Your guide to a healthy pregnancy
Congratulations on your pregnancy! In this article, we highlight important tips to keep both you and your baby healthy during this time. We also created a FREE pregnancy checklist to make things a little easier for you. You can print and hang on your bathroom mirror or stick on your fridge to help you stay prepared throughout this journey. Click here to grab the checklist!
Now let’s dive into each tip…
Healthcare tips for a healthy pregnancy
Get prenatal care early on and regularly
Prenatal care is important both for your health and to have a healthy baby in the womb. Choose a healthcare provider who can provide prenatal care as well as delivery and postpartum services, and discuss a plan for your various prenatal visits and tests. No need to worry about the costs either, as Affordable Care Act health insurance plans cover prenatal visits, along with other services for pregnant women.
Ask before medicating
Even the over-the-counter medicines you’ve taken your entire adult life may not be safe during pregnancy. So talk with your doctor about which medications are safe to take and which ones you should discuss alternatives for. This includes any vitamins and herbal supplements besides prenatal vitamins.
Discuss genetic testing
Science has advanced so that certain genetic disorders can now be screened during pregnancy. You can request a screening test, which shows whether there is a chance for certain genetic disorders, or a diagnostic test, which shows whether the baby has a certain disorder. Whether or not to get tests is your choice, dependent on your personal beliefs and values, though discussing the options with your doctors may help you with your decision.
Talk about your mental health
While postpartum depression is the most widely known pregnancy-related mental health issue, depression and other mental health issues may also arise during pregnancy. Discuss your mental health with your healthcare provider to make sure you get well-rounded care during and after your pregnancy. This is especially important if you have mental illnesses you’re already aware of or a family history of them.
Have additional discussions if you’re older than 35
These days more women over the age of 35 are getting pregnant. It’s especially important for older mothers to get prenatal care early on and regularly, as there are some health risks to both the mother and the baby. In addition to following all other tips for a healthy pregnancy, expectant mothers over the age of 35 can reduce the risk of a problematic pregnancy via more frequent check-ups to monitor things such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. These issues are more common for older mothers.
Food tips for a healthy pregnancy
Eat a balanced diet
A balanced diet is key at all times of life, and it’s especially important during pregnancy to plan healthy meals that include the main food groups of protein, grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy. Healthy pregnancy foods include legumes, which are full of iron, protein, folate, and calcium; salmon, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial for your baby’s development, and dark, leafy greens, which contain folate, iron, and calcium. Avoid foods such as raw or undercooked meat, shellfish, and eggs.
Eating a balanced diet also means moderation, and besides having a healthy pregnancy eating plan, it’s important to avoid overeating while pregnant. You may be eating for two, but it’s not for two adults. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the average woman with a normal body mass index (BMI) pre-pregnancy only needs 300 extra calories a day (600 for twins).
Take prenatal vitamins
Most pregnant women can’t get all the vitamins and minerals they need from food directly, so taking prenatal vitamins can help cover any gaps in your diet. The most important ones are folic acid and iron. The former helps prevent neural tube birth defects, while the latter helps blood carry oxygen to both you and the baby. In fact, most doctors recommend starting prenatal vitamins as soon as you start trying to conceive. Doing so not only makes sure you and your baby have the necessary vitamins from the start, it could also lessen morning sickness.
Lifestyle tips for a healthy pregnancy
Gain a healthy amount of weight
Weight gain during pregnancy is normal and healthy, with the bulk of it concentrated in the second and third trimesters. The exact amount depends on your health and pre-pregnancy BMI and should be discussed with your doctor.
Cut out alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
All three can significantly complicate your pregnancy and negatively impact the health of your baby, which includes causing birth defects.
Stay physically active during pregnancy
Exercise is a crucial addition to eating healthy during pregnancy. Regular exercise in moderation is recommended for most expectant mothers, though moderation is different for each person, depending on your previous physical activity levels. The CDC recommends 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, but talking to your doctor is the best idea to understand what is best for your health and that of your pregnancy.
Low-impact sports such as swimming and stationary bikes are recommended, while activities that involve physical contact (basketball, softball, etc.) or put pressure on the abdominals should be avoided.
Travel if you want
Traveling is safe for most women until they’re 36 weeks pregnant, granted that both the mother and baby are healthy. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently advises pregnant women to avoid areas with ongoing Zika outbreaks, as it’s been linked to serious birth defects.
Talk about sex during pregnancy
Sex is okay during pregnancy! Unless there are pregnancy complications, sex doesn’t hurt the baby. Safe sex is still advised though, as you can still get STIs, which could complicate your pregnancy or be transmitted to your baby.
Pregnancy also brings physical, hormonal, and emotional changes, so it’s important to discuss with your partner about your sexual needs as your progress through your pregnancy.
Tips for a successful delivery
Discuss what type of delivery you want
While vaginal delivery is the most common type of childbirth, it’s important to discuss what you want and what is medically necessary. Consider the pros and cons of a vaginal delivery versus a cesarean section.
Have a birth plan
A lot goes on during labor and delivery, so make your wishes clear by writing up a birth plan ahead of time. This will cover things such as how you want to manage pain during labor, who you want in the delivery room with you, and who you want to cut the umbilical cord. Review your plan with your doctor as well as those who will be there supporting you. And remember to stay flexible as some aspects of your birth plan may need to change due to hospital policies or medical needs.
As you get closer to your due date, it is also a good idea to make a list of things to bring to the hospital and even pack a bag in advance.