We’ve all heard that our choices during pregnancy can affect our growing babies. Did you know that your lifestyle before, during and after pregnancy impacts your baby’s health way beyond birth?
Poor nutrition and exposure to harmful substances increase your risk of pregnancy problems.
Check out some healthy lifestyle choices you can make during your pregnancy to give your baby the healthiest start to his or her life.
Quit Smoking and Avoid Secondhand Smoke
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 60 cancer-causing compounds. When you smoke during pregnancy, that toxic mix gets into your bloodstream, which is your baby’s only source of oxygen and nutrients. Nicotine and carbon monoxide are especially harmful; when combined, they reduce your baby’s oxygen supply.
Smoking can cause…
- Prematurity (baby born too early)
- Low birth weight (baby born too small)
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Birth defects
- Learning difficulties
Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit quitwithusla.org to find resources to help you quit smoking.
Don’t Drink Alcohol
No amount of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy – even a small amount. There is no safe time to drink during pregnancy, either. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including wine and beer. Drinking alcohol can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause poor growth, cognitive disability, physical defects, vision and hearing problems, and learning and behavioral problems. Women who drink during pregnancy are also more likely to have a miscarriage, stillbirth or a baby born with a low birth weight.
Avoid All Illegal Drugs and Certain Medications
Prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, herbal products and illegal street drugs such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine can cause serious problems for your developing baby. After birth, drugs can be passed to your baby through breastfeeding. Always ask your provider before you take any new medications or supplements during your pregnancy.
Reduce Caffeine Consumption
Caffeine may cause serious problems for your baby, such as low birth weight, breathing problems, sleeplessness and irritability. Caffeine is linked to an increased risk of early miscarriage. Reduce your caffeine consumption to no more than 200 mg per day, or about one 12 oz cup of coffee. Be aware that caffeine can be found in tea, soda, chocolate and some medications as well.
Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Stress is common during pregnancy.
Your hormones are changing, which can cause your mood to change. Life issues like managing work responsibilities may have you stressed. If you experience serious kinds of stress like a negative life event or a catastrophic event, talk to your partner, a friend or your healthcare provider. High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease. When you’re pregnant, this type of stress can increase the chances of prematurity or a low birth weight.
Get Your Family Vaccinated
Encourage your family and everyone around you and your baby to get vaccinated for certain diseases, including whooping cough and flu. This creates a circle of protection called “cocooning.” It is best to vaccinate prior to your baby’s birth because it takes at least two weeks to build immunities. Contact your healthcare provider for additional information.
If you need a dental or medical X-ray while pregnant, make sure your dentist or provider knows you’re pregnant.
Most women are more tired than usual during pregnancy, especially during early and late pregnancy. Get plenty of rest. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try taking a warm shower, napping during the day, going to bed earlier and using a body pillow for comfort.
Most pregnant women can and should exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes every day.
Monitor Your Weight Gain
If you were at a healthy weight (a body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9) before pregnancy, you should gain 25-35 pounds. Talk to your doctor about healthy weight gain.