Pregnancy is an exciting yet challenging time for expecting parents. With so much information available, it can be difficult to know what to do and what to avoid to ensure a healthy pregnancy. In this article, we’ll go over some of the most important do’s and don’ts for expecting parents, including essential prenatal vitamins and supplements, foods to avoid during pregnancy, safe exercise during pregnancy, how to prepare for labor and delivery, and how to take care of yourself postpartum.
DO take essential prenatal vitamins and supplements
Taking prenatal vitamins and supplements during pregnancy is crucial for the health and development of the fetus. Some of the most important vitamins and minerals include folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamin D. Here’s a brief overview of why these nutrients are important during pregnancy:
Folic acid is a B-vitamin that is essential for the formation of the neural tube, which later becomes the baby’s brain and spinal cord. A sufficient intake of folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects such as neural tube defects. It’s recommended that expectant mothers take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.
During pregnancy, the body needs more iron to support the growth of the fetus and the increase in blood volume. Iron helps in the formation of red blood cells and prevents anemia. Anemia during pregnancy can lead to fatigue, weakness, and an increased risk of infection. Expectant mothers should aim for 27 milligrams of iron daily.
Calcium is essential for the development of strong bones and teeth for the fetus. It’s also important for the health of the mother’s bones and teeth. Expectant mothers should aim for 1000 milligrams of calcium daily.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is important for the growth and development of the fetus. Vitamin D also helps the body maintain healthy bones and a strong immune system. Expectant mothers should aim for 600-800 international units of vitamin D daily.
It’s important to note that while prenatal vitamins and supplements can provide important nutrients, they should not be relied on as the sole source of nutrition during pregnancy. Expectant mothers should also consume a balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein-rich foods to ensure a healthy pregnancy. It’s best to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the right vitamins and supplements for your individual needs.
DON’T eat these foods during pregnancy
During pregnancy, the immune system is weakened, making the expectant mother more susceptible to foodborne illnesses. Some foods carry a higher risk of harmful bacteria and should be avoided to ensure the health and safety of both mother and baby. Here are some common foods to avoid during pregnancy:
Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish, and eggs:
These foods can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli, which can cause food poisoning. It’s best to fully cook these foods until they reach a safe internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.
Deli meats, such as ham and turkey, can also contain harmful bacteria. Expectant mothers should avoid consuming deli meats unless they are fully heated to an internal temperature of 165°F.
Soft cheeses such as feta, blue cheese, and brie can contain Listeria, a bacteria that can cause serious illness. Expectant mothers should avoid soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.
Unpasteurized dairy products:
Unpasteurized dairy products, such as raw milk, can contain harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Expectant mothers should only consume dairy products that are pasteurized.
Caffeine can cross the placenta and affect the fetus, leading to decreased birth weight and an increased risk of miscarriage. Expectant mothers should limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause harm to the fetus and increase the risk of birth defects and developmental problems. Expectant mothers should avoid alcohol altogether during pregnancy.
It’s important to note that every expectant mother and pregnancy is unique, and it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best dietary guidelines for your individual needs. A balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein-rich foods can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
DO safe exercises during pregnancy
Physical activity during pregnancy has many benefits, including improved mood, reduced stress, and increased energy. Regular exercise can also help with weight management and prepare the body for labor and delivery. However, it’s important to follow certain guidelines to ensure the safety of both the mother and the fetus.
Here are some tips for safe exercise during pregnancy:
Consult with your healthcare provider:
Before starting or continuing any physical activity during pregnancy, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best plan for your individual needs.
Regular physical activity is recommended during pregnancy, with the exception of high-risk pregnancies. Expectant mothers should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, most days of the week.
Listen to your body:
Pregnancy can bring physical changes, and it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your exercise routine as needed. If you experience any discomfort or pain, stop the activity and consult with your healthcare provider.
Avoid certain activities:
Some activities, such as contact sports, high-altitude activities, and activities with a high risk of falling, should be avoided during pregnancy. It’s also best to avoid activities that require lying flat on your back, as this can decrease blood flow to the fetus.
During exercise, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration can cause premature contractions and decreased amniotic fluid, which can be harmful to the fetus.
Exercise in moderation:
It’s important to avoid overexertion during pregnancy and to avoid activities that cause exhaustion. It’s best to exercise in moderation and to avoid any intense or prolonged activity.
By following these guidelines, expectant mothers can safely continue physical activity during pregnancy and enjoy the many benefits of exercise. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best plan for your individual needs.
DO prepare for labor and delivery
Preparing for labor and delivery can help expectant mothers feel more confident and in control during the birth process. Here are some tips for preparing for labor and delivery:
Choose a healthcare provider:
It’s important to choose a healthcare provider who you trust and feel comfortable with. This may be an obstetrician, a midwife, or a family physician. It’s best to start seeing your healthcare provider early in your pregnancy to establish a relationship and to receive regular prenatal care.
Create a birth plan:
A birth plan is a written document that outlines your preferences and expectations for labor, delivery, and postpartum care. It’s a good idea to discuss your birth plan with your healthcare provider and to bring a copy with you to the hospital.
Take childbirth classes:
Childbirth classes can help expectant mothers prepare for labor and delivery, including what to expect during labor, breathing and relaxation techniques, and comfort measures during labor.
Learn about pain management options:
There are various pain management options available during labor and delivery, including medication, epidurals, and natural techniques. It’s a good idea to discuss these options with your healthcare provider and to learn about the pros and cons of each method.
Pack a hospital bag:
Packing a hospital bag in advance can help ensure that you have everything you need during labor and delivery, including comfortable clothing, toiletries, and important documents.
Have a support team:
Having a support team, including a partner, family member, or friend, can provide emotional support and help with comfort measures during labor and delivery. It’s a good idea to discuss the role of your support team with your healthcare provider and to communicate your preferences.
By preparing for labor and delivery, expectant mothers can feel more confident and in control during the birth process. It’s important to remember that birth is unpredictable and to be flexible with your birth plan if necessary. Your healthcare provider can provide additional guidance and support throughout the birth process.
DON’T forget to take care of yourself post-partum
The postpartum period is a time of physical and emotional recovery after birth. It’s important for new mothers to take care of themselves during this time to promote healing and to adjust to the demands of motherhood. Here are some tips for postpartum self-care:
Get plenty of rest:
Sleep is essential for physical and emotional recovery after birth. Try to get as much rest as possible, even if it means taking naps during the day.
Eat a balanced diet:
A balanced diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein, can help support physical recovery and promote energy levels.
Drinking plenty of water and other fluids can help prevent dehydration and promote healing after birth.
The postpartum period can be overwhelming, and it’s important to seek support from friends, family, and healthcare providers. Support groups and therapy can also be helpful for emotional recovery.
Gentle exercise, such as walking, can help improve physical recovery, increase energy levels, and reduce stress. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.
Take time for self-care:
Self-care, such as taking a bath, reading a book, or practicing mindfulness, can help reduce stress and promote emotional well-being.
Don’t ignore postpartum symptoms:
Postpartum symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, are common and should not be ignored. It’s important to seek support and treatment if necessary.
By taking care of yourself during the postpartum period, new mothers can promote healing, reduce stress, and adjust to the demands of motherhood. It’s important to remember that self-care is an ongoing process and to be patient with yourself as you adjust to the changes and challenges of motherhood. Your healthcare provider can provide additional guidance and support throughout the postpartum period.
Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.