15 Tips for a Safe and Healthy Pregnancy

By Myrah M.

Pregnancy can be an exciting journey, but it can also be anxiety-provoking. It just seems that there’s too much information to process in a short span of time! And we get that. So here are the top 15 tips to keep you safe and healthy throughout your 40-week pregnancy journey.

  • See your practitioner.
    • As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, call your practitioner to schedule your first prenatal appointment. The first visit will usually be scheduled around the 8th to 10th week of pregnancy. You can certainly go much earlier if you choose. The purpose of this visit is to confirm your pregnancy and conduct the initial assessment.
    • During your first prenatal visit, your doctor, nurse, or midwife will ask you many questions. You will be asked about your family and medical history as well as the date of the first day of your last menstrual period. They use this date to estimate how far along you are in your pregnancy and the expected due date.
    • You may also have a pelvic examination during this visit and some urine and blood tests (you may be tested for sexually transmitted infections). If you have any questions about your pregnancy, this is a good time to ask your provider. It would help to write those down before your appointment so you won’t miss a thing.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Eating for two is a myth that has been busted years ago. While gaining weight during pregnancy helps your baby grow to a healthy size, overdoing it can do more harm than good.
    • According to experts, gaining too much weight during pregnancy puts you at risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. The risk for health problems is higher if you’re already overweight or obese when you got pregnant. Overweight or obese pregnant women are also more likely to undergo cesarean birth.
    • How much weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your Body Mass Index (BMI). You can use this calculator to compute your BMI. You can use this chart as a guide for healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Stay active but don’t overdo it.
    • If you’re having a low-risk pregnancy and received the “go” signal from your provider, you can exercise throughout your pregnancy. In fact, experts recommend healthy women stay active during pregnancy.
    • Regular exercise during pregnancy provides you and your baby with several benefits, including reducing your risk of gestational diabetes, maintaining a normal weight, reducing your risk of pre-eclampsia, easing back pain, preventing constipation, and improving your overall health.
    • It is recommended that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week. Moderate intensity means you are raising your heart rate and starting to sweat, but you can still talk normally without losing breath.
    • If you haven’t exercised before, it’s advisable to start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your physical activity. And if you are in your second trimester or more, consider using a home fetal doppler to monitor your baby’s heartbeat.
    • If you were active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the exercises you’ve been doing before with your provider’s approval. There are certain exercises you may have to modify as you go further along. Check with your healthcare provider to make sure you are exercising safely.
  • Eat nutrient-dense food.
    • Eating healthy during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do to support the growth of your baby and to meet the extra demands of your body.
    • When you are pregnant, there are certain nutrients you need more. This includes folic acid, choline, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. While you can meet most of your nutritional needs through eating right, some essential nutrients are difficult to obtain from food alone. To make sure that all your nutritional needs are met, providers prescribe prenatal vitamins. Please remember that these vitamins are meant to supplement and not replace the need for healthy food.
    • You can speak with your provider about the kind of prenatal vitamins to take and how frequently you should take them.
  • Watch what you eat.
    • Pregnancy can be a ‘delicate’ phase. There are certain foods you might have eaten before pregnancy that you should avoid at this time.
    • Some of the foods to avoid include:
      • Soft cheeses, as they may contain listeria, a type of bacteria that can be harmful to your baby
      • Raw or partially cooked eggs as they can put you at risk of salmonella infection
      • Raw or undercooked meat as it can put you at risk of toxoplasmosis (an infection caused by a parasite)
      • Liver products as they may contain a lot of vitamin A that can hurt your baby
    • It’s also advisable to limit the intake of certain fish as some contain higher levels of mercury which can affect your baby’s developing nervous system. Some of these fish include broadbill, marlin, tuna, and swordfish.
  • Consult your provider before taking any over the counter (OTC) medicine.
    • Have a headache? Make sure the OTC drug you’re taking is safe for pregnant women.
    • Like food, there are some OTC drugs that can pose risks to the developing fetus at different stages of pregnancy. Of all commonly used OTC drugs, acetaminophen, most antacids, pectic preparation, and kaolin are generally safe to use by pregnant women. Some drugs like histamine H2-receptor blockers and pseudoephedrine should be used with caution. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are generally not recommended during pregnancy, especially during organogenesis (a period of embryonic development) and third trimester.
    • If you’re unsure whether or not the OTC you’re about to take is safe, it’s best to give your provider a call.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Hydration is important for general health, but it is emphasized more during pregnancy. Sufficient hydration is needed to support fetal circulation, amniotic fluid, and higher blood volume. Drinking enough water also helps prevent constipation, a common complaint among pregnant women.
    • As to how much you should drink varies. Generally, pregnant women are recommended to drink 8 to 12 cups of water each day. Of course, you may have to increase your water intake when you’re working out or when it’s hot outside. If you’re struggling to drink plain water, adding slices of lime or lemon can help. You may also consider increasing your intake of ‘watery’ fruits and vegetables such as watermelon and cucumber.
  • Be smart with what you drink.
