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Sound Advice for a Healthful Pregnancy

So, you're having a baby! Once the shock of that news begins to wear off, it's important to think about your lifestyle and health habits during pregnancy.

Following these guidelines can help keep you and your developing child healthy in the months to come:

  • Visit your health care provider regularly throughout your pregnancy.

  • Don't take any medications without your doctor's OK. Both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause birth defects.

  • Don't smoke. Mothers who smoke have an increased risk of delivering prematurely and having a child with significant health problems.

  • Don't drink alcohol. It can cause birth defects associated with fetal alcohol syndrome.

  • Don't take illegal drugs. Doing so can cause birth defects and developmental delays in your child.

  • Avoid exposure to toxic substances and chemicals, such as cleaning solvents, lead, mercury, some insecticides, paint thinners, and paint removers.

  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet. You'll need extra protein, calcium, iron, and zinc. If you were at your ideal weight before you become pregnant, you need about 300 additional calories a day from nutritious foods. If you were overweight or underweight before pregnancy, ask your health care provider how many extra calories a day you need.

  • Take 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps protect your unborn child from brain and spinal-cord birth defects.

  • Stay physically active unless your doctor suggests otherwise. Exercise can help you feel better, reduce discomfort and fatigue, and promote a faster recovery after delivery. Walking and swimming, in particular, are recommended. Avoid strenuous sports or activities in which you could fall, such as horseback riding, roller-skating, and downhill skiing.

  • Avoid saunas, steam baths, and hot tubs. High heat can harm your baby.

When to call the doctor

The following symptoms could indicate a potential health problem. If they occur, call or see your health care provider:

  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea

  • Swelling in your face, fingers, and feet

  • Bleeding or leaking of fluid from the vagina

  • Strong cramps

  • Headache, backache, or stomachache that doesn't go away

  • Blurred vision or spots in front of your eyes

  • Pain or burning when you urinate