The best thing you can do to have a healthy baby is to follow these simple “steps”.
Eat a well balanced, nutritious diet
Now is the time to assure that you are getting all the nutrients you need. A diet which has a variety of protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and limits sweets and fats, is the key to a healthy mother and baby. Be sure to drink 6 - 8 glasses of water per day as water helps control you body temperature, transport nutrients throughout the body, digest food and eliminate waste products.
Being under or overweight poses different risks to pregnancy. If you are over or underweight, now is the time to speak with your health care provider about ways to improve your nutritional status and manage your weight.
Start taking multivitamins with folic acid
Folate is important in the early development of a baby’s brain and spinal cord, also called the neural tube. These vital organs begin to form in the first 28 days of pregnancy. Lacking folate during this period may lead to neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
Folate is part of the B vitamin group. It is found most commonly in dark leafy vegetables, nuts beans and citrus fruits. In addition to increasing your dietary intake of folate, it is recommended that you take 400 mcg of folic acid per day prior to pregnancy. During pregnancy, the requirement for folate increases to 600 mcg.
Avoid alcohol, smoking, and drugs
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to you and your baby. Alcohol passes through the placenta to the fetus and stays in the fetus’ blood stream longer. Regular drinking may cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome are usually small and weigh less than normal newborns. The most serious and preventable effect of drinking alcohol in pregnancy is mental retardation.
Smoking can harm both your and your baby's health. Women who smoke while they are pregnant have a greater chance of miscarriage, premature delivery, delivering a low birth-weight baby or stillbirth. Pregnancy is a good time to stop smoking! Many women find it easier to quit when they are pregnant. Once you quit, the risks to you and your baby go down immediately!
Newborns and children who live with cigarette smokers get sick more often and stay sick longer, have more coughs, colds, ear infections, asthma attacks and are more likely to have heart disease, breathing problems or lung cancer when they grow up.
It is important to know that even drugs purchased over -the-counter and prescription drugs that are safely used when you are not pregnant may cause harm to your baby during pregnancy. It is always safe to check with your doctor before taking any drug.
If you use cocaine, marijuana or other street drugs, now is the time to stop. Your health care provider will work with you to find the best way for you to quit.
Avoid exposure to harmful substances and chemicals
Now is the time to identify, reduce or eliminate any exposure you may have in you home and at your work place. Items such as cleaning solvents, lead, mercury, paint thinners and removers, radiation, insecticides may pose a threat to the developing fetus. Discuss with your employer and concerns you may have about workplace exposures, and be sure to read the label safety remarks before you use any paints, cleaners, chemicals and bug sprays.
Cat litter may carry Toxoplasmosis gondii, a parasite which can be a serious threat to the developing fetus. Toxoplasmosis is one of the most common infections. The risks to the fetus are different with each trimester of pregnancy. If possible, have someone else change the kitty litter box. If you have outdoor cats, be sure to wear gloves while gardening and avoid children’s sandboxes.