat crackers, cereal, or pretzels before getting out of bed
  • Eat small frequent meals
  • Avoid fatty, fried and greasy foods

Foods to Avoid

  • AVOID ALCOHOL and DRUGS!
    • It is associated with premature delivery, mental retardation, birth defects, and low birth weight babies. Learn more by talking to your doctor or by clicking on the hyperlinked words above. 
  • Limit caffeine!
    • 300 mg or less per day. An 8 oz coffee has about 150 mg of caffeine.
  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or white snapper (they have high levels of mercury).
  • Avoid raw fish.
  • Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, and Mexican-style cheese. These are cheeses that contain raw and unpasteurized milk that can contain harmful bacteria. 

 

Tip #3: Exercise

      It’s highly important to stay active without pushing yourself too hard during pregnancy. Exercise provides many benefits, which will make your pregnancy easier and happier for you. It can improve your posture; decrease fatigue and some discomforts such as back pain. It will also relieve stress and help you build more stamina for labor and delivery. It’s recommended to exercise for 30 minutes or more a couple times a week or everyday if possible. Remember to exercise at a comfortable, moderate level.  Exercise may not be advisable if you have any medical issues such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease or a pregnancy related health problem. Make sure to consult your doctor before starting any exercise.

Some great ideas for exercise are:

•       Brisk walking

•       Swimming

•       Stationary cycling

•       Step/elliptical machines

•       Low-impact aerobics

•       Jogging (in moderation and not in the last months of pregnancy)

It’s also wise to avoid certain activities such as:

•       Holding your breath

•       Activities with the possibility of falling

•       Contact sports such as basketball

•       Exercise in hot, humid weather

Important tips to follow:

•       Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes

•       Exercise on a flat level surface

•       Consume enough calories (300 extra calories daily)

•       Drink plenty of water

•       Never exercise to the point of exhaustion

•       Remember to enjoy yourself!

 

Tip #4: See a Friend

It is important for you to tell a friend, relative or anyone else you trust, that you are pregnant. Make sure the people around you know about the adventure you have embarked on so they can help you through pregnancy. It is crucial to have people that you can go to for any help, questions, concerns or even just a hug. The best part is that the people in your life will appreciate you sharing this with them. Check out How to Help a Pregnant Friend for more ideas on ways a friend can help.

 

Tip #5: Get Rest!

It is important to stay active as well as get enough rest during pregnancy. Lying on your side is the best for you because it provides great circulation to your baby and it can help reduce swelling. Some doctors may recommend you lie on your side with your hips or your knees bent, with a pillow between your knees. Ask your doctor for other good resting tips.

 

Tip #6: What To Avoid

Alcohol and Drugs: Do not use drugs or drink alcohol while you are pregnant. Substances that a pregnant woman puts in her body will pass through the placental barrier and affect the fetus. Alcohol and drugs can cause many birth defects and abnormalities. It is also necessary to be careful with prescription drugs. Talk to your doctor about any prescription or over the counter medications you are considering or already taking. Common medications such as Accutane (a popular treatment for severe acne especially in teens) and over the counter drugs such as aspirin can have severe consequences on the development of the fetus and therefore it is important to ensure that the medications you are taking are safe.

Check out the Effects of Drugs During Pregnancy to learn what all these substances can do to you and your baby.

 

Fish: Most fish contain mercury. Eating fish during pregnancy can be very dangerous because children fetuses are more vulnerable to mercury as a serious toxin. Ask your doctor for pamphlets on which fish you should avoid and which ones you may eat in small portions. You can also check out The Office of Environmental Hazard and Health website for more details.

Rodents: Many rodents carry lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). If a pregnant woman is infected by LCMV then it can be passed on to the fetus and cause abnormalities or miscarriage. One can get infected through rodent urine, feces, saliva or nesting material. If you believe there may be a stray rodent in your house then call pest control as soon as possible. Common rodents that pass on LCMV are mice and even pet rodents such as hamsters, mice and guinea pigs. Talk to your doctor if you may be at risk.

