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Taking Care of You and Your Baby While You’re Pregnant

  • It is important to care for your baby even before you give birth. This can be done by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and going to the doctor during pregnancy. Prenatal care is also known as “prenatal care.” A healthy pregnancy is more likely to result in a healthy baby.

    A path to better health

    As soon as you learn that you are pregnant, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your medical history will be reviewed by your doctor. Your symptoms will also be reviewed by your doctor. At the first visit, blood and urine samples will be taken. These will be collected again at subsequent visits. Urine tests are used to check for bacteria and high sugar levels (which could be a sign that you have diabetes) as well as high levels of protein (which is a sign that you have preeclampsia which is a condition where there was high blood pressure during pregnancy). Blood tests are done to check for low iron (anemia), blood cell count, blood type, blood sugar, and blood type.

    Other tests may also be performed by the doctor at your first appointment. Based on your history and risk of problems, these tests may differ. These tests can include:

    • A pelvic examination to determine the size and shape your uterus (womb).
    • A Pap test to check for cervical cancer.
    • An ultrasound is used to see your baby’s position and growth. An ultrasound uses sound waves and creates a picture of your baby on a screen.

    You will be able to have a prenatal appointment every 4 weeks after your first visit. You will be seen every two weeks in months 7 and 8. Until you give birth, your visits will be every two weeks in the last month of your pregnancy. Your weight, blood pressure, and urine will be checked by the doctor at every visit. After the 20th week, the doctor will listen to the heartbeat of your baby and measure your uterus. Talk to your doctor about any concerns or issues you may have.

    These are other guidelines that you can follow during pregnancy.

    What should I gain weight during pregnancy?

    Talk to your doctor. Although it is different for each woman, most women need to gain between 25 and 30 pounds. You may need to gain more if you are underweight before you become pregnant. You may need to lose weight if you’re overweight.

    What should you eat?

    A balanced diet is one the best things for your baby and yourself. Avoid these foods and drinks while pregnant.

    • Raw meat, eggs and fish. You can get food poisoning if you eat uncooked food. Limit your intake of fish to 2 to 3 times per week, including canned fish. Avoid eating sharks, swordfish and king mackerel. These fish can cause harm to your baby because they contain high levels mercury. Make sure you only eat light tuna if you are going to eat it. Limit your intake of albacore tuna or tuna steaks to 6 ounces per week. You can have 12 ounces of canned tuna light each week.
    • Wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them. Keep your cutting boards and dishes clean.
    • Each day, eat at least 4 servings of dairy. This will provide enough calcium for your baby and you. Avoid unpasteurized or unpasteurized dairy products. They may contain bacteria that could cause infection. These include soft cheeses like Brie, feta and Camembert as well as blue cheese and Mexican-style cheeses such queso fresco.
    • Artificial sweeteners. Sugar substitutes are acceptable in moderation. These include sucralose (brand names: Splenda and Equal) or aspartame. Avoid aspartame if you have phenylketonuria.
    • Limit your intake of caffeine-containing drinks and coffee to 1 or 2 cups per day.

    Can I take medicine?

    Before you take any medication, consult your doctor. These include prescriptions, pain relief, and over-the counter medicines. Congenital disabilities can be caused by certain medicines, particularly if they are taken within the first three months of pregnancy.

    Can I take vitamins?

    Women who are pregnant should consume at least 400 mg (mcg), of Folic Acid each day. Folic acid can prevent spine and brain problems in babies. If you require more than 400 mg, consult your doctor.

    Folic acid should be taken before you become pregnant. Prenatal vitamins can provide folic acid. This would be beneficial if you took it every day. You should not take any other vitamins or supplements without consulting your doctor.

    How much time can I work?

    Each person will have a different idea of how late it is to work during pregnancy. The job you do and the work environment that you are in play can have a significant impact on your pregnancy. Your baby can be exposed to radiation, lead, and other substances, such as mercury and copper, in certain jobs. You may not be able work as hard if your job is still active. Your baby is not at risk from desk jobs. It would be a good idea to not place a computer on your stomach, or uterus.

    How long you can work depends on your overall health. You may need to be bed-bound if you have preterm labor or are at high risk for certain conditions.

    How about exercise?

    Regular exercise is important, even if you don’t have any issues during pregnancy. Regular exercise promotes a healthy lifestyle, and can ease discomfort. Every day, aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise. Discuss any medical conditions that might prevent you from exercising.

    Women who exercise while pregnant say it makes labor and delivery easier. Swimming and walking are good options. It is safe to continue if you were active prior to pregnancy. Start slowly if you haven’t been active in the past. Be sensitive to your body and don’t push yourself too hard. Keep hydrated, especially during the second trimester. Avoid activities that could cause you to fall. This includes rock climbing and skiing. Contact sports such as basketball and soccer should be avoided. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.

