If you’re planning to get pregnant, or recently found out that you’re pregnant, there may be lifestyle changes you need to make in order to have a healthy pregnancy for you and the baby. These changes may involve nutrition, prenatal vitamins, exercise, and cutting out substances that are harmful, such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco/nicotine. A doctor can help determine what you need to focus on and if there are any special considerations given your medical history.
Pregnancy and Nutrition
Eating healthy is important in order to provide enough nutrients to support you and your pregnancy. You don’t need to eat double the amount of food, the key is to make sure you have a healthy, balanced diet. Similar to non-pregnant people, a healthy diet consists of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats (think: avocados). It’s also important to stay hydrated.
There are also a few specific nutrients that are important: folate, calcium, vitamin D, protein and Iron. Here are some foods you can find them in:
There are also foods you should avoid during pregnancy: raw seafood (sushi), fish with high levels of mercury, unpasteurized dairy products, raw/undercooked eggs, some herbal teas, and alcohol. It’s also recommended to limit your caffeine to 200mg/day during pregnancy or cut it out altogether.
Pregnancy and Prenatal Vitamins
Combined with a healthy diet, prenatal vitamins help ensure you are getting the key vitamins and nutrients needed to support a healthy pregnancy. Generally, it is advised to start taking prenatal vitamins at least 3 months before conception, and continue taking them throughout your pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
Pregnancy and Exercise
For healthy pregnancies, regular exercise is safe and recommended. Exercise can help reduce pain and constipation, and strengthen your heart and blood vessels. You can discuss with your doctor which activities are appropriate; generally, walking, swimming, biking (stationary), and yoga are safe activities. It is not recommended to participate in activities that have a risk of injury, such as contact sports.
If you experience pain, bleeding, shortness of breath, or dizziness during exercise, you should stop that activity and speak with your doctor.
Continuing to exercise after birth can help decrease the risk of blood clots.
Additional Lifestyle Changes During Pregnancy
Stress: Everyone experiences stress, whether it stems from work, family, finances, news, or other societal pressures. Pregnancy itself can also be stressful, especially for first time parents. Pregnant people undergo physical and hormonal changes, mood changes, and changes to lifestyle and finances. While we can’t completely eliminate stress from our lives, it’s helpful for pregnant people to intentionally work on stress reduction. For some people this might look like seeing a therapist, meditating, doing yoga, attending support groups, or trying other techniques for relaxation and community-building.
Smoking: The CDC states that smoking while pregnant can result in a premature delivery (giving birth too early) birth defects, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It’s important to quit smoking before pregnancy, but if you are already pregnant, quitting now can still decrease the risks for you and your pregnancy.
Alcohol/Drugs: Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can cause serious health issues and birth defects, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant people also stop using marijuana, even medical marijuana.
If you need support to stop smoking or drinking, you can speak with your doctor about resources in your area. You can also visit Alcoholics Anonymous, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the American Lung Association.
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