Maintaining Health During Pregnancy
Maintaining health is always essential, but when your health affects two people—you and your baby—it’s especially important.
If you’re already living a healthy lifestyle, you won’t have to change too much during pregnancy. But, no matter your current lifestyle, you’ll need to make some adjustments before your baby comes into the world.
Maintaining health during pregnancy is a matter of following a few important guidelines.
Slightly Increase Calorie Intake
Some women may worry about gaining too much weight during pregnancy, but remember gaining 25 to 35 pounds is normal for a woman of average weight. This weight gain comes not only from the baby but also from things like the placenta and amniotic fluid.
During pregnancy, you will increase fat storage, so the fat can be used for delivery and breastfeeding. However, gaining too much weight leads to health problems, so stick to nutritious foods and avoid binging.
While your baby needs extra nutrients, this doesn’t mean you need to “eat for two.” Slightly increasing your caloric intake by about 300 calories gives your baby the nutrition it needs without going overboard.
Eat Nutritious Foods
Just like you would when you’re not pregnant, you’ll want to stick to a healthy diet. Choose nutritious foods, like the following:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats
- Whole grains
You might notice some interesting cravings for particular foods. It’s hard to say how many of these cravings are hormone-related, how many are from nutritional deficiencies, and how many are simply the body’s desire for more calories.
Many pregnant women find they crave sour and salty foods. It’s okay to give in to your cravings, as long as you’re maintaining a healthy diet.
Eliminate Harmful Foods and Drinks
Of course, there are certain foods and drinks you should avoid during pregnancy, like the following:
Alcohol. This is a no-brainer. Drinking alcohol while pregnant exposes your baby to risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which causes mental and physical disabilities.
Caffeine. Caffeine from coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks increases risk of miscarriage. In fact, women who drink 200 mg or more caffeine double miscarriage risk.
Deli Meats. Deli meats could be contaminated with bacteria. Make sure to cook meat thoroughly, and avoid uncooked meats.
Soft Cheeses. Like deli meats, non-aged cheeses like Brie, feta, and blue cheese could contain bacteria that cause food poisoning. Because pregnant women’s immune systems are compromised, it’s more likely they could get sick and raise miscarriage risk.
Mercury-containing Fish. Fish with high levels of mercury could impair your baby’s brain development. These include shark, tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish, and albacore tuna.
Raw Eggs. Raw or undercooked eggs, including those in cookie dough, are dangerous for anyone but could especially cause risk for pregnant women.
Take a Prenatal Vitamin
While you’ll get many of the vitamins you need for you and your baby from eating healthy foods, you can make up for the vitamins you might not get from your diet with a prenatal vitamin.
Probably the most important nutrient in prenatal vitamins is folic acid, which prevents birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Calcium is also important, as it contributes to the baby’s bone growth. Finally, iron helps the baby’s (and the mother’s) blood carry oxygen.
WebMD experts recommend a prenatal vitamin containing 400 mcg folic acid, 200 to 300 mg calcium, and 17 mg iron, along with other vitamins and minerals. Find a list of our most popular prenatal vitamins here.
Pregnancy can make intense exercise difficult, but that doesn’t mean exercise isn’t important! In fact, exercise during pregnancy eliminates back pain, improves mood and energy, and prevents weight gain.
Some great exercise ideas include the following:
The following exercises, however, may be dangerous during pregnancy:
- Contact sports
- Activities that increase risk of falling (skiing, gymnastics, horseback riding)
- Exercises that require extensive jumping, running, or lying on your back for extended periods of time
Visit a Doctor Regularly
First Visit: Your doctor performs a physical, including a pelvic exam and urine sample analysis. He or she also gives advice and goes over do’s and don’ts during pregnancy.
First and Second Trimester: You’ll see the doctor about every 4 weeks. The doctor assesses your health, records your weight, checks your urine and blood pressure, listens to your baby’s heartbeat, and examines your belly. He or she may also schedule additional tests and screenings. During your second trimester, you will have an ultrasound, where the doctor checks to make sure everything is fine with the baby.
Third trimester: You will have a checkup about every two weeks, and perhaps every week once delivery gets closer. Your doctor performs a physical examination, performs other tests you may need, and answers questions about labor and delivery.
These check-ups are important to make sure everything is progressing appropriately and that there is no health risk to you or the baby.
In fact, each of these health guidelines is crucial to making your pregnancy as smooth as possible for the both of you!