    Contact your doctor if symptoms are caused by exercise.

    • blurred vision
    • dizziness
    • chest pain
    • stomach pain

    Can I have sexual relations?

    You can have sex during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if there are any concerns or you feel at risk. When pregnant, some women experience a change in their interest in sex. As you get older, you may have to experiment with different positions such as being on the top or lying on your back.

    What can you do to feel better?

    Here are some common side effects of pregnancy and tips for managing them.

    Morning sickness

    You may feel nausea or vomiting at any time of the day or night. Eat small, frequent meals. Avoid eating foods that are spicy, greasy, or acidic. Women are more likely to feel nauseated if their stomachs are empty. To prevent an empty stomach, keep crackers close by. If morning sickness makes you lose weight, or lasts beyond the first three months of pregnancy, talk to your doctor.


    Pregnancy can cause fatigue. If possible, get enough sleep or take naps. If you feel fatigued, talk to your doctor. Anemia could be a possibility.

    Leg cramps

    Being active can help reduce leg cramps. Flex your foot towards your knee and stretch your leg calf. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.


    Get plenty of fluids. Consume foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables and bran cereals. Talk to your doctor before you take any laxatives. Stool softeners might be better than laxatives.


    Avoid becoming constipated. Don’t strain during bowel movements. After a bowel movement, clean yourself thoroughly. It may be more comfortable to use wet wipes than to use toilet paper. If necessary, take warm soaks (sitz-baths).

    Urinating more frequently

    Pregnant women may have to urinate more frequently. Changes in hormones could be a factor. Your bladder will also be under pressure as your baby grows.

    Varicose veins

    Don’t wear clothing that is too tight around your waist and legs. As much as possible, rest and elevate your feet. Do not sit or stand still for too long. Talk to your doctor about compression hose or support. These can be used to prevent or reduce varicose veins.


    During pregnancy, your hormones go through a rollercoaster ride. Your entire life is changing. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you are feeling sad or thinking about suicide, get help immediately.


    Consume small, frequent meals. Avoid spicy, greasy or acidic foods. Do not lie down immediately after eating. Ask your doctor if you can take antacids.

    Yeast Infections

    During pregnancy, your vaginal discharge can rise. Common causes of discharge include yeast infections. If you notice unusual discharges or an unpleasant odor, talk to your doctor.

    Bleeding gums

    Regularly floss and brush your teeth. See your dentist for cleanings. Do not skip dental visits if you are pregnant. Be sure to inform your dentist that you are pregnant.

    Stuffy nose

    Stuffy nose can be caused by changes in estrogen levels. There are also possibilities of nosebleeds.

    Edema (retaining fluid)

    As much as possible, rest your legs straight up. While you sleep, lie on your left side. This position improves blood flow to your heart and legs. Don’t use diuretics (water pills).

    Skin changes

    Red marks on the skin are signs of stretch marks. Shea butter lotion can be used to moisturize your skin and prevent itching. It is impossible to avoid stretch marks. They often disappear after pregnancy.

    Other skin conditions may occur. You may notice darker skin around your nose or mouth. A dark line can appear below the belly button for some women. These marks can be reduced by staying out of direct sunlight or using sunscreen. After pregnancy, most marks will fade.

    Things to Consider

    You should avoid certain things while pregnant. These warnings should be taken into consideration. If you have any questions, talk to your doctor.

    • Avoid smoking and avoid being around smokers. Smoking increases your chances of miscarriage, preterm births, low birth weight, or other health issues.
    • Don’t use drugs. Your risk of miscarriage and preterm births, as well as congenital disabilities, is increased by using drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and others. You could end up giving birth to a baby addicted to the drug that you have been using. This is known as neonatal abstinence disorder. This can lead to serious health problems in your baby’s body.
    • Don’t drink alcohol. Consuming alcohol is the leading cause of congenital disorders, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
    • Do not clean your cat’s litterbox or eat undercooked or raw red meat. Toxoplasmosis can lead to congenital disabilities.
    • Don’t douche. Normal bathing is enough for your vagina. Douching can disrupt the beneficial bacteria that keeps your vagina clean.

    How to visit a doctor

    Contact your doctor if:

    • Fluid or blood from your genital area.
    • Extreme swelling or sudden pain in your face or fingers.
    • Headaches that can’t or won’t get better.
    • Vomiting and nausea won’t disappear.
    • Dizziness.
    • Blurred or dim vision.
    • Extreme pain in the lower abdomen or cramps.
    • Fever or chills.
    • A change in your baby’s movements.
    • No burning sensations or urine when you urinate
    • A disease or infection.
    • Other symptoms that may bother you.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor

    • What medications can I take during pregnancy?
    • What is the best time to start prenatal vitamins? Which type is the best?
    • How much of folic acid should I take every day?
    • How do I reduce swelling?
    • What should I gain weight while pregnant?


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