If you know you are pregnant, or think you might be, call your doctor as soon as possible and set up a visit. You will need to visit your doctor many times during your pregnancy. Follow your doctor’s schedule for visits and don’t miss them!
You will notice your body is changing in many ways. These changes may be strange at first, but they are all normal. Try to stay as healthy as you can — for you and your new baby!
Steps you can take:
- Stop smoking, drinking alcohol, and doing drugs. These can cause long-term damage to your baby. Ask your doctor for help.
- Eat healthy foods. This includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods. You need 1000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. (If you are a teen, you need at least 1300 mg of calcium each day.) Avoid eating a lot of fatty foods such as butter and fatty meats. Choose foods lower in fat, like chicken and turkey (without the skin) and fish. Check with your doctor to find out how much weight gain during pregnancy is healthy for you.
- Don’t eat uncooked or undercooked meats or fish. Do not eat any shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (also called golden or white snapper) because these fish have high levels of mercury. Do not eat more than 6 ounces of “white” or “albacore” tuna or tuna steak each week.
- Limit caffeine from coffee, tea, sodas, medicines, and chocolate.
- Drink water. Water helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, excessive swelling, and urinary tract or bladder infections. Aim for eight cups of fluids each day. If you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) or more of colorless or slightly yellow urine a day, your fluid intake is probably good.
- Take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. This will help prevent certain types of birth defects. Your doctor may prescribe a daily vitamin that has it, or you can buy folic acid pills. Eat foods high in folic acid like orange juice, leafy green vegetables, beans, peanuts, peas, and whole-grain products.
- Tell your doctor about all of the medicines you take. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines you buy without prescriptions, and herbals. Ask if they are safe to take while you are pregnant. Most of the time, the medicine a pregnant woman is taking does not affect her baby. But sometimes it can, causing damage or birth defects. Talk with your doctor about which drugs and supplements are safe.
- Stay active. Being physically active during pregnancy helps you in many ways. It prevents a lot of extra weight gain. It helps you have good posture, which will help you feel better later in your pregnancy. It can help you sleep better and have a shorter, easier labor. If you were physically active before getting pregnant, you can keep doing mild-to-moderate activity, like low-impact aerobic dance, swimming, or walking. If you were not physically active before getting pregnant, you still can become active, but start slowly. Try walking at first, then build up to more. Mild stretching, easy yoga poses, and weight training on exercise machines is okay. Talk to your doctor about which activities are good for you.
- Take care of your teeth and gums. If you are pregnant and have not had regular checkups, have a complete oral exam early in your pregnancy. Because you are pregnant, you might not receive routine x-rays. But if you must have x-rays for a dental problem needing treatment, the health risk to your unborn baby is small. Pregnant women may have changes in taste and develop red, swollen gums that bleed easily. This condition is called pregnancy gingivitis. It can be caused by both poor oral hygiene and higher hormone levels during pregnancy. So remember to brush and floss regularly!
- Avoid toxic chemicals. These include paint, paint thinners, cleaning products, and those used to kill bugs or that contain lead or mercury. Read the product label to see if it has a pregnancy warning.
- Avoid hot tubs, saunas, and unnecessary x-rays. Be sure to tell your doctor that you are pregnant if you need an x-ray. The doctor or nurse will recommend whether the x-ray is necessary.
- Avoid changing cat litter. It can carry and cause an infection that can cause birth defects. Wear gloves when gardening in areas cats may visit.
- Clean, handle, cook, and chill food properly to prevent food-borne illness.
- Get enough sleep. Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
- Control the stress in your life. Don’t be afraid to say no to requests for your time and energy.
- Buckle up. Wearing a seat belt during car and air travel is safe while pregnant. The lap strap should go under your belly and across your hips. The shoulder strap should go between your breasts and to the side of your belly. Make sure it fits snugly.
- Learn all you can. Read books, watch videos, go to a child- birth class, and talk with other moms.
For more information about pregnancy or women’s health, please visit www.womenshealth.gov.