Your health is always important, but taking care of yourself emotionally and physically gets trickier when you’re expecting. Knowing you’re taking the right steps can give you confidence during this exciting—and sometimes stressful—time.
Eating healthy foods can help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby. These tips can help you get the nutrients you and your growing baby need:
- Eat balanced meals that include foods high in folate, such as orange juice, spinach, and strawberries. This B vitamin can help prevent certain birth defects. Pregnant women also need extra iron. Red meat, oatmeal, and beans are good sources.
- Drink at least 10 cups of liquid daily, but avoid alcohol and limit caffeine to 200 milligrams a day—about the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee.
- Stick with fish low in mercury, like shrimp, salmon, catfish, and canned light (not white) tuna. Don’t eat more than 12 ounces of fish in a week, and avoid raw or undercooked fish.
- Stay away from soft cheeses, such as feta and Brie, and unpasteurized milk and juice. Also avoid hot dogs and deli meats.
“Remember, eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much,” says Charna Coren, M.D., obstetrician at Holy Redeemer. “Most women need only 300 extra calories a day during the last six months of pregnancy—the amount in a cup of fat-free yogurt and an apple.”
Staying active during pregnancy can ease discomfort, prepare you for labor and delivery, lower your risk for pregnancy complications, improve sleep, and boost mood and energy levels.
“Regular exercise can also keep prenatal weight gain in check,” says Jennifer L. Axe, M.D., obstetrician at Holy Redeemer. “Women at a healthy weight should aim to gain 25 to 35 pounds—most of it in the last three months of pregnancy.”
When exercising, choose moderate activities with a low risk for injury, like walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, and stationary biking.
Avoid doing exercises or stretches that require you to lie on your back. This can restrict blood flow to the baby. Remember to drink water and take frequent breaks. If you feel dizzy, short of breath, experience back pain, or just don’t feel well, stop exercising.
Talk with your doctor about any over-the-counter, herbal, or prescription medications, and any nutritional supplements you are taking. Women with chronic health problems, like asthma or high blood pressure, may need to change medications—ideally before becoming pregnant. Never start or stop a medication without checking with your doctor first.
“You may have begun taking a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid before becoming pregnant—folic acid helps prevent birth defects that can occur before you know you’re pregnant—but it’s not too late to start if you didn’t,” says Dr. Coren. “Taking a prenatal vitamin can still help; ask your doctor to recommend one.”
Do not take ibuprofen or naproxen before talking with your doctor. They may increase the risk for miscarriage or birth defects and can cause serious blood flow problems in you and your baby, especially in the third trimester.
Along with physical changes, you may experience mood swings. And though you’re the one carrying the baby, your partner may be feeling pressure, too. “Worries about new family responsibilities, financial issues, and being a good parent are common,” says Dr. Axe.
Try these strategies to help alleviate emotional ups and downs and keep your relationship strong:
- Take care of yourselves by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising together.
- Share your hopes and plans for the baby.
- Maintain your intimate relationship.
- Include your partner in childbirth education classes and doctor visits.
If you’re pregnant and looking for an obstetrician (OB), Holy Redeemer has many board certified OBs in various locations to serve your needs.
For more information, call 1-800-818-4747 or visit holyredeemer.com/ob.