Pop those prenatals
If you’re not already, start taking prenatal vitamins immediately. Ask your doctor which type is best for you, or—if the clock is ticking and your doc is unavailable—pick up an over-the-counter variety at any grocery or drugstore. Make sure you’re getting at least 400 mcg of folic acid each day to promote healthy spinal cord development and prevent spina bifida. Because you will have a lot on your mind, get in the habit of taking your vitamin at the same time each day and leave yourself reminders: “Pop a pill!” in marker on the bathroom mirror or “Vita’ time!” on an alarm on your cell phone.
Be quick to quit
If you’ve never had a strong motivation to drop bad habits, let the bun in the oven be your wake-up call. Cigarette-smoking can have frightening effects, including an increased likelihood of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
How about a drink now and then? Studies have shown that consuming even one alcoholic drink per week during pregnancy can have an adverse effect on a developing baby, and heavier drinking can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, the only preventable cause of mental retardation.
Caffeine consumption during pregnancy is often debated, but one study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who consumed 200 mg or more of caffeine per day (equal to two cups of coffee or five cans of caffeinated soft drinks) had twice the miscarriage risk of women who didn’t consume caffeine.
Now is not the time to try to lose weight, nor is it a good time to give in to unhealthy cravings or binge eating. Benito Villanueva, MD, author of The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide for Expectant Mothers, says, “Fat-burning diets produce byproducts called ketones, which in high quantities have been linked to mental retardation, so skip the low-carb diet until after the baby is born.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a pregnancy diet of three servings of dairy, three servings of protein, three servings of fruit, four servings of vegetables, and nine servings of whole grain products each day.
Many women suffer from anemia during pregnancy, so maintain an iron-rich diet to keep up your red blood cell count. Prenatal vitamins often include iron, but it can also be found in lean red meat, poultry, salmon, tofu, beans, nuts and green vegetables. Certain risky foods should be avoided during pregnancy. Nix the sushi bar: Raw fish is off limits. Any unpasteurized dairy products, such as some soft cheeses, should also be abandoned for now. Check with your doctor for a complete list of dos and don’ts.
Beware of dangerous chemicals and radiation in your workplace, and avoid harmful chemical products at home as well. Insect repellent, paint and harsh cleaning supplies are no-nos. Because anything you put on your skin can seep through and possibly affect baby, be cautious in your beauty routine as well. Read labels!
Whether you’ve previously been a regular at the gym or a habitual couch potato, get moving for at least 30 minutes a few times a week during pregnancy. You’ll enjoy decreased back pain and swelling, and you’ll lose the weight faster after baby is born. Of course, don’t overdo it either. Check with your doctor before you begin any fitness regimen, and avoid jarring activities such as horseback riding, ice skating, roller coaster riding, gymnastics and skiing.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time, both physically and mentally. Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing, walking, massage or acupuncture to lighten the load. Villanueva observes, “Reducing stress will help you sleep better, maintain a stronger relationship with your partner, and better manage pregnancy symptoms.” Communication can also ease mental anxiety. Express your thoughts, worries and excitement to your partner and grow closer to him as he gets to know the new you. Talking with your doctor—early on and throughout your pregnancy—can alleviate concerns about your physical development. And remember to laugh once in a while. You’ll feel better with a smile on your face!