Pregnancy's Top Health Tips

These tips can help you navigate pregnancy with grace and calm.

Pregnancy is an adventure. It's scary and exciting. Tiring at times, energizing at others. Your body and mind go through many changes during pregnancy. These tips can help you navigate these changes with grace and calm.

Partner with your doctor
Your relationship with the doctor you choose to manage your pregnancy will be like none other. Rarely do you have the chance to build this sort of ongoing comfort and trust with a doctor. Choose someone with whom you sense you can build a good relationship. This can be an obstetrician or a family doctor who provides obstetric care. Interview several potential doctors to decide on the one with whom you will have the best relationship. Your feelings of comfort and trust are usually determined very early in conversation, so pay attention to your "gut reaction" or instinct. Once you've decided on a doctor, be sure to follow the schedule of visits.

Eat healthy
Eating a healthy diet and getting the right amount of exercise can go a long way in making you feel good both emotionally and physically during your pregnancy. A good diet includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and other good sources of protein. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian or nutritionist if you need help planning a healthy diet that provides enough nutrition and calories for two. Avoid risky foods. Stay away from any foods with a higher risk of bacterial infection, such as raw seafood (including raw shellfish). Be careful to cook chicken thoroughly. Undercooked chicken can harbor salmonella and other bacteria. Be sure to cook all other meats thoroughly as well. The soft cheeses (brie and others) may be poorly pasteurized and lead to problems. The FDA advises pregnant women to avoid all high-mercury fish such as shark, tilefish, swordfish and mackerel. White (or albacore) tuna and tuna steaks have more mercury than canned light tuna and should be limited to six ounces or less a week.

Take folic acid and prenatal vitamins
If you can, start these supplements before you plan on becoming pregnant or as soon as possible once you find out you are pregnant. Your doctor will have specific advice on how much folic acid you need. If you take certain medications or have had a pregnancy complicated by neural tube defects in the past, you may be told to take a higher dose of folic acid.

Stay active
Many women enjoy the benefits of exercise while pregnant. But each pregnancy is different. Ask your doctor if exercise is safe for you, and if so, what kind of exercise is best. If you exercised before you got pregnant, you can likely continue to stay active during your pregnancy with your doctor's approval. In some cases, you may need to scale back. If you did not exercise before becoming pregnant, ask your doctor if it's OK for you to begin a safe, low-impact form of activity such as walking or swimming. A sensible and regular exercise routine approved by your doctor will help you throughout pregnancy. You will maintain or increase muscle tone and your stamina. Keeping fit will also help you carry your weight and cope with the stress of labor. Plus, a healthy circulatory system will be good for your baby's health. An effective workout can come from a simple, brisk walk. Remember to take deep breaths!

Don't smoke
Avoid secondhand smoke as well. We know you've heard lots of reasons to quit smoking. Now here's another. Smoking harms your unborn baby. Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage and early, or premature, labor. Premature babies have a greater risk of many serious problems, including learning disabilities. Babies with mothers who smoke also tend to weigh less when they are born than those with nonsmoking mothers. Ask your doctor right away for help quitting.

Avoid alcohol
There is no safe level of alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol reaches your fetus at a rapid rate through the bloodstream and placenta. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome.

Sleep well
Get plenty of rest and relaxation. Pregnancy is tiring, both for you and your baby. Almost all pregnant women have a hard time sleeping. Listen to your body. Sleep and nap whenever you can. If you can't afford to doze during the day, let your body relax. Sit in a comfy chair, prop up your feet and read a good book, or learn some yoga techniques. Something as simple as sleeping on your side may help. Remember: don't take any sleeping medication or alcohol. In fact, don't take any medicines without talking to your doctor first. If lack of sleep is causing problems coping during the day, talk to your doctor.

Get a flu shot
The flu shot is recommended for all women who are pregnant or will be pregnant during the flu season. The flu shot can help keep you and your unborn baby healthy. Having asthma and being pregnant both increase your risk of having complications if you catch the flu. The flu shot is made from attenuated, or killed, flu virus, and is considered safe during any stage of pregnancy. Don't use the nasal-spray flu vaccine, though. This is made with live flu virus and has not been approved for use in pregnancy. Even if you had a flu shot last year, you need another to be protected this year. Talk to your doctor about getting your flu vaccine this fall.




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