Pregnancy do's and don'ts
Follow these tips for a healthy pregnancy
You’re pregnant and, soon, you’ll have a tiny baby to watch grow for years to come. But before your baby arrives, you’ll want to provide him or her with the safest, healthiest environment possible in which he or she can grow and develop.
Now that you’re growing another human (whoa!), you probably have a lot of questions and worries: What can I eat? Which foods should I avoid? Can I exercise? Will sex hurt the baby? How much weight should I gain?
While you can’t prevent every possible complication, here’s a list of what to do and what to avoid during pregnancy to help reduce pregnancy complications and keep your baby healthy.
What to do during pregnancy
Following these tips can help keep you and baby as healthy as possible.
- Take a prenatal vitamin. Prenatal vitamins have higher doses of nutrients that moms-to-be need, such as folic acid, calcium, iron and vitamin D, which aid in your baby’s development. Not all prenatal vitamins contain omega-3 fatty acids (which help baby’s brain development), but your doctor may recommend you take a supplement.
Not sure which one to take? Your doctor can help you find a vitamin that’s right for you.
- Exercise. Exercise is good (and safe) for you and baby. It can help combat insomnia, muscle pain and keep weight gain under control. If you exercised regularly before getting pregnant, you can continue, but make sure you talk to your doctor about modifications you may need to make. If you’re just getting started, talk to your doctor first.
- Get plenty of sleep. Your body is going through a lot of changes during pregnancy and you may find yourself extra tired. Try to get seven to nine of hours of sleep each night – and if you’re tired, take a nap (when you can).
- Have sex. Having sex with your partner is completely safe up until your water breaks (unless you have complications). If you have questions, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor.
- Get a flu shot. Getting the flu while pregnant can cause severe illness and raise your risk of complications, so you should get a flu shot if you’re able. The influenza vaccine will help protect you and baby.
- Stay hydrated. It may be hard if you’re struggling with morning sickness, but it’s important to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent headaches, kidney stones, constipation and hemorrhoids.
- Eat healthy foods. Fuel your body with healthy, nutritious food. Eating a variety of foods throughout your pregnancy helps you and baby get the vitamins and nutrients you both need to stay healthy. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, and make sure you eat foods that give you enough protein and calcium.
Seafood is healthy for you and baby (omega-3s!); however, raw or undercooked seafood can cause some serious issues. You should also avoid eating fish that contain high levels of mercury. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
- Visit your dentist. Moms-to-be should have an oral exam and visit their dentist for regular cleanings while pregnant. Make sure you tell your dentist that you’re pregnant.
What to avoid during pregnancy
Here’s what you should avoid during pregnancy to help keep you and baby safe and healthy.
- Eating for two. This old saying isn’t necessarily true. You do need to up your caloric intake slightly (talk to your doc about what’s right for you), but you don’t need to double your calories. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can do more harm to your baby than good.
And don’t get down on yourself if you’ve gained too much (or not enough) – your doctor can help you get back on track.
- Smoking. Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby. Babies born to mothers who smoke are more likely to have a lower birth weight and are at a higher risk for learning disabilities.
If you smoke, there’s no better time to quit. Your doctor can help you.
- Drinking alcohol. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can impact your baby’s development and may cause him or her to be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Even small amounts of alcohol can be an issue, so it’s suggested that you avoid it altogether.
If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor right away.
- Relaxing in a hot tub or sauna. The high temperature of hot tubs and saunas can be dangerous for your growing baby, including an increased risk of birth defects. In your first trimester, it may even double your risk of miscarriage.
- Eating unpasteurized milk products. Raw milk is not recommended for pregnant women because it’s unpasteurized, or it hasn’t been heated to kill bacteria that can make you sick. Products made with unpasteurized milk could contain listeria, which can lead to severe, life-threatening illness or miscarriage.
This includes soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Check your food labels for pasteurized milk – those foods are safe to eat!
- Eating raw meat or deli meat. Consuming raw and undercooked meat (and eggs) may lead to serious, life-threatening illness during pregnancy that could cause severe birth defects and miscarriage. Make sure all meat and eggs are fully cooked.
Deli meats, including hot dogs, sausages and other cured meats, may cause foodborne illness. Making sure these processed meats are fully cooked can help reduce your risk.
- Having too much caffeine. Caffeine can cross the placenta and increase your baby’s heart rate. Research suggests that you can safely consume a cup or two of coffee each day (about 200mg per day), but don’t overdo it. Caffeine can dehydrate you and large amounts of it may be associated with low birth weight and miscarriage.
- Cleaning the litter box. It’s okay to pet your kitty, but don’t clean his litter box. Your cat’s waste is full of bacteria and parasites, especially Toxoplasma gondii, which can be dangerous for you and baby – potentially leading to miscarriage or stillbirth.
For now, get help from your family or partner – or invest in a self-cleaning litter box.
Bonus do: Hang in there, mama
Growing a tiny human is a big job – but don’t worry, you’ve got this! The pregnancy do’s and don’ts may seem daunting at first, but it’ll all be worth it once you have your baby in your arms.
Remember: take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor with any questions – they’re here to support you.