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The ABC’s of a Healthy Pregnancy

Healthy babies come from healthy pregnancies. Having a healthy pregnancy starts before a woman plans on getting pregnant. To help increase your chances of having a healthy baby, follow these ABC guidelines to a healthy pregnancy.

A: Avoid hazardous substances such as mercury and alcohol that can be harmful to your unborn baby. Stay away from other environmental factors that can put your health at risk.

B: Breastmilk is the best food for most babies during the first year of life. Join a breastfeeding group or talk to a lactation consultant before giving birth to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

C: Calcium is needed for strong healthy bones. When you don’t get enough calcium, your body will take it from your bones and give it to your baby. Be sure to get enough calcium in your diet.

D: Drugs, whether they are over-the-counter, prescribed, dietary supplements or illegal substances, can harm your baby and may even cause birth defects. Stay away from all street drugs. Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking to make sure they are safe during pregnancy.

E: Eat healthy and exercise. You only need 300 extra calories per day to support your baby’s growth and development, so make healthy food choices. Unless there are medical reasons to avoid it, pregnant women can and should try to exercise moderately for at least two and a half hours each week.

F: Folic acid is important. Take a vitamin supplement that has 400 micrograms of folic acid before getting pregnant to reduce your baby’s risk of developing birth defects. During pregnancy, prenatal vitamins have the folic acid you need.

G: Gas or feeling bloated is common in pregnant women. Identify the foods that bother you and take your time when eating to help prevent excessive gas.

H: History can teach us a lot! Understanding your family health history can make an important difference in your life and the lives of your children.

I: Iron is a mineral that helps create red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen to your baby. Be sure to get enough iron in your diet to prevent getting anemia.

J: Join a childbirth education class to help you understand what to expect during labor and birth.

K: Keep you and your baby safe during a disaster by planning ahead of time. Prepare for a disaster by making a list of all medications you’re taking and having a handy contact sheet with your health provider’s information.

L: Lots of back pain? Backache is one of the most common problems for pregnant women. Avoid heavy lifting and standing for long periods of time. Wear comfortable shoes and consider a pregnancy massage to ease some of your pain.

M: Medical conditions, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, should be carefully monitored by you and your health provider. Also, talk to your provider about any medications that may need to be adjusted during pregnancy.

N: Nausea is very common during pregnancy and certain foods can trigger this feeling. Try substituting these foods for other nutritious options. Eat 5-6 small meals a day, rather than 3 large ones.

O: Oh, baby! Get ready to care for your baby before you bring her home from the hospital. Choose a health provider for her and make sure your home environment is all set and safe for your new baby.

P: Prenatal care is essential for having a healthy baby, so be sure to make all of your prenatal visits. During these appointments, prenatal tests will be given to help your provider know how you and your baby are doing.

Q: Quit bad habits such as smoking and drinking. Smoking can cause your baby to grow more slowly and gain less weight in the womb. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause your baby to be born with both physical and mental birth defects.

R: Rodents, including pet hamsters, mice and guinea pigs, should be avoided during pregnancy. These animals can spread diseases that can harm your baby.

S: Stressing out? Pregnancy is a stressful time for many women. Very high levels of stress may contribute to preterm birth or low birthweight in full-term babies. Recognize that you do indeed feel stressed and, when possible, avoid situations that cause you stress.

T: Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite. It can pose serious risks to a woman’s unborn baby. Stay away from raw or undercooked meat, especially lamb or pork. Wash hands frequently and avoid handling cat litter.

U: The urge to urinate often increases in pregnant women. To help deal with frequent urination, avoid caffeine beverages such as coffee or tea that can make you urinate more frequently.

V: Vaccines can protect you and your baby against infections that can be harmful. If you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, ask your health provider if your vaccinations are up to date. Find out which vaccines you should consider taking before or during pregnancy.

W: How much weight a pregnant woman should gain depends on her health and body mass index (BMI).Calculate your BMI using your height and weight before pregnancy. Women with a normal BMI should expect to gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. Women who are overweight or obese and have a high BMI should gain between 15 to 25 pounds.

X: X-rays should be avoided during pregnancy. If you need to have dental work or medical tests done while pregnant, tell your provider so extra care can be taken.

Y: Your body may experience several changes during pregnancy including your hair, gums and teeth, breasts and skin. These changes are common and women can take steps to alleviate their symptoms to feel more comfortable.

Z: Get your ZZZZZs. Most women are more tired than usual during pregnancy, especially during early and late pregnancy. Get plenty of rest. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try taking a warm shower, napping during the day, going to bed earlier and using pillows to make you comfortable.

By March of Dimes, Barefoot & Pregnant

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