Healthy Pregnancy Guide

Patient Education Materials

Pregnancy and Childbirth

Healthy Pregnancy Guide

As an expectant mother, you want your baby to be healthy. Remember that much of what you eat, drink, and breathe is passed along to your baby. Some things are good, and others can be harmful. Your baby receives food and oxygen through the placenta (the special tissue that joins the mother and her baby). This is why you need to make healthy choices.

See your doctor

It is important to make an appointment with your doctor when you become pregnant. He or she will monitor your health and your baby’s health during your pregnancy. If you don’t have a doctor, choose one. He or she will want to see you regularly during your pregnancy. Be sure to make appointments as often as your doctor tells you. Keep all of these appointments. They are sometimes called pre-natal (pree-NAY-tul) appointments. “Pre-natal” means “before the birth.”

Importance of Your Dental Health

Your dental health also is important. Schedule an appointment with your dentist for a checkup during your pregnancy.

Educate yourself

If this is your first pregnancy, it’s a good idea to attend pre-natal classes. Pre-natal classes include information on healthy behaviors during pregnancy, preparing for labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and caring for your baby. Refresher classes are offered to women who’ve been pregnant before.

Follow a healthy diet

During pregnancy, most women need to eat more healthy food to help the baby grow. After the first 3 months, most women must take in more calories than usual to reach the recommended amount of weight gain during pregnancy (usually 25 to 35 pounds). It is not a good idea to lose weight while you are pregnant. Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about how much weight you should gain. A healthy diet and careful weight gain can prevent high blood pressure and other problems during pregnancy.

Ask your doctor or nurse about using sugar substitutes like aspartame (NutraSweet) or saccharine, caffeine, and other foods with many additives. You may be told to avoid these foods or cut down on how much of them you have.

Try to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day. Limit the amount of soda you drink to 1 or 2 glasses each day. Caffeine-free drinks are best. For more information about nutrition, visit our Nutrition During Pregnancy patient education page.

Ask your doctor about traveling

For the most part, any kind of travel you feel comfortable with is allowed. However, some doctors advise against air travel. Discuss any travel plans with your doctor.

Wear a seat belt

A lot of women wonder if it is still safe to wear a seat belt during pregnancy. In fact, it is very important to buckle up during this time. You just need to make small adjustments in how you wear the seat belt. Sit tall and place the lap belt as low as possible on your hips, under the baby. Wear the shoulder harness, too. It gives you and the baby important added protection.

Most activities are OK

Pregnancy should be seen as a normal state, not as an illness. Almost any activity, done in moderation, is OK. You need to get about the same amount of exercise while you are pregnant as you did before your pregnancy. Ask your doctor if you are not sure if an activity is OK for you.

Exercise can help you feel better

Many pregnant women feel better and have more energy when they exercise. Walking, swimming, low-impact aerobics, and stretching are safe during pregnancy. But check with your doctor before you start any new activity. Ask a member of your care team if the hospital where you plan to deliver your baby offers any pre-natal exercise programs.

Don’t smoke

Smoking is a proven danger to your health, and it increases the chances of miscarriage and stillbirth. Babies of mothers who smoke have a higher chance of being born too early. Research shows that babies exposed to smoke are twice as likely to die from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Avoid second-hand smoke

Second-hand smoke is bad for you and your baby. Even if you don’t smoke, cigarette smoke from others increases your risk for pregnancy complications, lung problems, cancer, heart attack, and stroke. Babies and children exposed to second-hand smoke can suffer from colds, coughs, bronchitis, asthma, ear infections, colic, and even SIDS. Protect yourself and your baby from second-hand smoke. Don’t allow others to smoke around you.

Don’t drink alcohol

No amount of alcohol is known to be safe during pregnancy. Most doctors and nurses tell their patients not to drink any alcohol during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). FAS is the term for a group of mental and physical defects, such as intellectual disability, heart problems, and cleft palate. Children with FAS can suffer lifelong illnesses because of their mother’s use of alcohol during her pregnancy.

Some medicines are dangerous

Any medicine you take can affect your baby. It is very important that your doctor know about every medicine (over-the-counter or prescribed) you take while you are pregnant. Some medicines can harm your baby. Do not take any medicines unless your doctor says it is OK.

If you do drugs, get help

If you abuse drugs, you are taking a chance with your health and your baby’s health. Babies born to mothers who use street drugs often are born too early. They can have many physical problems, as well as behavioral problems, such as hyperactivity. Help is available to you. Talk to your doctor about drug counseling.

If you have questions, ask your doctor

Like many expectant mothers, you will probably have many questions about your pregnancy. Read all of the materials your doctor gives you. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor or nurse.