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How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy

Three Parts:Lifestyle ChangesDietary ChangesStaying Healthy

Staying healthy while pregnant is important not only for your physical and mental well being, but also for your growing baby's. Health is a combination of a number of making lifestyle changes, getting proper nutrition, exercising regularly, and avoiding unhealthy/dangerous activities. By making changes to be the healthiest you possible, you'll significantly improve the health of your future child.

Part 1
Lifestyle Changes

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    Get regular prenatal care. The most important first step in your pregnancy is choosing a prenatal care physician, and seeing them on a regular basis. Frequent and consistent appointments with an OB/GYN, a family doctor or a certified midwife can ensure both your safety and your growing child’s throughout the pregnancy process. Begin prenatal care as soon as you know that you’re pregnant, or when you suspect you might be. You can start by seeing your regular doctor, but will likely want to transfer to a specialized prenatal care doctor as your pregnancy progresses. So long as you are undergoing a normal pregnancy (according to your doctor), your scheduled prenatal appointments should be along this timeline:
    • See your physician every four weeks until you are 28 weeks pregnant
    • See your physician every two weeks from the time you are 28 weeks to 36 weeks pregnant
    • See your physician once a week (or more often, as per your doctor’s instructions) after the 36th week of pregnancy[1]
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    Keep active by exercising regularly. Lugging around extra belly weight, morning sickness, and aching muscles can all combine to make exercise sound incredibly unappealing. However, keeping active while your pregnant will ensure not only your health, but your baby’s as well. Regular exercise can make delivery less difficult, make losing your baby weight easier, aid in post-birth physical recovery, and encourage healthy fetal growth. Aim to do thirty minutes of low-impact exercise such as swimming, riding a bicycle, lifting weights, and yoga a day.
    • Don’t participate in any high-impact exercises (workout classes, long runs) or contact sports (soccer, football), as these put you at a high risk for injury.
    • Always stretch before you exercise while pregnant; a hormone called ‘relaxin’ is released to prepare your body for labor, but this can weaken your muscles and joints. Without stretching, you increase your risk for muscle or joint injury.
    • Avoid activities or stretches that require you to lie down on your back, because this puts pressure on a major vein that reduces blood flow to the uterus, which may make you feel dizzy and lightheaded.
    • Overheating can be dangerous to your baby, so make sure you always keep cool by having a fan and cold water at the ready.[2]
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    Get plenty of sleep. Not only are you eating for two, you’re resting for two as well. Getting lots of good sleep while pregnant will give your body the time it needs to help your growing baby, making you feel better in the process. Aim for eight hours of sleep minimum a night, and try to snatch a mid-afternoon nap as well. Going to bed at a consistent time every night (preferably before midnight) will also help to regulate your sleep schedule, making your sleep more restful and deep.
    • Sleeping on your left side is recommended for pregnant women, as this relieves pressure from your back and prevents a major vein connected to your uterus from having the circulation cut off.
    • Waking up for a short (5-10 minute) walk in the middle of the night may help to reduce or remove any morning sickness you experience.
    • Don’t take any sleeping pills while pregnant, unless prescribed and approved by your doctor.
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    Take prenatal supplements. Although a daily regimen of pills, supplements, and vitamins may be difficult to keep track of, it can be incredibly helpful in reducing the risk of a series of birth defects. To start, women should consume prenatal vitamins (advertised as such) in 600 micrograms per day after becoming pregnant. Prenatal vitamins contain a combination of high levels of folic acid and iron among other things, both of which are responsible for early development of the baby and reducing the risk of complications and defects such as spina bifida and premature birth. Talk to your doctor about what supplements to take, but keep in mind that most pregnant women need to consume extra:
    • Folic acid (folate) - between 400-600 micrograms daily
    • Iron - 30 milligrams daily
    • Calcium - 1200 milligrams daily
    • DHA (a type of omega-3 fatty acid) - 200 milligrams daily[3]
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    Keep an eye on your weight. It’s true that you should be gaining weight while pregnant, but the amount you gain can have a big impact on both your child’s health and your own. Individual weight gain will be dependent on your weight and BMI prior to pregnancy, meaning that each woman will need to gain a different amount to be in a healthy range. To determine your ideal weight gain, start by calculating your BMI. Then, use that and your weight to locate yourself on the following weight gain chart:
    • Underweight women (BMI less than 18.5) should gain 28-40 pounds.
    • Women at a healthy weight (BMI between 18.5-24.9) should gain 25-35 pounds.
    • Overweight women (BMI between 25-29.9) should gain 15-25 pounds.
    • Obese women (BMI higher than 30) should gain 11-20 pounds.[4]
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    Visit your dentist regularly. Strange as it may seem, dental care is particularly important during pregnancy. This is because your body is producing higher than normal levels of estrogen and progesterone, both of which (in high levels) can be responsible for causing gingivitis and gum disease, leading to bleeding, gum sensitivity, and swollen gums on a regular basis. You should try to visit your dentist every 3-4 months while pregnant to make sure you’re keeping a healthy mouth. In between visits, make sure that you brush and floss your teeth regularly.

