If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, here are a few tips to help you increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby:
Establish Healthy Habits
You should start taking care of yourself before you start trying to get pregnant. This is called preconception health. It means knowing how health conditions and risk factors could affect you or your unborn baby if you become pregnant. For example, some foods, habits, and medicines can harm your baby — even before he or she is conceived. Some health problems also can affect pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before pregnancy to learn what you can do to prepare your body. Women should prepare for pregnancy before becoming sexually active. Ideally, women should give themselves at least three months to prepare before getting pregnant.
Take 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day for at least 3 months before getting pregnant to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine. You can get folic acid from some foods. But it’s hard to get all the folic acid you need from foods alone. Taking a vitamin with folic acid is the best and easiest way to be sure you’re getting enough.
Avoid Harmful Substances
If you are a regular smoker or drinker, ask your doctor for help and stop smoking and drinking alcohol. If you have a medical condition, be sure it is under control. Some conditions include asthma, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, thyroid disease, or epilepsy. Be sure your vaccinations are up to date.
Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are using. These include dietary or herbal supplements. Some medicines are not safe during pregnancy. At the same time, stopping medicines you need also can be harmful.
Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials at work and at home that could be harmful. Stay away from chemicals and cat or rodent feces.
Get Prenatal Care
Get early and regular prenatal care. Whether this is your first pregnancy or third, health care is extremely important. Your doctor will check to make sure you and the baby are healthy at each visit. If there are any problems, early action will help you and the baby.
Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is most important in the early stages of pregnancy, but you should continue taking folic acid throughout pregnancy.
Ask your doctor before stopping any medicines or starting any new medicines. Some medicines are not safe during pregnancy. Keep in mind that even over-the-counter medicines and herbal products may cause side effects or other problems. But not using medicines you need could also be harmful.
Avoid x-rays. If you must have dental work or diagnostic tests, tell your dentist or doctor that you are pregnant so that extra care can be taken. Get a flu shot. Pregnant women can get very sick from the flu and may need hospital care.
Eat With Your Baby in Mind
Eat a variety of healthy foods. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods, and foods low in saturated fat. Also, make sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
Get all the nutrients you need each day, including iron. Getting enough iron prevents you from getting anemia, which is linked to preterm birth and low birth weight. Eating a variety of healthy foods will help you get the nutrients your baby needs. But ask your doctor if you need to take a daily prenatal vitamin or iron supplement to be sure you are getting enough.
Protect yourself and your baby from food-borne illnesses, including toxoplasmosis (TOK-soh-plaz-MOH-suhss) and listeria (lih-STEER-ee-uh). Wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Don’t eat uncooked or under cooked meats or fish. Always handle, clean, cook, eat, and store foods properly.
Don’t eat fish with lots of mercury, including swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Gain a healthy amount of weight by eating healthy food. Your doctor can tell you how much weight gain you should aim for during pregnancy. Unless your doctor tells you not to, try to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. It’s best to spread out your workouts throughout the week. If you worked out regularly before pregnancy, you can keep up your activity level as long as your health doesn’t change. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your activity level throughout your pregnancy.
It is a good idea to get informed about the changes in your body by reading books, watching videos, going to a childbirth class, and talking with moms you know. Get advice on additional do’s and don’ts as often as you can such as don’t take very hot baths or use hot tubs or saunas. Do Get plenty of sleep and find ways to control stress.
Ask your doctor about childbirth education classes for you and your partner. Classes can help you prepare for the birth of your baby.