Taking care of yourself throughout your pregnancy will help your body better adjust to pregnancy, and it will aid in your child’s healthy development. Talk to your doctor about healthy habits for your pregnancy, and be sure to ask your doctor if you have concerns about certain foods, habits, or activities.
In addition to taking your prenatal vitamins, you will want to balance your diet with nutritious foods for you and your baby. You will want to include:
- 3-4 servings of protein
- 7+ servings of grains
- 3-4 calcium-rich foods
- 1+ Vitamin C-rich food
- 1+ dark green vegetable
- 2+ servings of fruits and/or vegetables
- 3+ servings of good fats
- 8+ fluid servings (of 8 oz)
Alcohol should be avoided or very limited since it has been linked to birth defects when consumed in high amounts during pregnancy. You are also encouraged to limit caffeine intake to under 200 mg per day. (Check this Caffeine Content guide for help.)
You are also advised to stay away from some types of fish (e.g. shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish), soft cheeses (e.g. feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese), and raw seafood (e.g. sushi).
For more information, please check out Web MD’s “Eating Right When Pregnant” guide. Here are 2 handouts to help you make good diet decisions:
- Nutrition During Pregnancy (by The Female Patient)
- Nutrition During Pregnancy (by Michigan State University)
Find easy recipes for snacks and meals on our “Easy Recipes for College Students” page.
Exercise can be done safely throughout pregnancy. Exercise can help reduce pregnancy symptoms like nausea, and some women claim that it makes labor and recovery easier. However, you should consult your doctor before engaging in more strenuous exercise activities. When engaging in exercise during pregnancy, consider these 13 tips found here, and here are suggestions for safe ways to exercise.
The Big No No’s
During pregnancy, you are strongly advised to avoid alcohol, drugs, smoking, and other habits that will pose harm to you and your growing preborn child. Other habits that you may not consider “dangerous” include changing your cat’s litter box and cleaning your house. If you have a cat, have your partner or a friend take care of the litter box in order to avoid toxoplasmosis, which can cause birth defects in preborn children. When cleaning your house, make sure that you have good ventilation when using cleaners and wear gloves to avoid skin contact with strong chemicals. (Here are some natural cleaning products and tips if you choose to do away with chemical cleaners.)
You can safely continue to have sex throughout pregnancy; it will not harm your growing child. However, if you have concerns about certain activities, it’s best to openly discuss these with your doctor. Also, be sure to discuss medications or other medical treatments with your doctor so that you can explore safe alternatives or adjustments. For helpful advice on what you can and can’t do, check out this “Pregnancy Dos and Don’ts” list.
Miscarriage most often occurs in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Signs include: bleeding (light or heavy), cramps, abdominal pain, fever, and passing of tissue. Miscarriages may be caused by any number of issues (e.g. infection, exposure to environmental or workplace hazards, hormonal problems, uterine abnormalities). Contact your health provider immediately if you are experiencing any of the above-listed signs. More information about miscarriage can be found on our miscarriage informational page: Miscarriage.
You may notice signs before your labor begins such as lightening (or the dropping of your belly), the passing of the mucus plug (also known as bloody show), increased Braxton Hicks contractions, or your water breaking. However, some of these may occur weeks before labor actually begins, and for some women, these things won’t happen until she is in labor.
Labor occurs in 3 stages that gradually become more intense. The first stage is marked by regular contractions that are consistent and capable of being timed. Unlike Braxon Hicks contractions (which are irregular and not too uncomfortable), labor contractions will be evenly spaced and will continue even if you change position or move around. In the beginning, you should relax, practice breathing, and change positions to stay comfortable. You may want to walk around or grab a snack. The contractions will become longer, stronger, and closer together. As you enter active labor, it will become “no longer funny.” (You’ll no exactly when this happens!) That is when you should call your doctor, get in the car, and head to the hospital. The second stage begins when you are fully dilated and you feel the urge to push. Your doctor or nurse will coach you for when to wait and when to push. The last stage of labor happens right after the baby is born; you will begin a moment to pause and then will be instructed to push to deliver the placenta. Your doctor or nurses will probably massage your stomach to assist in this effort. (For more information, check out Baby Center’s “Stages of Labor” page. An informational video is provided here.)
Prior to your labor, you should discuss with your partner or whoever may be joining you at the hospital what methods and pain management you will want to use. In childbirth classes, you can learn effective breathing techniques, positions, and strategies to provide non-medicinal comfort. You will also be given pain management options such as a local anesthesia or an epidural. You will also have the options of allowing your partner to cut the cord, skin-to-skin with your child, collection of cord blood, and more. Talk to your provider about what your hospital typically does.