There isn't an exact recipe to guarantee the perfect pregnancy. Every mom wants to know what she can do to ensure her baby will arrive safe and healthy, but pregnancy is always a risk. However, there are steps mom can take to ensure she is doing what is best for the baby while he or she develops.
Doctors, researchers, and midwives know that some risks to pregnancy are avoidable, and these are the ones mom should focus on trying to control. Not every factor will be easily managed, but there are simple steps that can be taken to give the baby the best start possible and mom a pregnancy that will hopefully have less complications.
It's best for mom to start some of these practices before she becomes pregnant, but since not every woman is trying to get pregnant when she sees the positive sign on the pregnancy test, that may not be possible. Starting proper pregnancy care as soon as mom knows she's pregnant is a good idea, even if she's already well into the first trimester when she finds out. Everything mom does counts.
Pregnancy is an important nine months that can affect a baby's health for the rest of his or her life. With this in mind, take care to do the following.
20 Prenatal Care
Prenatal care involves a variety of things and can be the difference between a good pregnancy and a very hard one. Good prenatal care includes seeing a doctor or midwife who can make sure mom is taking a prenatal vitamin and isn't ingesting or doing anything she shouldn't. Doctors run tests to make sure there are no genetic issues to be aware of, and they watch mom's overall health to avoid risks to her or the baby.
Seeking out prenatal care is essential. Ideally, mom will be with a doctor and receive blood work and a health assessment before she becomes pregnant so she can start her journey as healthy as possible.
19 Get Educated
All of the information available to pregnant women can be a lot to take in at first. It seems like typing a question into an internet search engine ensures concerning stories, even if mom was just seeking knowledge. That's why it's important to look for information and learn about pregnancy wisely.
Mom needs to know the sources she trusts and check twice on anything she reads. However, it is important to learn about pregnancy and childbirth during gestation because it can help mom stay healthy and keep her baby safe. Just make sure to find trusted sources and be open about any questions with the doctor or midwife.
18 Avoid Certain Drinks
Drinking alcohol while pregnant is not recommended, and there is no safe amount for a pregnant woman to consume. Debates rage over whether or not a glass of wine every once in a while is that big of a deal to the baby's development, but there is not a definitive answer. That's why the recommendation is simply to not drink while pregnant.
Whatever goes into mom's body passes to the baby via the placenta. A baby will consume what mom takes in, and this can lead to developmental issues. It's not worth the risk, so save the celebratory drink for later.
17 Be Careful What Is Ingested
Not everything is safe for mom and the baby during pregnancy. Certain foods that were fine before suddenly become off limits, such as unpasteurized dairy and lunch meats that haven't been heated. It's important to wash all produce before consuming and to cook meat fully before eating. Neglecting to pay attention to what goes in the body can prove harmful for the pregnancy.
Luckily, there are plenty of things mom can ingest while pregnant. It's just important to talk to the doctor or midwife about foods that are on the no list so the pregnancy can run as smoothly as possible.
16 Watch Out for Puffing
Smoking while pregnant is a definite no. In fact, mom and her partner should give up smoking before trying to conceive to ensure eggs and sperm aren't adversely affected. Smoking while pregnant has been connected to a higher chance SID, being born too early, and having a low birth size. It's possible to avoid these risks by avoiding the cigarettes.
A pregnant woman needs to avoid second hand smoke when pregnant as well. Breathing in the toxins contained in cigarettes can negatively impact her and the baby, so no one needs to light up near mom.
Exercising while pregnant offers a variety of benefits. It can decrease mom's chances of developing gestational diabetes, help her energy level, and make labor easier. It also helps mom deal with her changing moods as hormones rage throughout the pregnancy.
A woman who has been instructed not to exercise because of concerns about the pregnancy should listen to her doctor, but those who have been given the go ahead should exercise throughout pregnancy. Mom and the baby will benefit, and exercise during labor may make recovering from birth a bit easier. Stick to approved exercises that don't pose risks to mom or the baby.