Part 2
Dietary Changes

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    Make sure you’re eating enough. The phrase ‘eating for two’ conjures up images of vast platters of food and multiple meals throughout the day. The truth of the matter is though, that on average you should only be consuming about 300 calories more per child, per day. Therefore, if you’re pregnant with a single baby you should eat 300 extra calories, for twins you should eat 600 extra calories, and for triplets you should eat 900 extra calories per day. These numbers will vary slightly depending on your starting weight before pregnancy (see weight gain list above), but will remain close to 300 calories.[5]
    • The calories you consume should be healthy calories - not those from junk food and fast food.
    • One of the primary goals of eating more is to supplement your body and the child with the vitamins and minerals necessary for development (you can’t get them all from supplements).
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    Do not diet while pregnant. Weight gain during pregnancy is expected, so you are doing yourself and your baby a disfavor by attempting to diet to keep off weight. While you should avoid eating huge amounts of food (beyond the extra 300 calories a day), you should not cut down your eating at all, or remove major meals or food groups from your regular diet. Further, regular eating supplies your body with vital vitamins and minerals you can’t receive elsewhere. Other than potentially dangerous foods (listed below), do not cut out food from your diet. This means that diets like paleo/atkins (no carbs), juicing (no solid foods), and weight watchers/nutrisystem (low calorie) should not be started during your pregnancy unless prescribed by a licensed medical doctor.[6]
    • By depriving your body of nutrients through dieting, your child may suffer from malnutrition and certain birth defects.
    • Diets held for medical/religious/moral reasons can be maintained in pregnancy.
    • Avoid trying to lose weight or maintain your pre-pregnancy weight through food restriction, at any point during your pregnancy.
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    Don’t rely on prenatal vitamins and supplements for all your nutrients. Taking prenatal vitamins is important for supplying your body with the extra folic acid, iron, and calcium you need. However, there are lots of other nutrients and vitamins you can only get through consumption in food, meaning that you can’t rely on supplements for your vitamins and continue to eat junk food and unhealthy alternatives. Supplements are intended to be just that - to supplement you with the extras you many not be able to consume enough of. This means you should be eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein every day.
    • If you eat fast food regularly, aim to cut down your consumption to once or twice a week at the most. Fast food is notoriously nutrient-deprived, filling you with empty calories.
    • If you’ve got a strong craving for unhealthy foods that lack vitamins, try eating something healthy first (like a piece of fruit) and following it up with a small bit of ‘cheat’ food. This will help you transition away from a diet of unhealthy junk food.
    • Don’t exceed the recommended daily dosage of prenatal supplements in an effort to reduce the amount of food you need to eat.
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    Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C. The recommended amount of vitamin C for pregnant women is 70mg per day. However, it is best to get this from natural foods rather than pills and supplements. You can get lots of vitamin C from citrus fruits, papaya, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and red peppers (among other foods). Aim to eat 3-4 servings of these foods per day.
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    Consume more protein. Eating protein is always important, but when you’re pregnant you should aim to eat 2-3 servings of protein a day. Protein is primarily responsible for blood production and cell growth, both your own and your baby’s. Great sources of healthy proteins include eggs, Greek yogurt, legumes (beans), tofu, peanut butter, and lean meats.
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    Get plenty of calcium. Calcium is vital to pregnant women, and many don’t get nearly as much as they need. Although there is normally some calcium in prenatal supplements, you should try to consume an additional 1000 milligrams of calcium per day. Great sources of calcium include yogurt, hard cheeses, milk, and spinach. By consuming more calcium, you’ll be aiding in your child’s bone and nerve development.
    • Vitamin D is important to consume as well, as it is required for your body to absorb calcium. It is found in most of the same foods as calcium is, as well as in cereals and breads.
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    Eat foods that contain folic acid. Yes, you’ll be getting folic acid in a prenatal supplement. However, you should try to eat folic acid that occurs naturally in foods for the best results. Folic acid is responsible for enzyme functioning and blood production in your baby. Foods that contain folic acid include kale, chard, spinach, squash, beans, nuts, and peas. All of these foods contain other helpful nutrients, so try to eat 1-2 servings of them per day.
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    Make sure you get enough iron. Iron is used in the body for blood cell production, both in your own body and your developing child’s. Most prenatal supplements contain iron, but as per most nutrients, it is best that you consume iron in a natural form from food rather than a supplement. Foods that contain high levels of iron include red meats, spinach, and iron-fortified whole grains (like certain breads and cereals). Get at least one serving of these iron-filled foods per day.[7]

