Being pregnant is an exciting time in your life! In order to have a safe pregnancy, you want to be as healthy as possible. Staying healthy while pregnant is important not only for your physical and mental well being, but also for your growing baby's. Focus on eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and taking care of yourself emotionally. You might also need to make some lifestyle changes. By making changes to be the healthiest you possible, you'll significantly improve the health of your future child.

Following Your Doctor’s GuidelinesDownload Article

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    Choose the right caregiver. You’ll develop a close relationship with your medical professional, so take some time to choose the right one for you. Ask your general practitioner for a referral to an OB/GYN. They will provide you with more specialized care, and be there at the birth of your baby. You can also ask friends for recommendations. Don’t feel like you have to go with the first doctor you meet. You can ask for consultations with more than one candidate. Choose the one who makes you feel comfortable and confident.[1]
    • Ask questions such as, "How much experience do you have?" and "Are you comfortable with me designing my own birth plan?"
    • Consider a doula or midwife if you are interested in a home birth or a non-traditional birth, such as a water birth.
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    Get regular prenatal care. Frequent and consistent appointments with an OB/GYN, a family doctor or a certified midwife can ensure both your safety and your growing child’s safety throughout the pregnancy process. Begin prenatal care as soon as you know that you’re pregnant, when you decide you want to be, or when you suspect you might be. You can start by seeing your regular doctor, but will likely want to transfer to a specialized prenatal care doctor as your pregnancy progresses. So long as you are undergoing a normal pregnancy (according to your doctor), your scheduled prenatal appointments should follow this timeline:
    • See your physician every 4 weeks until you are 28 weeks pregnant.
    • See your physician every 2 weeks from the time you are 28 weeks to 36 weeks pregnant.
    • See your physician once a week (or more often, as per your doctor’s instructions) after the 36th week of pregnancy.[2]
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    Get regular exercise. Extra mid-body weight, morning sickness, and aching muscles can all combine to make exercise sound incredibly unappealing. However, keeping active while you are pregnant will ensure not only your health, but your baby’s as well. Regular exercise can make delivery less difficult, make losing your baby weight easier, aid in post-birth physical recovery, and encourage healthy fetal growth. Aim to do thirty minutes of low-impact exercise such as swimming, riding a bicycle, lifting weights, or yoga a day. Walking is a good option, too.
    • Don’t participate in any high-impact exercises (long runs or HIIT workouts) or contact sports (soccer, rugby, football), as these put you at a high risk for injury.
    • Overheating can be dangerous to your baby, so make sure you always keep cool by having a fan and cold water at the ready.[3]
    • Make sure to talk to your doctor before changing your exercise routine or starting a new one.
    • Staying active when you're pregnant will keep your joints and ligaments loose, which will make giving birth easier.[4]
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    Get enough sleep. Getting lots of good sleep while pregnant will give your body the time it needs to help develop your growing baby, making you feel better in the process. Aim for eight hours of sleep minimum a night, and try to snatch a mid-afternoon nap as well. Going to bed at a consistent time every night will also help to regulate your sleep schedule, making your sleep more restful and deep.
    • Sleep on your left side, as this relieves pressure on your back. Other positions also risk cutting off the circulation to a major vein.
    • Don’t take any sleeping pills while pregnant, unless prescribed and approved by your doctor.
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    Take prenatal supplements. Although a daily regimen of pills, supplements, and vitamins may be difficult to keep track of, it can be incredibly helpful in reducing the risk of a series of birth defects. To start, women should consume prenatal vitamins (advertised as such) in 600 micrograms per day after becoming pregnant. Prenatal vitamins contain a combination of high levels of folic acid and iron among other things, both of which are responsible for early development of the baby and reducing the risk of complications and defects such as spina bifida and premature birth. Talk to your doctor about what supplements to take, but keep in mind that most pregnant women need to consume extra:
    • Folic acid (folate)
    • Iron
    • Zinc
    • Calcium[5]
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    Keep an eye on your weight. It’s true that you should be gaining weight while pregnant, but the amount you gain can have a big impact on both your child’s health and your own. Individual weight gain will be dependent on your weight and BMI prior to pregnancy. To determine your ideal weight gain, start by calculating your BMI. You and your doctor can do this together, and discuss your healthy weight. As a guideline, use your BMI and weight to interpret how much you should gain.
    • Underweight women (BMI less than 18.5) should gain 28–40 pounds (13–18 kg).
    • Women at a healthy weight (BMI between 18.5-24.9) should gain 25–35 pounds (11–16 kg).
    • Overweight women (BMI between 25-29.9) should gain 15–25 pounds (6.8–11.3 kg).
    • Obese women (BMI higher than 30) should gain 11–20 pounds (5.0–9.1 kg).[6]
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    Visit your dentist regularly. Dental care is particularly important during pregnancy. This is because your body is producing higher than normal levels of estrogen and progesterone, both of which (in high levels) can be responsible for causing gingivitis and gum disease, leading to bleeding, gum sensitivity, and swollen gums on a regular basis. You should try to visit your dentist every 3-4 months while pregnant to make sure you’re keeping a healthy mouth. In between visits, make sure that you brush and floss your teeth regularly.[7]
    • You may, depending on where you live, benefit from free or discounted dental treatment. Ask your primary care doctor about this possibility.