14 Take Folic Acid
Taking a well-rounded prenatal vitamin is what most women do when they find out they are pregnant. Just make sure that vitamin has the right amount of folic acid in it because folic acid is essential for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Taking folic acid helps protect a baby from birth defects, specifically those that affect the spinal cord and brain like spina bifida.
If mom is trying to get pregnant, taking a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive is a good idea. So much development takes place in the first weeks of pregnancy, and it's important to have the appropriate amount of folic acid during those early days. Mom can absorb folic acid from certain foods, but taking a prenatal or folic acid supplement is the best way to ensure she and the baby get enough.
13 Ask Questions
There's no such thing as a stupid question, and this is especially true when mom is pregnant. She shouldn't be afraid to ask any questions she needs the answers to, and there's no reason to be embarrassed. By the end of the pregnancy, mom's OB or midwife will know everything there is to know about her history and current habits, so it's best to be up front.
Any lingering questions mom needs answered should be taken to the doctor or midwife so mom can feel secure in the answers. Making sure mom and the baby are safe is the priority, so go into each doctor's visit with a list of questions. It's also okay to call between appointments if something comes up that needs to be addressed.
12 Avoid Hot Tubs
Mom doesn't need to lounge in a hot tub while pregnant. Research shows that an elevated body temperature in mom can increase the chance of neural tube defects in babies, especially when this exposure occurs during the early weeks of pregnant. Since hot tubs can raise a person's temperature and cause them to sweat, it's not a good idea for a pregnant woman to sit in one.
If mom already enjoyed hot tub time before she found out she was pregnant, she shouldn't panic. Simply tell the OB or doctor. They can screen for neural tube defects and will tell mom to avoid water that is too hot for the rest of the pregnancy.
11 Take Care of Mental Health
Taking care of physical health tends to be the focus of most women during pregnancy. This is obviously important, but mom's mental health shouldn't be overlooked. Practicing self care and being aware of uncomfortable feelings and how to deal with them is essential during pregnancy. It will help mom have a smoother gestation period and prepare her to care for her mental health after the baby is born.
If a woman starts to feel mentally burdened or concerned, she should talk to her doctor. The amount of hormones coursing through mom's system combined with all the other changes pregnancy can bring are overwhelming. It's important to pay attention to mental health and seek care when needed.
10 Call the Doctor When Sick
It's not safe for mom to treat herself when she becomes ill while pregnant. Fever and other infections present unique risks when mom is growing a baby, and not all over-the-counter medications are safe to consume. When mom is sick, she needs to call her doctor or midwife for support.
It's normal for women to fall ill while pregnant because their immune systems are compromised due to pregnancy. There's no reason to panic, but it's important that mom reach out to her doctor so she moves forward with the proper treatment. It will make pregnancy safer and mom more at peace knowing she is recovering properly.
9 Question All Prescription Meds
The woman who takes prescription medications should talk to her doctor either before she becomes pregnant or the minute she finds out that she is. Not all prescription medications are safe to take during pregnancy, while some are actually needed for women with certain conditions to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Because performing experimental studies on pregnant women is unethical, we're not certain what the effect of every medication is on pregnancy. However, medications are classified by how safe they are considered based on their ingredients and observed exposure when women took them. Based off of what is known, doctors and midwives will tell mom whether it's okay to take certain prescription medications while pregnant.
8 Lay Off the Caffeine
The mom who needs a caffeine fix will have to watch her intake while pregnant. Too much caffeine has been connected to problems for the baby and the pregnancy, and caffeine can hide in more than just that morning cup of coffee.
Too much caffeine may cause issues, and that's why there's a recommendation that mom consume no more than 200 milligrams each day. Caffeine can be found in coffee, soft drinks, tea, and chocolate, and even some meds. While mom doesn't have to give up all caffeine while pregnant, she does need to be aware of how much she is consuming so she doesn't go over the limit.
