Pregnant? A Healthy Start Begins with a Healthy Pregnancy

Pregnant Woman

Bringing your newborn home from the hospital is an exciting time, but it can also be scary! Your baby depends on your completely to meet all his physical needs, and you will probably have a lot of questions and concerns about exactly how to recognize and ultimately meet those needs, now, and in the future. New parents have so many questions and concerns about what's best for their baby's health and may worry that their baby isn't developing at a "normal" rate, or, don't know when they should start their baby on solid foods, or how to determine if their baby is sick or not. Because all children are different there are no hard and fast rules about any of these issues, but there are some general guidelines to follow. Here are a few tips to remind you how to help assure that you baby grows up healthy and strong.

Visit a Health Professional

It is important to visit a doctor's office or a clinic throughout your pregnancy for pre-natal exams. A health professional will ask about your family's medical history, test for diseases, check your weight and blood pressure, and make sure that your pregnancy is progressing normally. Your family doctor or local family clinic can provide information for you about maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, and what to expect during your pregnancy.

The best way to ensure that you give birth to a healthy baby is to live a healthy life-style during your pregnancy. It's important to get plenty of rest and exercise and eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet. As soon as your suspect you may be pregnant, you should visit a health professional---either an obstetrician, a family practitioner, a nurse practitioner, or a nurse-midwife. Years of research have shown that women who receive regular pre-natal care have healthier babies, and easier pregnancies and deliveries.

Eat Well

Eating well during pregnancy is especially important, since you are "eating for two." This doesn't mean, however, that a pregnant woman should eat twice as much. You really only need about 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy, and they should be nutritious ones. Pregnant women need to eat well-balanced diets complete with proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. Certain nutrients are particularly important during pregnancy. Calcium keeps the mother's bones strong. Iron helps the mother's blood carry oxygen to the developing fetus. Folic acid is especially important, as it significantly reduces the risk of neural tube birth defects, or defects of the brain and spinal cord. Even though these nutrients are found in natural food sources, most women should take pre-natal vitamin supplements just to be sure that their diets are complete.

Avoid Alcohol

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it travels quickly through her bloodstream to her baby. Mothers who drink excessively during pregnancy are more likely to have babies with mental retardation and facial abnormalities (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), impaired growth, and learning disabilities. No one really knows how much alcohol is safe for a pregnant woman. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that women do not drink any alcohol during their pregnancy.

Avoid Drugs

Abusing drugs during pregnancy can result in an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, mental retardation, sudden infant death, and low birth weight. Although many prescription drugs can be used safely during pregnancy, a woman should check with her doctor before taking ANY medications, even over-the-counter ones.

Avoid Smoking

Smoking during pregnancy can also lead to serious health problems, nearly doubling the risk of low birth weight and placental complications, and causing a much higher risk of ectopic pregnancy (where the fertilized egg implants outside the womb) and learning and behavioral disorders. Women should know about the risks of smoking or abusing drugs while pregnant, and stop all behaviors which can harm their unborn children.

Exercise

One of the best things a mother can do for herself and her unborn baby is to exercise regularly during pregnancy. Maintaining a consistent exercise routine helps to strengthen a woman's body so she can carry the extra weight she gains during her pregnancy.

From Your Healthy Baby published by I am Your Child.

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