A woman’s health is essential to the good
health of her baby. Women who eat well and exercise regularly along
with regular prenatal care are less likely to have complications during
pregnancy. They’re also more likely to successfully give birth to a healthy
Eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy is
linked to good fetal brain development, a healthy birth weight, and it reduces the
risk of many birth defects.
A balanced diet will also reduce
the risks of anemia, as well as other unpleasant pregnancy symptoms such
as fatigue and morning sickness. Good nutrition is thought to help balance mood
swings and it may improve labor and delivery as well.
A well-balanced pregnancy diet includes:
- vitamin C
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- iron-rich foods
- adequate fat
- folic acid
A simple way to satisfy your nutritional
needs during pregnancy is to eat a variety of foods from each of the food
groups every day.
Many women are concerned about how much weight
they will gain during pregnancy. If your weight was in the normal range before
you got pregnant, a weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is recommended. It’s
important to discuss and monitor your weight and nutritional needs with your
doctor throughout the pregnancy. Weight gain recommendations will vary for
women who are underweight before conceiving, for those who are obese, and
for those with a multiple pregnancy, such as twins.
What not to eat
To protect mom and baby from bacteria
or parasitic infection, such as Listeriosis, make sure that all milk,
cheese, and juice are pasteurized. Don’t eat meat from the deli counter or hot
dogs unless they are thoroughly heated. Also avoid refrigerated, smoked seafood
and undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood. If you or someone in your family
has had a history of allergies, speak to your doctor about any foods to avoid.
Most nutrients needed during pregnancy should
come from food, but prenatal vitamin supplements play an important role.
Pregnant women are often too busy to plan three nutrient-filled meals every
day, and a vitamin supplement can provide the extra nutrition that the
developing fetus needs.
Folic acid (folate) is a B vitamin that
is very important for pregnant women. Folic acid supplements taken several
weeks prior to pregnancy and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy have been
found to lower the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect
such as spina bifida.
Most prenatal vitamins contain 1 milligram of
folic acid. Talk to your doctor before you start taking prenatal vitamins. They
can help you decide which type is best for you.
Moderate exercise is not only considered safe
for pregnant women, it’s encouraged and thought to benefit both mom and growing
baby. Exercising 30 minutes a day is proven to help circulation, strengthen muscles, and
decrease stress. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting
any exercise regime, particularly if you are in a high-risk category. If you
were not physically active before getting pregnant, talk with your doctor about
what exercise you can do during your pregnancy.
For the majority of normal pregnancies,
- increase energy levels
- improve sleep
- strengthen muscles and
- reduce backaches
- relieve constipation
Aerobic exercises, such as walking, jogging,
and swimming, stimulate the heart and lungs as well as muscle and joint
activity, which help to process and utilize oxygen. Aerobic activity also
improves circulation and increases muscle tone and strength.
There are many exercise classes designed
specifically for pregnant women that help to build strength, improve posture
and alignment, and promote better circulation and respiration.
Squatting and Kegel
exercises should be added to the exercise routine. Kegel exercises focus
on the vaginal and perineal muscles. The exercise is done in the same
way a woman stops and starts the flow of urine. The perineal muscle is
tightened for a count of three and then the muscle is slowly relaxed. The
period of time the muscle is contracted can be increased over time as muscle
control becomes easier. Relaxing the perineal muscles can help during the birth
of the baby. Kegel exercises are thought to help women maintain good muscle
tone and control in the perineal area, which can aid in delivery and recovery
Cutting out bad habits
Making good lifestyle choices will directly
impact the health of a growing fetus. It’s important to cut out smoking, drug
use, and alcohol consumption. These have been linked to serious complications
and risks for both mother and baby.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is linked with
a wide range of problems in the developing baby. Any alcohol that is consumed
by the mother enters the fetal bloodstream in approximately the same concentrations
as in the mother’s bloodstream. Drinking throughout pregnancy can result
in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that FAS can cause your baby to be
underweight and have abnormalities in their central nervous system.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can also
lead to complications, such as:
- premature labor and
There’s no evidence that cigarette smoking
before a pregnancy has started will harm a developing baby. However, there is plenty of proof that smoking during pregnancy is hazardous.
Smoking affects blood flow and oxygen delivery to a baby, and therefore their
Cigarette smoking is the single most common
cause of low birth-weight babies, which in turn is the most common cause of
death and illness in the first few weeks of life. Smoking is also linked to a
wide variety of pregnancy complications, including:
- vaginal bleeding
- ectopic pregnancy
- premature placental
- premature labor and
Getting sick during pregnancy
Besides all of the symptoms that go along
with pregnancy, pregnant women are more susceptible to certain infections, like
the common cold or flu. A pregnant woman is more likely to
become very ill if she catches a cold or flu. Though such illnesses can make
you feel very unwell, most will not affect your developing baby.
Some of the
more common illnesses include:
- common cold
- seasonal flu
- runny nose
- upset stomach
It’s important to talk to your doctor about
treatments that are safe to use for any illnesses during pregnancy. Many common
medications and supplements such as aspirin and ibuprofen are not recommended
Prevention is the best way to avoid getting
sick. A healthy diet and exercise as well as plenty of rest and good hand-washing
should help to ensure good health. A seasonal flu shot is the best line of
defense during the flu season. It’s recommended for those who will be in their
second or third trimester during this time. Pregnant women are at a much
greater risk of developing complications from both the seasonal flu virus, as
well as from swine flu (H1N1).
Talk to your doctor about your health
history. They can tell you whether or not there are risks to your baby’s
Some women who have a history
of asthma may find that their symptoms worsen during pregnancy. This
is partly due to the increasing amounts of hormones in the system, as well as
the enlarging uterus, which presses up against the lungs and restricts the
amount of air left in your lungs after exhaling.
Attending all prenatal care checkups will
help your doctor carefully monitor you and your growing baby throughout your
pregnancy. It will also give you a scheduled time to ask your doctor about any
concerns you’re having about your pregnancy.