    • You may have read that it’s still okay to drink coffee when you’re pregnant. However, a recent study shows that pregnant women who consumed as little as half a cup of coffee a day on average have slightly smaller babies compared to those who did not consume any caffeinated beverages. Researchers suggest that until more is learned about caffeine’s effects on pregnancy, it would be best to skip caffeinated beverages.
    • As with caffeine, there’s no safe amount of alcohol to use during pregnancy. All types of alcohol, whether it’s beer or wine, are equally harmful to the growing baby. Alcohol use during pregnancy is associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, and a number of physical, intellectual, and behavioral disabilities.
  • Quit smoking.
    • There is not a single benefit of smoking during pregnancy. In fact, it increases your and your baby’s risk of serious health issues.
    • Smoking slows down your baby’s growth, increases risk of premature birth, increases the risk of damage to the baby’s developing lungs, increases your risk of abnormal bleeding during pregnancy and delivery, and increases your baby’s risk for birth defects. Although the best time to quit smoking is before you get pregnant, quitting during pregnancy (especially if you have an unexpected one) increases your baby’s chance of having a better start on life.
  • Get enough sleep.
    • During the first trimester, you may feel drowsier than usual because of the spike of the hormone progesterone. While some women don’t experience any sleep issues at this point, some do because of morning sickness, which doesn’t just occur in the mornings.
    • By the second and third trimesters, falling and staying asleep can be an issue because of aches and pains, frequent bathroom trips, and the growing belly. But don’t let these things keep you from getting your much-needed sleep. Pregnant women who are deprived of sleep are at higher risk of having longer labor, having a cesarian section, and having postpartum depression.
    • Lifestyle changes can help in getting a good night’s sleep. This includes limiting screen time close to your bedtime, investing in supportive pillows, and practicing meditation.
  • Stay cool.
    • Staying cool during pregnancy can be viewed in two ways–one is learning how to manage stress and the other is keeping your body from overheating.
    • Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Hormonal and physical changes and uncertainties for the future are just some triggers that can lead to lack of sleep and racing thoughts.
    • There are different ways to manage stress during pregnancy. You can try meditation, adapting to a healthier lifestyle, and seeking therapy. It’s also important to remember that there are only certain things we have control of and it’s okay. You can focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t.
    • If getting a fetal heart monitor at home puts your mind at ease, then do that. If you have medical concerns, calling or messaging your provider is the way to go.
    • Aside from staying cool mentally, it’s also important to keep your body cool during pregnancy. Wear breathable clothes, stay in shade, especially during summer, always bring a water bottle with you to stay hydrated, and avoid saunas and hot baths.
    • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend women get overheated in hot tubs. They added that pregnant women should never let their core body temperature raise above 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Research shows that this can lead to birth defects, especially during the first trimester.
  • Wear sunscreen.
    • Many women notice changes to their skin during pregnancy. This includes melasma, which are brown patches on the face, and dark spots. Some of these changes are brought on by hormonal changes while other reasons are still unknown.
    • Some of the dark spots and brown patches go away on their own after giving birth. However, some women experience them for years before they go away.
    • Wearing sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat when going out is one of the best ways to prevent melasma and dark spots from getting worse.
    • As to the type of sunscreen to use, it’s safer to use physical instead of chemical sunscreen.
    • Chemical sunscreen usually contains oxybenzone, an organic compound that turns UV rays into heat. In a study published in Reproductive Toxicology, it showed that women with high levels of oxybenzone in their urine were associated with neonates born with Hirschsprung’s Disease (HSCR). HSC is a rare disease (affecting 1 in 5,000 children) that affects the infant’s large intestine.
  • Wear your seatbelt.
    • Never ever drive or ride in a car without buckling up. Buckling up is the single most effective way to protect yourself and your unborn child in case of a crash.
    • When wearing your seatbelt, make sure you’re wearing both the shoulder belt and the lap belt. The shoulder belt should be worn away from your neck, but not on your shoulder. Your lap belt, on the other hand, should be secured below your belly so that it fits snugly across your hips and pelvic bone.
  • If you have a cat, have someone else change the cat litter.
    • You don’t have to avoid your cat if you are pregnant. The only thing experts warn about is the danger of toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite that can be found in cat feces. You can get infected unintentionally if you touch your mouth after changing the cat litter.
    • If you are infected with toxoplasma when pregnant, you can pass the infection to the baby. Most infants do not show symptoms at birth, but they can have serious health issues later in life, from blindness to mental disability.
    • If you have a cat who goes outside and eats prey, it’s best to have someone else do the daily cleaning of the litter box as your risk is high. And even if you have an indoor cat, it’s still safer to have someone take over the changing and cleaning of the cat litter.
  • See your dentist.
    • Pregnancy can increase the risk of oral health issues to women such as gum disease and cavities. This can be brought about and aggravated by hormonal changes and eating habits.
    • Research suggests that some prenatal oral conditions can have health consequences on the unborn child. Periodontitis (severe gum infection), for instance, is linked with preterm birth, low birth weight, and increased risk of dental caries in infants.
    • See your dentist and have your gums and teeth checked. It also helps to practice good oral health habits such as regular brushing and flossing and eating healthy.

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