7 Write a Birth Plan
Not every birth goes according to plan, just like not every pregnancy is easy just because mom tries to follow the rules. However, having a birth plan can help mom face the idea of birth early on and make her wishes for the experience known. This can alleviate fear and stress and help guide her pregnancy to the birthing experience.
Writing a birth plan simply means thinking about every aspect of birth and making a plan for the ideal experience. Since very few things go exactly according to plan when babies are involved, some women include a section in their birth plans for emergencies or unplanned changes that occur. This lets mom go into the birthing experience unburdened because she knows her wishes are known to those helping her.
6 Avoid Toxic Chemicals
The nesting instinct will kick in, but mom needs to be careful when the cleaning she does involves cleaners that contain chemicals. Breathing in certain chemicals can be harmful for mom and the baby, so she needs to try to use natural options to keep things clean.
It's important to make sure any area mom is cleaning remains well-ventilated. Some women even make their own cleaners out of natural ingredients to avoid toxic chemicals, and turning over the toilet scrubbing to someone else is also not a bad idea while mom is pregnant. Mom needs to read labels and pay attention to what she is inhaling.
5 Eat Nutritional Calories
The idea that women eat for two while pregnant is cemented in many people's minds. This is not actually accurate. A singleton pregnancy usually only requires mom to consume 300 more calories a day, and they should be healthy calories that pack a nutritional punch. Gaining too many lbs. while pregnant can actually put mom at risk for complications and cause issues with the baby's health.
It's also important to gain enough while pregnant. Pregnancy is not the time to diet or worry about the number on the scale climbing. Most women are encouraged to gain between 25-30 pounds, and it's important to the pregnancy that mom consume enough food each day.
4 Choose Fish Wisely
Fish is a powerhouse food that offers mom and the baby tons of health benefits. It's recommended for most healthy diets and is a staple for many people. However, certain fish are off limits during pregnant, and mom has to be aware of how much fish she consumes while pregnant due to the risks.
Sushi and other raw fish aren't allowed while mom is pregnant, and fish containing high levels of mercury are also off limits. These include swordfish, king mackerel, and shark. It's recommended that pregnant women eat no more than 12 ounces of low mercy fish a week. Choose wisely and watch portion sizes.
3 Change Travel Plans
Mom may feel a desire to travel while pregnant because she is unencumbered by car seats, diapers, and an actual baby for the last time. Travel during pregnancy is allowed, but there are limits based on how far along mom is and if her pregnancy is high or low risk.
Low risk pregnancies generally allow for mom to travel up until the 36-week mark, though some OBs or midwives may recommend slowing down travel before then. High risk pregnant could mean mom has to pull back on travel much earlier. Some airlines even require women to show approval from doctors before flying during late pregnancy. Check before booking the trip.
2 Connect With Partner
Not every woman is in a relationship while pregnant, but those who are need to take time to connect with their partners during pregnancy. Becoming a parent is wonderful, but it changes the dynamic of a relationship, and it's important to go into the experience already strong if possible.
Talk about the changes coming up, go on dates, and just spend time together. It's important for each person in the relationship to feel secure and cared for as so much change occurs, and tapping into the love each person has for the other is a great way to do so. If there are any long-standing issues that need to be dealt with, do it before the baby arrives if possible.
1 Learn Stress Management
Pregnancy can be stressful. So can parenting. Both experiences bring joy, but they also bring tons of change, some that's comfortable and some that is not. Learning effective stress management techniques can help mom have a healthier pregnancy and reduce the risk of problems that come with unchecked distress.
Meditation, yoga, and journaling are all ways to help mom release tension in a healthy way. Pick up these habits early on to enjoy pregnancy to its fullest and carry good stress management into the parenting journey. If mom finds her stress levels are getting out of control or that worry takes up most of her time, talking to her doctor or midwife is a good idea. They can recommend ways to handle stress.
Sources: CDC.gov, Americanpregnancy.org, Webmd.com, Mayoclinic.org