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Barton Women's Health

Beautiful Beginnings: Start Your Pregnancy Off Right

Are you considering having a baby or did you just find out you’re expecting? Now more than ever, it’s time to start paying attention to your health. Preparing your body can help you conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. Here's how.

Eat Right
For good health, eat foods from all five food groups:

  • Fruits & vegetables
  • Grains
  • Protein
  • Dairy
  • Fats and oils, found in foods like olives, some fish, avocados, and nuts

A daily prenatal vitamin supplement is recommended for most women starting about one month before conception and throughout pregnancy. These supplements contain all the recommended daily vitamins and minerals you need during your pregnancy. An appropriate dose of folic acid (400 mcg) is usually found in a prenatal vitamin. Folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

Women who have had a child with a neural tube defect or who are taking certain drugs need much higher doses of folic acid; 4 mg daily that should be taken as a separate supplement.

Avoid Harmful Foods
Certain foods can be harmful to your pregnancy. They include:

Alcohol: There is no established safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy. Alcohol consumption can affect fertility, and during pregnancy, it can increase risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Large fish (swordfish, king mackerel, shark, or tilefish): These fish can carry harmful high levels of mercury. When pregnant, you can safely eat 12 ounces (about two meals) per week of fish low in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

Unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses, raw or undercooked meat, and prepared meats such as hotdogs or deli meats: These foods can carry the bacteria Listeria, which can cause illness in pregnancy and increase your risk for miscarriage or stillbirth.

Stay Active
Studies show that women who exercise before becoming pregnant are less likely to have gestational diabetes. Starting your pregnancy at a healthy weight can also help lower your risk for problems during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure and preeclampsia. 

As your doctor says it’s OK, keep exercising. Working out at a moderate intensity throughout pregnancy is safe and has many benefits, including improved sleep, mood, and energy. 

Look at Your Lifestyle
Now is the time to quit any unhealthy habits such as smoking, which has been seen to increase risk of pregnancy complications including low birth weight and stillbirth. Even if you’re already expecting, quitting as early as possible can protect your baby.

Manage Medicines and Conditions
Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking. If any are unsafe for pregnancy, he or she can help you stop taking the medication or find an alternative.  

If you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, asthma, or epilepsy, it’s important to work with your doctor to get it under control before you get pregnant to reduce your risk of complications in pregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting can be one of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy—and one of the hardest to handle. Most women find relief from morning sickness with these tips:

  • Eat  small meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid spicy or greasy foods.
  • Avoid smells that may bother you, such as strong perfumes.

If you can’t keep any food or liquids down and are worried about your nutrition, talk with your doctor. 

Visit Your Doctor
Before pregnancy, it's important to review your health history with your doctor and make sure you’re up to date with vaccines. It’s also a great time to discuss ways to improve your overall health for pregnancy.  

Once you're expecting, getting early and regular prenatal care improves your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.


Lisa Carbonell, MD Barton HealthLisa Carbonell, MD provides a wide range of gynecological, obstetrical and infertility services at Barton Women's Health. Call 530.543.5711 to schedule an appointment.

Barton Health offers prenatal education and fitness classes, a comprehensive third trimester childbirth education program, and classes and support groups for families with newborns to children age three. Learn More >>