Making Dietary ChangesDownload Article

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    Make sure you’re eating enough healthy foods. Good nutrition decreases the risk of significant health problems for both you and your baby.[8] The oft quoted phrase ‘eating for two’ conjures up images of vast platters of food and multiple meals throughout the day. In truth, you only need to consume about 300 calories more per fetus, per day.[9]
    • Therefore, if you’re pregnant with a single baby you should eat 300 extra calories, for twins you should eat 600 extra calories, and for triplets you should eat 900 extra calories per day. These numbers will vary slightly depending on your starting weight before pregnancy, but will remain close to 300 calories.
    • The calories you consume should be healthy calories—not those from junk food or fast food.
    • One of the primary goals of eating more is to supplement your body and the child with the vitamins and minerals necessary for development.
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    Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C. The recommended amount of vitamin C for pregnant women is 70 mg per day. However, it is best to get this from natural foods rather than pills and supplements. Aim to eat 3-4 servings of these foods per day.[10]
    • You can get lots of vitamin C from citrus fruits, papaya, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and red peppers (among other foods).
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    Consume more protein. Eating protein is always important, but when you’re pregnant you should aim to eat 2-3 servings of protein a day. Protein is primarily responsible for blood production and cell growth, both your own and your baby’s.[11]
    • Great sources of healthy proteins include eggs, Greek yogurt, legumes (beans), tofu, peanut butter, and lean meats.
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    Get plenty of calcium. Calcium is vital to pregnant women, and many don’t get nearly as much as they need. Although there is normally some calcium in prenatal supplements, you should try to consume an additional 1000 milligrams of calcium per day. By consuming more calcium, you’ll be aiding in your child’s bone and nerve development.
    • Great sources of calcium include yogurt, hard cheeses, milk, and spinach.
    • Vitamin D is important to consume as well, as it is required for your body to absorb calcium. It is found in most of the same foods as calcium is, as well as in cereals and breads.[12]
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    Eat foods that contain folic acid. Yes, you’ll be getting folic acid in a prenatal supplement. However, you should try to eat folic acid that occurs naturally in foods for the best results. Folic acid is responsible for enzyme functioning and blood production in your baby.[13]
    • Foods that contain folic acid include kale, chard, spinach, squash, beans, nuts, and peas. All of these foods contain other helpful nutrients, so try to eat 1-2 servings of them per day.
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    Choose foods with zinc. It’s important to get 11-13 mg of zinc per day during your pregnancy, so be sure to choose food items containing this essential mineral. Some options include beef, pork, poultry (chicken and turkey), cashews, almonds, peanuts, fortified breakfast cereal, yogurt, and cheese.[14]
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    Make sure you get enough iron. Iron is used in the body for blood cell production, both in your own body and your developing child’s. Most prenatal supplements contain iron, but as per most nutrients, it is best that you consume iron in a natural form from food rather than a supplement.[15]
    • Foods that contain high levels of iron include red meats, spinach, and iron-fortified whole grains (like certain breads and cereals). Get at least one serving of these iron-filled foods per day.
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    Take a fish oil supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the development of your baby’s brain and eyes.[16] Because omega-3 fatty acids usually come from fish, like tuna, sardines, salmon, and anchovies, you may want to take a fish oil supplement instead of eating fish while you are pregnant to decrease your intake of mercury. You can take up to 300 mg daily.[17]

