Five Steps for a Healthy Pregnancy

When you're pregnant, it's easy to worry about everything. Take these five key steps to help protect your baby and stop worrying.

These steps help lower your chances of:

  • Miscarriage
  • Premature delivery
  • Birth defects
  • Other problems

Eat well

Your growing baby has only one source of nutrition: you.

  • The foods you eat today will help form his or her brain, heart or toes.
  • This is not the time to go on a weight-loss diet.

Each day you should get at least:

  • Three servings of fruit
  • Four servings of vegetables
  • Six to nine servings of whole grains or cereal
  • Four or more servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy products

Take extra precautions at mealtime:

  • Make sure all meats and fish are fully cooked.
  • Don't eat fish that contain high levels of mercury, including:
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel
  • Tuna steaks

Take your supplements

No matter how careful you are at the dinner table, it's likely you still won't get enough of two key nutrients: folic acid and iron.

You should get 800 micrograms of folic acid every day. Not getting enough folic acid raises your baby's chance of being born with birth defects.

You should get about 20 to 27 milligrams of iron every day. Iron in your bloodstream helps carry oxygen to your placenta, which feeds your baby. If you don't have the right amount of iron, you can become anemic, increasing the chance that your baby will be born prematurely or underweight.

To help you get the right amount of these key nutrients every day:

  • Start taking iron supplements after talking with your doctor about it at your first prenatal visit.
  • Look for a good prenatal vitamin that has both folic acid and iron.
  • Get more calcium as well to avoid bone loss.

Don't smoke or drink alcohol

Growing babies can't cope with cigarettes and drinking.

  • The more you smoke, the more you limit your baby's oxygen flow and raise your chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, low birth weight and other problems.
  • It's a good idea to avoid secondhand smoke as well.
  • Drinking can permanently harm your baby's brain.
  • Federal experts say there's NO safe level of alcohol that you can drink during pregnancy.

If you're having trouble giving up smoking or drinking, ask your doctor for help.

Take your medicine - carefully

The medicine cabinet isn't off limits just because you're pregnant.

  • If you have a major health problem such as high blood pressure or diabetes, your medicine may be key to keeping you healthy.
  • Your doctor may change your prescription or dosage to lower any risks to your baby.
  • Aspirin and ibuprofen may raise your chances of miscarriage, but acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is known to be safe during most pregnancies.
  • You should also check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter (OTC) supplements or drugs such as pain relievers or allergy medicine.

Get prenatal care

Ideally, you should start getting prenatal care even before you become pregnant.

  • If you plan to get pregnant, your doctor can check your overall health, make sure your shots are current and help get you off to a good start.
  • Once you know you're pregnant, plan to meet with your doctor right away.
  • You'll need to see your doctor a few times throughout the pregnancy; more often if you have a high-risk pregnancy .
  • Prenatal visits can help you avoid a premature birth and other problems.

Ask your doctor about what extra things you should do to stay healthy for your baby. You might not be able to stop worrying all together, but you can know you're doing your best.

[references] Copyright © 2010 LimeHealth

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