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How to have a healthy pregnancy

The best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby is to get regular prenatal care. But there are other steps you can take, many of which your provider probably will discuss with you.

For example:

Eat right. You and your baby both will benefit from a healthy diet. For the best nutrition, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. But avoid foods like raw fish, undercooked meat, deli meat and unpasteurized cheeses (like feta, blue cheese and Mexican-style soft cheeses). You'll also want to stay away from fish that contain high levels of methylmercury—like swordfish, king mackerel and shark. And be sure to limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams (the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee) per day.

Get the right amount of nutrients. The vitamin folate is an absolute must. It can substantially lower a baby's risk for certain birth defects. If you started taking it before getting pregnant, that's great. You can get folic acid (a form of folate) from foods, but probably not enough. So it's best to take supplements—at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. You might also want to talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin B12 supplement, particularly if you're vegan.

Exercise. Exercising during pregnancy has so many benefits. It can help you feel better, sleep better and get your body ready for birth. After your baby is born, regular exercise can help you get back to your pre-pregnancy shape. Ask your provider's advice about the type and amount of activity that's right for you.

Avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs increases your baby's risk for a number of health problems, including:

  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Stillbirth.

If you find it hard to quit drinking or smoking on your own, ask your provider for help.

Review your medicines with your provider. Go over all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. Some medicines that treat acne and epilepsy and even some dietary or herbal supplements may harm your developing baby. Painkillers like opioids also can cause serious problems.

Get dental checkups. Your gums are more likely to become inflamed or infected because of changes in your body during pregnancy. There's no need to avoid getting dental work when you're pregnant. Just be sure to tell your dentist you're expecting.

Limit stress. Stress may seem inevitable. After all, you're carrying a little person in your belly, and it's throwing your hormones out of whack. And it is normal to feel some stress when you're pregnant. You just don't want it to get the best of you. Too much stress can lead to poor sleep, headaches and a loss of appetite. It can also raise your blood pressure, which increases your risk for premature labor. If you feel like you're stressing too much, ask your provider to help you ramp it down.

More pregnancy news

For many women, being pregnant makes them feel forgetful. Is it pregnancy brain or something else? Find out what might be the cause

Source: National Institutes of Health 

Reviewed 12/27/2022

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