Becoming a mother is one of the most exciting adventures in a woman's life. Before you make this decision however, there are things that you can do now to give your future baby a healthy start.
Before you get pregnant:
A healthy pregnancy begins before you get pregnant or even think about becoming a mother. Even if you have already had a baby and are considering having another one, you can still benefit from some basic pre-pregnancy planning.
Why does preconception health matter? Since about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, being as healthy as possible before becoming pregnant can help you prevent problems that might affect you or your baby later. To boost your preconception health, here are five important actions you can take:
- Take 400 micrograms (400 mcg) of folic acid every day for at least three months before getting pregnant. In addition, eat a diet of fortified cereal, dried beans, leafy green vegetables, and orange juice. This will lower your risk of birth defects for your baby.
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
- If you have a medical condition, make sure it is under control since some conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, or epilepsy can be problematic in a pregnancy.
- Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter or prescription medicine you take, including dietary or herbal supplements.
- Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials that can cause infection.
During your pregnancy:
Once you are pregnant, your first step will be to make an appointment with your health care provider to begin your prenatal care. All women need prenatal care. Women who receive prenatal care have healthier babies, are less likely to deliver early, and have fewer other problems related to pregnancy.
You can choose either a doctor or a midwife to take care of you during your pregnancy and to deliver your baby. An obstetrician is a doctor who is experienced in pregnancy, childbirth, and recuperation from delivery. A family practice doctor also has these skills. Many women choose certified nurse-midwives to provide their care. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you may want to choose a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
Healthy eating becomes even more important now that you are pregnant. You need to eat about 300 extra calories a day to support your baby's growth. Make those calories healthy by eating from each food group every day so that you get the important nutrients you and your baby need.
In addition to eating healthy, exercise is very important for pregnant women. Above all the benefits normally seen as a result of being physically active, exercise has added benefits for pregnant women. It builds the stamina needed for labor and delivery as well as helps to prevent the development of gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that sometimes develops during pregnancy. Exercise also helps after the baby is born by keeping the "baby blues" at bay, losing the weight that has been gained, and regaining energy. Low-impact activities such as walking swimming, dancing, and cycling are some examples of activities that will help you to be physically active at this time of your life. Choose what works for you.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time. You may feel a lot of different emotions. This is normal. Dealing with stress effectively is important throughout your pregnancy. In addition to eating healthy and exercising, be sure to rest when you can and when your body needs it. Relax in ways that ease the stress you are feeling. If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone who can help you with whatever is stressful to you. Managing your stress at this time in your life helps you and your baby.
How We Can Help:
Health Plus sponsors a prenatal education program: Babies & You
Healthfinder.gov: Have a Healthy Pregnancy
Keywords: Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby, Midwife, OB, Exercise in Pregnancy, Stress in Pregnancy, Before Becoming Pregnant, High Risk Pregnancy