“Without a doubt, pregnancy takes a toll on your mind and body,” says Dr. James O’Leary. “Preparing for pregnancy and taking steps during your pregnancy to help ease the journey is something I always recommend to patients. Below are seven tips to help set you up for a healthy pregnancy:
- Schedule an appointment with your obstetrician. If at all possible, do this before you become pregnant. Let your OB/GYN know that you’re going to be trying to conceive so they can look at different risk factors with you, such as genetic history, age, smoking, obesity and more. You’ll likely get an updated rubella vaccine as well.
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. This helps ensure that when you do conceive your baby is getting the necessary vitamins and helps prevent conditions like spina bifida.
- Cut back on fish that can have higher mercury content. This would include your basic tuna, mackerel, sea bass and others. Too much mercury in your bloodstream can damage the baby’s brain and nervous system development.
- Eat six smaller meals a day. In the first trimester, this might be your best option for keeping food down if you’re experiencing nausea. Even later in the pregnancy, as your body is making room for your growing baby, the smaller meals will physically make you most comfortable and be easier on your temporarily sluggish digestive system.
- Exercise. While you certainly won’t be training for a marathon while pregnant, moderate exercise can be very beneficial during pregnancy and help your blood sugar levels. You’ll want to avoid exercises that impact the abdominal wall, like sit-ups and trauma sports, and exercises that rely heavily on your center of balance. I recommend walking about five times a week after meals for 20-30 minutes.
- Avoid foods with listeria. While pregnant, you will be more susceptible to listeriosis, which can cause major complications for your baby; this includes miscarriage, preterm labor and stillbirth.
- Gain a healthy amount of weight. Weight gain will vary depending on several factors, but for most women a healthy weight gain is between 25 and 35 pounds. It’s important to remember that while you are eating for two, your baby is so very tiny for the first half of your pregnancy that you don’t need to increase your calorie intake significantly for the baby to thrive and grow. ChooseMyPlate.gov is a very useful website to help determine how many calories you’ll need in each stage of pregnancy, and they have a tool that even creates a daily food plan for you.
I think it’s also worth mentioning for women planning to conceive the importance of achieving a healthy weight, because being overweight can lead to bigger babies, preeclampsia and other complications,” notes Dr. O’Leary. “From what most of my patients tell me, even if they experience the tiredness and nausea, the symptoms of pregnancy are still tolerable; and at the end of it, you’ll welcome a whole new person into the world. Even when women have a complicated pregnancy, they tell me it was worth it in the end. It truly never gets old for me to see the look of pure joy on a patient’s face when she holds her newborn.”
Schedule an appointment with Dr. O’Leary to discuss your family planning and obstetric needs.