 

Toxoplasmosis: This is an infection caused by a parasite. TO avoid this infection:

  • Do not eat uncooked meat
  • Do not come in to contact with cat litter
  • Always wear gloves when gardening
  • Always wash your hands very well after handling raw meat, soil, sand or unwashed vegetables

 

Tip #7: Intercourse?

A question many couples have is whether it is okay to have sex while pregnant and whether or not it can harm the fetus. The answer is yes in a normal, healthy pregnancy.  It is also okay to engage in intercourse late in pregnancy since research indicates that it does not increase the likelihood of premature childbirth and has no effect on the timing of labor. However, remember that it is normal for sexual activity to dramatically decrease throughout pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Cick here to read more on intercourse after pregnancy.

 

When Not to have Intercourse: Circumstances in which it is unadvised to have intercourse include threatened miscarriage or premature birth, vaginal bleeding, leakage of amniotic fluid, certain abnormalities of the placenta, and possibly the presence of more than one fetus (LeVay, 2009:251).

Frequency: The frequency of intercourse is something that should be decided between the woman and her partner. You may want to ask your doctor or midwife for advice.

Best Position: The “man-on-top” position becomes awkward during pregnancy therefore the side-by-side position is a better option. Other possible options could be “woman-on-top” or rear entry. If intercourse is uncomfortable then there are other great options such as manual or oral contact. It is important to avoid blowing air into the vagina while pregnant because it has known to be dangerous.

Infection: In some cases intercourse can cause infections such as a STD (sexually transmitted disease). Pregnant woman who are sexually active or have multiple partners should be extra careful to ensure they do not become infected. It is highly important to use a condom to help protect against STDs.

Please Note that all matters pertaining to sexual activity should be greatly dependent upon the pregnant women’s feelings.

 

Tip #8: Childbirth Classes

Childbirth classes during the third trimester are a great way to educate and prepare oneself for having a child, especially for first time mothers and their partners. They allow expectant mothers to address any fears or concerns they have about the upcoming birth. There are a variety of different childbirth classes available. Most classes provide education on pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care as well as encourage breast-feeding. Some popular methods include the Lamaze Method and the Bradley Method.

 

The Lamaze Method: This method focuses on education and relaxation training such as breathing exercises and techniques for relaxing the abdominal and perineal muscles. It also teaches techniques on how to reduce the perception of pain. Two techniques are lightly stroking the abdomen or thighs as well as focusing one’s visual attention on something in the environment such as a picture on the wall.

The Bradley Method: This method stresses “natural childbirth” and places a lot of weight on the woman’s partner as a “birth coach”. It encourages a birth without the use of drugs or anesthesia during labor and focuses on preventing possible complications through preparation.

Although these are the two popular methods, most hospital-based childbirth classes do not follow them closely. Most hospital childbirth classes are based on the experience of the instructors.  This allows them to be practically oriented and able to meet the specific needs of the expectant mothers in the class. The classes are partner based whether it is a spouse, a friend, a family member, or any other willing participant. This helps educate the expectant mothers support system as well as relieves some of the expectant mothers stress. Childbirth classes are also a great way to meet other expectant mothers. This is beneficial because it allows one to meet other people going through a similar situation as well as gives one more access to tips and advice.

Where to Sign Up: Most hospitals have some form of childbirth classes. This is usually the least expensive option however, they sometimes get crowded. Another option is attending a Birth Center. The American Pregnancy Association recommends considering are a couple of questions to consider when choosing a class. To view these questions click here. Ask your doctor for nearby class recommendations.

 

References

1. "Creating a Pregnancy Diet: Healthy Eating During Pregnancy." WebMD - Better Information. Better Health. Web. 29 Sept. 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/eating-right-when-pregnant>.

2. "Pregnancy and Exercise." WebMD - Better Information. Better Health. Web. 29 Sept. 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/exercise-during-pregnancy>.

3. LeVay, Simon, Janice I. Baldwin, and John D. Baldwin. Discovering Human Sexuality. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Assoc., 2009. 246-54. Print.

Last Updated 12 May 2014.

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