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Taking Care of Yourself During Pregnancy

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
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How can I take good care of myself during pregnancy?

To increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy, see a doctor regularly during your pregnancy and:

  • Eat healthy foods

  • Try to keep your weight gain within the recommended range—if you're average weight, gain about 25 to 35 pounds (11 to 16 kilograms)

  • Don't drink alcohol

  • Don't smoke and avoid smoke from other people

  • Only take medicines and supplements that your doctor says are okay

  • Stay active and get exercise (but avoid contact sports or dangerous activities)

Ask your doctor if you have questions about eating, weight gain, medicines, or other health matters during pregnancy.

What should I eat while I’m pregnant?

You need about 250 extra calories each day while you're pregnant. Most of your extra calories should be protein, which you can get from:

  • Cooked meat or fish

  • Beans

  • Nuts

  • Cooked eggs

  • Yogurt or cheese made from pasteurized milk

You should also eat plenty of:

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread

Always wash your fruits and vegetables before you eat them.

What shouldn't I eat or drink while pregnant?

Avoid:

  • Undercooked or raw seafood, eggs, and meat

  • Unpasteurized milk and milk products

  • Alcohol

Undercooked and raw seafood (sushi), eggs, and meat can carry diseases that make you or your baby sick.

Avoid all alcohol (beer, wine, and hard liquor). Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can hurt your baby by causing fetal alcohol syndrome. Talk with your doctor if you're used to drinking daily or feel that it'll be hard to stop drinking. If you drink a lot, suddenly stopping drinking can cause alcohol withdrawal, so your doctor should advise you how to quit.

What about mercury in fish?

The poisonous metal mercury can harm your developing baby. Many kinds of fish contain mercury. Some kinds of fish contain more mercury than other kinds. However, because fish is also a good source of protein and other nutrients that are good for you and your baby, doctors recommend that you eat some fish. But eat only the kinds of fish that don't have much mercury. The FDA has a chart on what kinds of fish to eat.

How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?

How much weight you gain depends on your size. Most women should gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. Women who are overweight should gain a bit less. Try to gain only about 1 to 4 pounds in the first trimester (3 months) of pregnancy. It can become difficult to slow down weight gain later in pregnancy.

Don't try to lose weight during pregnancy, even if you're overweight. Your baby needs food to grow and develop.

What should I avoid while pregnant?

While you're pregnant, avoid:

  • Alcohol

  • Smoking and being around smoke

  • Street drugs

  • Cat litter and cat poop

  • People with certain infections such as rubella, chickenpox, and shingles

  • Vaccines for rubella and chickenpox

Tobacco smoke can harm your baby. You shouldn't smoke, and you should avoid other people's smoke ("secondhand smoke").

Cats are often have an infection called toxoplasmosis. Even healthy cats can carry it. Cats pass toxoplasmosis in their poop so you can get it by changing litter boxes or cleaning up cat poop. Toxoplasmosis can harm babies in the womb. So if you have a cat, have someone else clean up after it or wear gloves and wash your hands after.

If you get certain infections while you're pregnant, your baby could be harmed.

Should I take medicines and supplements while I’m pregnant?

Take a prenatal vitamin containing iron and folate every day.

It's good to try to avoid taking medicines while you're pregnant. Many medicines are safe for your baby, but some are not. Sometimes doctors aren't sure how safe they are.

However, many diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, also are dangerous for your baby. Sometimes it's better to take a medicine that keeps you and your baby healthy even when it's slightly risky. Talk to your doctor about your medicines and the risks of treating versus not treating. If you're taking a dangerous medicine, your doctor often can switch you to a safer one. Check with your doctor before taking any new medicine or supplement, including medicines you can get without a prescription.

Is it safe to exercise while I’m pregnant?

You can usually continue exercising and being active throughout pregnancy. You may need to modify certain exercises as your belly grows. Be careful to avoid injury, especially to your belly. Don’t play contact sports, such as basketball or football.

Can I have sex while I’m pregnant?

You may feel more or less desire for sex during pregnancy. You can safely have sex during pregnancy unless you have:

  • Bleeding from your vagina

  • Pain in your belly

  • Leaking amniotic fluid (fluid that surrounds the fetus)

  • Contractions (squeezing of the muscles in your uterus to help push your baby out)

Can I travel while I’m pregnant?

The safest time to travel during pregnancy is between 14 and 28 weeks. You shouldn't spend more than 6 hours traveling per day. While traveling:

  • Wear your seatbelt—place the belt under your belly

  • Stretch and straighten your legs and ankles hourly

Air travel isn't usually recommended after 36 weeks of pregnancy, mostly because you could go into labor and have to deliver your baby far from home.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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