Avoiding Harmful Foods and BeveragesDownload Article

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    Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a big no-no for pregnant women, as its consumption is responsible for an array of birth defects and complications. Drinking alcohol significantly increases the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, makes it more likely that your child will have developmental disabilities later in life, and puts your baby at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Cut alcohol out of your diet completely while pregnant, to avoid risking these complications. If necessary, seek help from a therapist specialized in drug and alcohol use.[18]
    • If you happened to consume alcohol prior to knowledge of your pregnancy, don’t worry - so long as you cease your drinking habits, it is unlikely you’ll experience alcohol-related complications.
    • Some doctors and women believe that an occasional small glass of wine during pregnancy is okay. Talk to your doctor about this.
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    Cut out caffeine from your diet. Although coffee, tea, and soda may be favorite drinks, if they contain caffeine they can be harmful to your little one. Caffeine consumption while pregnant is linked to higher rates of miscarriage and birth complications.[19]
    • It is best to cut out caffeine from your lifestyle altogether, but some doctors believe up to 200 milligrams (equal to one 10oz cup of coffee) per day is safe.
    • When possible, use caffeine-free or decaffeinated versions of coffee, tea, and soda. Foods that contain caffeine (like chocolate) are fine in moderation, because the levels are so low.
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    Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat. Certain food-borne illnesses, including toxoplasmosis and listeriosis, are often present in undercooked and raw meat. These illnesses can be quite dangerous to a developing child, making it best to avoid the foods that carry them.[20]
    • Avoid eating any shellfish, raw fish (like sushi/sashimi), rare or seared meat, and raw eggs.
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    Cut out mercury-heavy fish. Heavy metals, like mercury and lead, are incredibly damaging to a growing baby and can even cause death in high enough amounts. Some fish have particularly high levels of mercury, making them dangerous for pregnant women to consume. These fish include swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tuna steak, and tilefish. However, fish such as canned tuna, salmon, halibut, and cod are all still safe to consume while pregnant.[21]
    • Keep your consumption of any kind of fish - even the safe kinds - down to once or twice a week while pregnant.
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    Stay away from unpasteurized cheeses. Although a platter of soft cheeses may sound delicious, unpasteurized fresh cheeses can contain bacteria that are responsible for an array of birth complications. As a result, it is best for pregnant women to avoid eating them altogether.[22]
    • Popular unpasteurized fresh cheeses include brie, feta, goat cheese, Camembert, and blue cheese. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Swiss, and Havarti are all safe to consume.

Making Lifestyle ChangesDownload Article

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    Get your immunizations up-to-date before conceiving. If possible, you should see your healthcare provider to get any necessary immunizations before you become pregnant. Make sure your current healthcare provider has access to all your medical records so they can determine if you need any immunizations. If you do, get them as soon as possible.[23]
    • The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and TDaP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis) immunizations should be given before you become pregnant.
    • You can get a flu vaccine while you are pregnant.
    • Speak to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns regarding immunizations.
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    Quit smoking. It’s generally recommended that smoking of any sort be avoided, as it is very damaging to the lungs. This is especially true for pregnant women, because whatever you smoke, your baby smokes as well. Nicotine and tobacco in the blood stream is absorbed by the child, increasing the likelihood of stillbirth, miscarriage, and a low birth weight. Cut out all smoking, including cigarettes, e-cigs, cigars, and marijuana.[24]
    • Some studies have also shown that babies whose mothers’ smoked while pregnant grow up to be chronic smokers themselves.
    • You should also avoid secondhand smoke.
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    Stay away from all illicit drugs. Drugs of any sort - particularly ‘street’ drugs - are incredibly dangerous for a developing child. Recreational drugs almost guarantee your child will suffer from a birth defect or complication, because they have such a significant impact on your body and brain function, and therefore your child’s. Mothers who are addicted to drugs and continue to use them while pregnant can actually pass on their addiction to their child. The newborn baby is then addicted to drugs, and suffers withdrawal symptoms just like an adult does.[25]
    • If you’re a user of recreational drugs or are addicted, check into a rehab program. Ask your doctor for help finding a spot if you are having trouble.
    • Maintain a drug free lifestyle beyond the birth of your child for your own health.
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    Steer clear of hot tubs, saunas, or steam rooms. Raising your body temperature too high can be dangerous for your offspring, as high body temperature is correlated to developmental complications and birth defects. While warm showers and baths are fine, spending extended periods of time in very hot environments can cause serious problems, especially in the first trimester.[26]
    • Avoid any environment where the temperature is above 101 °F (38 °C), and if you absolutely must be in such an environment, limit your time spent there to less than 10 minutes.
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    Avoid environmental toxins. Certain chemicals and toxins are particularly dangerous for pregnant women to come into contact with, even though they may not be for a non-pregnant woman. Cleaning solvents, strong chemicals, heavy metals (like mercury and lead), and some biological agents (like asbestos) are all associated with birth complications and defects.[27]
    • If you work or live in a place where you may come into contact with these toxins, do your best to avoid them at all times. Make lifestyle changes to do so, if necessary, like asking for a different assignment at work.
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    Have someone else clean the litter box frequently, using extra caution. A very dangerous infection known as toxoplasmosis is prevalent in cat litter boxes, and can quickly spread to pregnant women. The illness may have no recognizable symptoms in the mother and will pass to the baby undetected, causing serious brain and eye damage. If you have a litter box, steer clear of it and have a friend or relative take over control of cleaning it regularly.[28]
    • The litter box needs to be cleaned thoroughly at least once a day while you are pregnant.
    • If you have to do it, wear gloves and then thoroughly wash your hands after.

