Healthy Pregnancies: How to Have One and Maintain Yours

Healthy Pregnancyby Della H. Harris

Have you been thinking of tossing aside the birth control or are already busy making a baby?

As you countdown the days and dream about your soon-to-be new family member, we know that you want to give him or her the healthiest start possible.

Even something like making small or definitive lifestyle adjustments can lead to improvements and help reduce risks and complications.

The big bonus is that you improve your body, well-being and help foster and create a safe environment for your wee one-to-be in and outside the womb!

Goal: A Healthy Pregnancy

Look through our tips, suggestions and ideas below to learn what you can do before, during, and after pregnancy. You'll find information on nutrition, exercise and answers to every day questions that might be on your list!

Thinking of Conceiving? Start Here!

While your baby-to-be is just a twinkle in your eye, now is the perfect time to get your body and life geared up to nourish a life.

Get down to your ideal weight.

Weight gain matters in pregnancy. We're finding out that your weight before pregnancy matters, too. Overweight and obese women take longer to get pregnant and have more complications. Mom's weight appears to set the stage for the baby's future weight, as well.

Start your new, healthy lifestyle today.

If you smoke, consider stopping. We know it isn't easy, but we all know what smoking can do. Your body can take a few days to a few months to cleanse itself of harmful substances from smoke. As a non-smoker, you'll get pregnant sooner, have less pregnancy complications and your baby will be born into a safer environment.

The jury's out on whether light drinking during pregnancy is safe. You might want to ease up on alcohol. We do know that women who drink take longer to get pregnant. We recommend not drinking while trying to conceive, and during your pregnancy. Why create potential issues?

Dads should get healthy, too.

A healthy partner improves your chances of getting pregnant. Sperm takes 90 days to develop so his changes now matter. Encourage your partner to take care of himself, exercise, eat right and stop smoking, drinking or taking harmful drugs. Your baby's future health might depend on it, according to recent research.

Schedule a preconception appointment. Your doctor or midwife can suggest tests and discuss topics to get you physically and emotionally ready for a life-enhancing and life-changing event -- your new baby.

Start folic acid before conception. Your baby's brain and spinal column begin developing the first days and weeks after conception. Folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects and pregnancy complications like pre-term labor and birth. Experts recommend that you take 400-600 mg daily while you're baby-making.

Pregnancy Do's

A wholesome diet provides your body and your baby with nutrients necessary for healthy growth. Try to replace processed foods with whole foods. Colorful fruits and vegetables contain anti-oxidants that reduce inflammation can increase your fertility. If you're able, go organic and reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.

Minimize stress and learn effective methods of dealing with stress you can't avoid. Stress increasing your risk of preterm labor and seems to contribute to a host of problems for your baby after birth.

Pregnancy No-No's

Don't smoke. If you haven't already, stop smoking. Even if you're not a smoker, you'll want to look for ways to reduce you and your baby's exposure to second and third-hand smoke.

Don't Drink. Most experts recommend that you stop or limit drinking while your pregnant. We all know that heavy drinking during pregnancy can result in a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome. Experts aren't certain if lighter drinking affects your baby in subtle ways. Others suggest that drinking during specific times could be harmful.

Don't expose yourself to toxins. Detoxify and green-up your environment. Remove radiation, heavy metals and toxic chemicals from your environment as much as you can. They can affect your growing baby.

You can battle toxins by performing a "healthy home makeover". This includes using natural cleaning products, minimizing your exposure to BPA and phthalates, using stainless steel cookware and eating foods low in toxins.

Healthy food helps grow a healthy baby: Are you eating a wholesome diet? If you're unsure, ask your doctor or midwife to schedule a visit with a registered dietician. He or she can help you build an eating plan around your specific needs, likes and dislikes.

While you're pregnant, you'll want to avoid certain foods even if they were okay before. A few on the list include raw cheeses, deli meats and fish that could contain mercury.

Monitor Your Pregnancy's Well-Being

One last way you can ensure your pregnancy stays at its healthiest involves keeping an eye out for signs of a problem. Here are two ways you can accomplish that:

Schedule and go to all of your prenatal appointments. Women who keep their appointments tend to have less complicated pregnancies. You'll be able to see and hear your baby and discuss everything about pregnancy and birthing. Your midwife or doctor can watch out for any problems or complications and nip them in the bud.

Take advantage of wellness programs. Your company's human resources representative, insurance company or doctor's office might have a wellness program where you can get individualized one-on-one care. They'll help you monitor and overcome risk factors during your pregnancy.

We always recommend discussing any challenges, concerns, issues or emergencies with your healthcare provider. How will you ensure you have a healthy pregnancy?