Staying Healthy During Pregnancy
If you're pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, you probably know some of the basic pregnancy advice about taking care of yourself and the baby: don't smoke or be around secondhand smoke, don't drink, and get your rest. Here are more pregnancy tips, from taking vitamins to what to do with the kitty litter, that can help ensure safe and healthy prenatal development.
Take a Prenatal Vitamin
Even when you're still trying to conceive, it's smart to start taking prenatal vitamins. Your baby's neural cord, which becomes the brain and spinal cord, develops within the first month of pregnancy, so it's important you get essential nutrients, like folic acid, calcium, and iron, from the very start.
Prenatal vitamins are available over the counter at most drug stores, or you can get them by prescription from your doctor. If taking them makes you feel queasy, try taking them at night or with a light snack. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy afterward can help, too.
Staying active is a must for most moms to be. Regular exercise will help you control your weight, improve circulation, boost your mood, and help you sleep better. Plus, getting into an exercise habit now will help you set a good example for your child after she's born.
Pilates, yoga, swimming, and walking are all great activities for most pregnant women, but be sure to check with your doctor first before starting any exercise program. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Listen to your body, though, and don't overdo it.
Write a Birth Plan
Determined to have a doula? Counting on that epidural? Write down your wishes and give a copy to everyone involved with the delivery. Here are some things to consider when writing your birth plan:
- Who you want present, including children or siblings of the baby
- Procedures you want to avoid
- What positions you prefer for labor and delivery
- Special clothing you'd like to wear
- Whether you want music or a special focal point
- Whether you want pain medications, and what kind
- What to do if complications arise
Even if this isn't your first baby, attending a childbirth class will help you feel more prepared for delivery. Not only will you have the chance to learn more about childbirth and infant care, but you can ask specific questions and voice any concerns. You'll also become more acquainted with the facility and its staff.
Now is also a good time to brush up on your family's medical history. Talk to your doctor about problems with past pregnancies, and report any family incidences of birth defects.
Track Your Weight Gain
We know, you're eating for two. But packing on too many extra pounds may make them hard to lose later. At the same time, not can gaining enough weight can put the baby at risk for a low-weight birth, a major cause of developmental problems. Recently the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued new guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy. Here's what the IOM recommends, based on a woman's BMI (body mass index) before becoming pregnant with one baby:
- Underweight: Gain 28-40 pounds
- Normal weight: Gain 25-35 pounds
- Overweight: Gain 15-25 pounds
- Obese: Gain 11-20 pounds
Eat Folate-Rich Foods
"Folic acid is crucial for the proper development of the baby's neural tube (it covers the spinal cord), and it's vital for the creation of new red blood cells," says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., author of the new book Feed the Belly. Even before you find out you're pregnant, it's smart to start eating plenty of folate-rich foods like Fortified Cereals, Asparagus, lentils, wheat germ, oranges, and orange juice.
Recharge with Fruit
Most doctors recommend limiting caffeine during pregnancy, since it can have harmful effects on you and the baby. Cutting back can be tough, though, especially when you're used to your morning java. For a quick pick-me-up, try nibbling on some fruit. "The natural sugars in fruits like bananas and apples can help lift energy levels"
Say Yes to Cravings, Sometimes
Truth be told, no one knows why cravings happen. Some experts say they may be nature's way of providing nutrients an expectant mom may be lacking. Others say they're an emotional thing. Regardless, as long as you're eating an overall healthy diet, it's usually OK to give in to your cravings. Just be careful to limit portions don't down all that ice cream at once! and know which snacks to steer clear of. A few foods to avoid: raw and undercooked meat or eggs; brie, feta, and other types of unpasteurized cheese; herbal teas; and raw sprouts.
Know When to Call the Doctor
Being pregnant can be confusing, especially if it's your first time. How do you know which twinge is normal and which one isn't? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Pain of any kind
- Strong cramps
- Contractions at 20-minute intervals
- Vaginal bleeding or leaking of fluid
- Dizziness or fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Constant nausea and vomiting
- Trouble walking, edema (swelling of joints)
- Decreased activity by the baby