There are lots of ways to have a healthy pregnancy. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, but there are some basic guidelines that everyone should follow. Read these tips and keep in mind that you and your doctor should customize these recommendations to your individual needs.
1. Start Prenatal Care
You could argue that it’s never too early to seek prenatal care. In fact, you can help ensure a healthy pregnancy by seeing your doctor before becoming pregnant. Scheduling a visit with your doctor should be the first step. You can evaluate your general health for pregnancy, get screened for diseases and infections that can affect pregnancy, and even receive guidelines for conceiving. Some basic knowledge can go a long way to prepare you for what to expect.
Continue your prenatal care religiously throughout your pregnancy. Most pregnancy risks and complications can be avoided or handled with regular visits to your OBGYN or midwife.
2. Take Prenatal Vitamins
Yes, you can even start taking prenatal vitamins before you get pregnant. They are great multivitamins for women, and prenatal vitamins in particular include 400 mcg of folic acid, which prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) in infants, especially spina bifida. Just this one simple, easy step can prevent a handful of problems.
3. Eat for Two…?
Many people still love to tell a pregnant woman, “You’re eating for two now!” However, that’s not necessarily true. You shouldn’t be doubling your calories or disregarding your healthy habits just because you’re pregnant. Pregnancy should make you even more mindful of what you eat.
Your diet is extremely important for a growing baby. Everything you take in includes nutrients that travel through the blood stream and eventually make it to the baby. If you’re not already eating a balanced diet, then now is the ideal time to start. You may need more or less calories than another woman, but remember to focus your diet on these basics:
- Healthy, whole grains
- Lots of fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors
- Lean proteins
- Low-fat dairy
At your prenatal visit, your doctor can help evaluate your nutrition and make recommendations for the right number of calories for you. During the first trimester, most women only need an extra 100 calories a day. That’s only about one slice of bread, so don’t carried away. Most women only need to gain 5-10 pounds during the first trimester. In fact, many women who experience nausea and “morning sickness” may actually lose weight in the first trimester. Just do your best and talk to your doctor if you’re worried about your weight gain.
4. Stop Smoking and Drinking Alcohol
You’ve probably heard the advice before and you’ll hear it again. Pregnant women should absolutely avoid cigarette smoke and alcohol because of the harm they cause growing babies. So many pregnancy and birth complications arise from these substances. By avoiding smoking, second-hand smoke, alcohol, and all other illicit drugs, you are protecting yourself and the baby from many common risks. Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting.
5. Limit Caffeine
Caffeine is also potentially risky, mostly because it doesn’t provide any nutritive value to the mother, isn’t as hydrating as water, and can stimulate you mentally and contribute to headaches and sleeplessness. It may also be a contributing factor in many miscarriages. Limit coffee, caffeinated soda, and medicines with caffeine.
6. Drink Lots of Water
What you should be drinking a lot of is water! Don’t know if you’re getting 64 ounces a day? Buy a sturdy water bottle you can take with you and pay attention to how much you drink. Being well hydrated can reduce headaches, cramps, even fatigue.
7. Exercise Safely
When it comes to exercising while pregnant, just know your limits and be safe. Women who are regular runners find that they may be able to run for exercise even into the third trimester. Women who do yoga may need to modify some poses and eliminate some twisting in their routines. The most commonly accepted rule of thumb among doctors lately is that you should continue to do the exercises you normally do, but simply turn down the intensity.
Drink plenty of water while exercising, and pay attention to how you feel. If you start feeling too hot, nauseous, or experience other side effects that may be alarming (such as bleeding), then stop immediately and consult your doctor.
There is plenty of information today about the benefits of exercise for the mother and the baby.
- Reduces several risk factors (like gestational diabetes)
- Relieves the mother’s achiness and cramps
- Helps the mother’s stamina during labor
- Makes the mother’s to recovery from labor easier
Try to get about 30 minutes of physical activity a day, or whatever your doctor recommends for you.
Even though you are busy working, exercising, and getting ready for baby, your rest is more important than ever. And you should enjoy it now before your newborn comes and keeps you up all night! Some pregnancy discomforts make it hard to sleep at night, but there are a few things to help you get a restful eight hours:
- A body pillow between your knees while laying on your side
- A humidifier to relieve a dry nose (common side effect of pregnancy)
- Gentle stretching before bed to relieve cramps
- An easy-to-follow path to the bathroom so you can relieve yourself during the night without bumping, tumbling, or turning on lights
- White noise to help you tune out stress and quiet an active mind (and will also help a newborn sleep)
- No electronics right before bed
Many pregnant women experience extra fatigue. If you need to take a nap during the day, then put your feet up and get some rest!
9. Gain the Right Amount of Weight
When you visit your doctor’s office, you will always step on the scale. Weight gain tells you so many things about the health of the baby, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Don’t compare yourself to other pregnant women. Know what the right amount of weight gain is for you.
- Underweight women may need to gain 30-40 pounds with pregnancy
- Women at a healthy weight generally gain 25-35 pounds
- Overweight women should gain 15-25 pounds
- Women expecting twins or multiples may gain anywhere between 25 to 50 pounds, depending on their starting weight.
Remember that much of the pregnancy weight will come off postpartum and with nursing. Indulge in some stylish maternity clothes so you can feel confident and beautiful with your timelessly lovely, maternal shape!
10. Be Mentally and Emotionally Healthy
It’s also important to feel mentally and emotionally healthy during pregnancy. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or other disorders, then talk to your doctor about getting the necessary help. Ask your family, partner, friends, and other mothers around you for support and encouragement. Pregnancy can be a wonderful experience, so enjoy it while it lasts!