Congratulations on your pregnancy! Whether this is your first time being pregnant or you've been down this road before, we've got a great guide here for you to help you through all the bumps in the road. From what you should be eating to what you should avoid, let's get started.
- Make sure you get all of your essential vitamins and minerals every day. Iron and folic acid are especially important.
- Try your best to control the stress in your life. While this can be difficult, stress is a bad thing for both you and your baby.
- Make sure you stay away from alcohol and recreational drugs while pregnant!
Diet and Nutrition During Pregnancy
Get all essential vitamins and minerals every day. Women need a lot more iron when pregnant. And sometimes it's hard to get enough by eating alone. Ask your doctor if you should be taking a daily prenatal vitamin or multivitamin.
Get 400 micrograms (or 0.4 mg) of folic acid daily. Getting enough folic acid (or folate) reduces the chances of some birth defects. Some women eat lots of certain foods, while others take multivitamins to get enough folic acid during pregnancy. Spinach, romaine lettuce, beans, peanuts, liver, and eggs are all foods that contain folic acid. These foods also contain plenty of other essential nutrients, so they're a great choice for pregnant women.
Eat a healthy diet. Load up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (such as whole wheat breads or crackers). Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as non-fat or low-fat yogurt, milk, and broccoli, that your baby needs for strong bones and teeth. If you live in areas where fruits and vegetables aren't in season, frozen vegetables are a good option. Avoid eating a lot of fatty foods (such as butter and fatty meats). Choose leaner foods when you can, such as skim milk, chicken and turkey without the skin, and fish.
Gain a healthy, not excessive amount of weight. Research shows that women who gain more than the recommended amount during pregnancy have an elevated risk of obesity. Losing the weight you've gained during pregnancy will be extra difficult if you gain too much of it. In addition, it will raise the risk of gaining stretch marks or other skin changes. On average, 25 to 30 pounds is a healthy weight gain over the 40 weeks of pregnancy. Check with your doctor to find out how much weight you should gain during pregnancy.
Sleep, Stress, and Exercise During Pregnancy
Get enough sleep– try to get seven to nine hours every night. Aches, pains, anxiety, and bathroom runs keep many pregnant women awake at night. To get some sleep, eat any large meals at least three hours before going to bed, get some easy exercise, and avoid long naps during the day. Sleep on your left side and use pillows between your legs and under your belly to help you get comfortable. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and calm while trying to sleep. Consider earplugs, a sleeping mask, blackout curtains, or a white noise machine to help you sleep.
De-stress. If you can, control the stress in your life. When it comes to work and family, figure out what you can really do. Set limits with yourself and others. Don't be afraid to say no to requests for your time and energy. The people around you should be understanding of your situation; if they make unreasonable requests from you, then stand up for yourself and don't allow them to push you around. Consider eliminating relationships that are causing you stress.
Getting regular, low-impact exercise is good for you and your baby. Talk to your doctor about what is safe. If you were heavily into fitness before getting pregnant, you won't be able to engage in the same exercises while pregnant. Certain fitness activities could be dangerous for you and your baby, so it's important that you carefully adhere to the guidelines your doctor gives you. Exercise is good for staying healthy and de-stressing, but too much of anything is not a good thing.
Health Problems and Medicine During Pregnancy
Get a handle on health problems. Talk to your doctor about how your health problems can affect you and your baby. If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar levels. If you have high blood pressure, monitor it closely. Talk to your doctor about whether it is safe to take high blood pressure medication while pregnant, and what the alternatives are if you can't. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about whether you should lose weight.
Ask your doctor before taking any medicines. Prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medicine all can harm your baby. Find out if should continue taking prescription medications. If necessary, your doctor can help you find alternatives to certain treatments that won't harm your baby. Avoid drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs.
See your doctor regularly. Prenatal care can help keep you and your baby healthy, spot problems if they occur, and prevent difficulties during delivery.
Consider getting a flu shot. The flu can be dangerous for some moms-to-be. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests vaccinations for all women who are at least 14 weeks pregnant during the flu season. Ask your doctor if you should get a flu shot. You should also get vaccinated for COVID-19, if you haven't already. If you are interested in any other vaccinations, make sure to talk to your doctor first to determine if they're safe for you to get while pregnant.