Dealing with Changes in Bodily FunctionsDownload Article

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    Eat small meals to combat nausea and vomiting. Many pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting, especially during their first and second trimesters. Eating small meals frequently can help combat symptoms, as can eating foods that neutralize stomach acid, like bread, potatoes, and apples.[29]
    • Ginger may also help decrease nausea.
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    Exercise regularly and eat fiber to help with constipation. Constipation is common in pregnant women in their second and third trimester due to large amounts of circulating progesterone, which decreases contractility of the GI tract. You can exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, and eat foods containing fiber to help combat constipation while you’re pregnant.
    • Don’t forget to establish regular bathroom breaks as well.
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    Ask your healthcare provider about medication for hemorrhoids. Constipation and straining to have a bowel movement often go hand-in-hand with hemorrhoids. Pregnancy also increases the intravascular pressure in veins below the uterus, which can also lead to hemorrhoids.
    • Speak to your healthcare provider about using a topical anesthetic to shrink swelling and reduce pain due to hemorrhoids.
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    Expect to urinate frequently or have incontinence. Many pregnant women have to dash to the restroom constantly, or find that they aren’t able to hold their bladder as they used to be. To combat these issues, rest often and sleep on your left side to improve kidney function. You can also do kegel exercises to increase your perineal muscle tone.
    • If you experience pain in your bladder or while urinating, speak to your healthcare provider about the possibility of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Taking Care of Yourself EmotionallyDownload Article

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    Handle mood swings. Your hormones will be at a high while you are pregnant. You might feel unnerved when you go from smiling one minute to crying the next. Don’t worry! This is normal. Just try to find healthy ways to cope with these moods swings.
    • Allow yourself to process your emotions. Don’t try to force yourself to smile when you’re upset. It’s okay to let yourself cry for a few minutes!
    • Take a break. If something is upsetting you, walk away. You can walk around the block or flip through a magazine until you feel better.
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    Know the signs of depression. Many women experience depression during pregnancy. Watch for symptoms such as anxiety, persistent irritability, or the inability to sleep. Check with your healthcare provider if you notice these symptoms. They can offer advice or refer you to a mental health specialist. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
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    Practice self-care. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for having mood swings or feeling tired. Instead, allow yourself to relax. Make time each day for something you enjoy, such as watching an episode of your favorite show or reading a book.[30]
    • Indulge in a nap when you need to.
    • Try to get rid of negative thoughts. For example, if you’re concerned about body image, remind yourself that your body is doing exactly what it should!
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    Find a support system. You’re going to be going through a lot of changes, both physically and emotionally. It’s important that you have other people that can help support you. Don’t be afraid to lean on your family, friends, and partner.[31]
    • Have lunch with a friend. You can talk about any anxiety that you are feeling, or just relax and gossip!
    • Ask your partner to take over more of the household duties. If you generally cook, ask them to make dinner a few times a week.
    • If someone offers to help you, let them!