Part 3
Staying Healthy

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    Never drink alcohol while pregnant. Alcohol is a big no-no for pregnant women, as its consumption is responsible for an array of birth defects and complications. Drinking alcohol significantly increases the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, makes it more likely that your child will have developmental disabilities later in life, and runs your baby the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Cut alcohol out of your diet completely while pregnant, to avoid risking these complications. If necessary, seek help from a therapist specialized in drug and alcohol use.[8]
    • If you happened to consume alcohol prior to knowledge of your pregnancy, don’t fret - so long as you cease your drinking habits, it is unlikely you’ll experience alcohol-related complications.
    • Non-alcoholic beer and wine do actually contain a small amount of alcohol, making them inappropriate substitutes for regular beer and wine.
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    Avoid smoking. It’s generally recommended that smoking of any sort be avoided, as it is very damaging to the lungs. This is especially true for pregnant women, because whatever you smoke, your baby smokes as well. Nicotine and tobacco in the blood stream is absorbed by the child, increasing the likelihood of stillbirth, miscarriage, and a low birth weight. Some studies have also shown that babies whose mothers’ smoked while pregnant, grow up to be chronic smokers themselves. Cut out all smoking in your life, including cigarettes, e-cigs, cigars, and marijuana.
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    Stay away from all illicit drugs. Drugs of any sort - particularly ‘street’ drugs - are incredibly dangerous for a developing child. Recreational drugs almost guarantee your child will suffer from a birth defect or complication, because they have such a significant impact on your body and brain function, and therefore your child’s. Further, mothers who are addicted to drugs and continue to use them while pregnant can actually pass on their addiction to their child. The newborn baby is then addicted to drugs, and suffers withdrawal symptoms just like an adult does. If you’re a user of recreational drugs or are addicted, get help from a psychologist or group therapy, to protect the health of your growing baby.[9]
    • When at all possible, maintain a drug-free lifestyle beyond the birth of your child for your own health.
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    Don’t spend time in hot tubs, saunas, or steam rooms. Raising your body temperature too high can be dangerous for your offspring, as studies have correlated high body temperature to developmental complications and birth defects. While warm showers and baths are fine, spending extended periods of time in very hot environments can cause serious problems, especially in the first trimester. Avoid any environment where the temperature is above 101 °F (38 °C), and if you absolutely must be in such an environment, limit your time spent there to less than ten minutes.[10]
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    Cut out caffeine from your diet. Although coffee, tea, and soda may be favorite drinks, if they contain caffeine they can be harmful to your little one. Studies have shown that caffeine consumption while pregnant is linked to higher rates of miscarriage and birth complications. It is best to cut out caffeine from your lifestyle altogether, but some doctors believe up to 200 milligrams (equal to one 10oz cup of coffee) per day is safe. When possible, use caffeine-free or decaffeinated versions of coffee, tea, and soda. Foods that contain caffeine (like chocolate) are fine in moderation, because the levels are so low.
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    Avoid environmental toxins. Certain chemicals and toxins are particularly dangerous for pregnant women to come into contact with, even though they may not be for a non-pregnant woman. Cleaning solvents, strong chemicals, heavy metals (like mercury and lead), and some biological agents (like asbestos) are all associated with birth complications and defects. If you work or live in a place where you may come into contact with these toxins, do your best to avoid them at all times. Make lifestyle changes to do so, if necessary.[11]
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    Don’t change the litter box, if you have one. As random as it may seem, a very dangerous infection known as toxoplasmosis is prevalent among cat litter boxes, and can quickly spread to pregnant women. The illness may have no recognizable symptoms in the mother and will pass to the baby undetected, causing serious brain and eye damage to the growing baby. If you have a litter box, steer clear of it and have a friend or relative take over control of cleaning it regularly.
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    Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat. Certain food-born illnesses, including toxoplasmosis (yes, the cat litter illness) and listeriosis, are often present in undercooked and raw meat. These illnesses can be quite dangerous to a developing child, making it best to avoid the foods that carry them. Avoid eating any shellfish, raw fish (like sushi/sashimi), rare or seared meat, and raw eggs.
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    Don’t eat certain fish which contain high levels of mercury. Heavy metals, like mercury and lead, are incredibly damaging to a growing baby and can even cause death in high enough amounts. Some fish have particularly high levels of mercury, making them dangerous for pregnant women to consume. These fish include swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tuna steak, and tilefish. However, fish such as canned tuna, salmon, halibut, and cod are all still safe to consume while pregnant.
    • Keep your consumption of any kind of fish - even the safe kinds - down to once or twice a week while pregnant.
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    Don’t eat any unpasteurized cheeses. Although a platter of soft cheeses may sound delicious, unpasteurized fresh cheeses can contain bacteria that are responsible for an array of birth complications. As a result, it is best for pregnant women to avoid eating them altogether. Popular unpasteurized fresh cheeses include brie, feta, goat cheese, Camembert, and blue cheese. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Swiss, and Havarti are all safe to consume.[12]


  • For back pain, sit in chairs that have back support. The more posture you have the better your back will feel.
  • Never take prenatal or regular vitamins alone, always eat when you take them. Taking pills on an empty stomach can result in stomach pains, vomiting, and nausea.


  • Always talk to your doctor before making any lifestyle changes. If you experience any strange activities or behaviors as a result of your pregnancy, contact your doctor right away for a consultation.

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