Wear your seat-belt correctly. Seat belts used correctly protect you and your unborn baby during a crash. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that pregnant women use seat belts that have a lap belt and a shoulder strap (3-point restraint). Seat belt straps should never go across your belly. The lap strap should go under the belly, across the hips. The shoulder strap should go off to the side of your belly and between your breasts. If you are not driving, the back seat is the safest place to sit.
Things You Should Not Do While Pregnant
Besides the obvious (like skydiving), steer clear of the following things so you can help keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
• Don't eat fish with lots of mercury. Get the low-down on what fish to eat and what fish to avoid when pregnant.
• Don't disregard food borne illness. Eat, cook, handle, and clean food safely! For both mother and baby, food borne illness can cause serious health problems – or even death. Thoroughly clean any surface that has had raw meat on it before putting anything else there. Be careful about what restaurants you go to; only eat at reputable places you know to be clean and safe. Keep an eye on the news for possible food recalls, and thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruits.
• Don't use chemicals. Products including herbicides, pesticides, paint, stains, and some cleaning solutions may be harmful to your baby. If you must use these things, wear gloves, a mask, and keep the room well-ventilated.
• Don't clean or change a cat's litter box if it's an outdoor cat or a cat you aren't familiar with. This could put you at risk for an infection called toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that cats can carry in their feces. They pick it up from consuming rodents or birds infected with it, or by coming in contact with an infected cat's feces. If your cats are entirely indoor, you should be fine. Toxoplasmosis can harm a fetus.
• Don't take very hot baths, hot tubs, or saunas. High temperatures can be harmful to the fetus, or cause you to faint.
• Don't use scented feminine hygiene products. Pregnant women should avoid scented sprays, sanitary napkins, and bubble bath. These products might irritate your vaginal area, and increase your risk of a urinary tract infection or yeast infection. You don't need a special product to clean your vulva; soap will do just fine. You do not need to clean the interior of your vagina.
• Don't douche. Douching can irritate the vagina, force air into the birth canal and increase the risk of infection.
• Don't have optional x-rays. X-rays are a form of radiation that is linked to a very small risk of cancer for an unborn baby. If your doctor tells you that an x-ray is essential or highly recommended for the health of you or your baby, go ahead with it. But any optional x-rays, such as those that check for cavities, can wait.
• Don't smoke tobacco. Tell your doctor if you smoke. Quitting is hard, but you can do it. Ask your doctor for help. Smoking during pregnancy passes nicotine and cancer-causing drugs to your baby. Smoke also keeps your baby from getting needed nourishment and raises the risk of stillbirth and premature birth .
• Don't drink alcohol. Stop drinking alcohol if you drink it regularly. Experts are still unsure of the exact amount of alcohol needed to cause problems in your baby. But, both drinking every day and drinking a lot of alcohol once in a while during pregnancy can harm the baby. If you had a drink very early on in your pregnancy, you should be fine. It is best, however, to avoid alcohol from the moment you find out you're pregnant.
• Don't use recreational drugs. Tell your doctor if you are using drugs. Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, barbiturates, and LSD are very dangerous for you and your baby. They can also cause a host of problems for you. If you're pregnant and struggling with an addiction, know that you're not alone. There are a lot of resources to help you recover.
• Don't buy into any urban legends or myths surrounding pregnancy. There's a lot of bad info out there; always check anything you read or hear about with your doctor before taking any action.
So there you have it. A complete guide to how to take care of yourself during pregnancy. From diet to sleep to stress, there's a lot of factors that you have to consider in order to have the healthiest baby possible. Congratulations on your pregnancy, and we wish you the best of luck!
The information in this article should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a doctor for any medical questions or concerns. Moms Who Think is not responsible for any outcomes that may arise as a result of actions taken based on information we provide. It is your responsibility to do your own research and to take the appropriate measures to protect your health.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Blue Planet Studio/Shutterstock.com.