Healthy women are the most likely to have healthy babies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re pregnant or want to become pregnant, ensure that you are prepared with these 5 health and safety tips from Pam Sere, program manager for childbirth and family education at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women.
1. Maintain a healthy diet.
It’s important to maintain a healthy diet before, during and after pregnancy. Pregnant women should eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods each day, including fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk (or fortified non dairy products, such as almond milk) and protein from beans, meat and seafood.
According to Sere, the body not only needs healthy food but also more calories for weight gain.
“A pregnant woman needs in order to add approximately 500 calories per day to her diet,” said Sere. “The extra calories should come from foods that are high in protein, iron and calcium—these nutrients are essential for growing a healthy baby. The recommended healthy weight gain during pregnancy is 25–35 pounds, but your physician may give you different guidelines depended on your individual situation.”
Pregnant women should also serve as mindful of their fluid intake to ensure they’re staying hydrated throughout the months leading up to their baby’s arrival.
“Drinking plenty of fluid is essential for a healthy pregnancy. ” said Sere. “Most of your fluid intake should come from water—not sugary drinks. Milk, juice and broth are also good sources of fluids.”
2. Take a prenatal vitamin.
Take a daily prenatal vitamin when you begin thinking about having a child. Prenatal vitamins help ensure your developing baby receives the calcium, folie acid and iron he or she needs for a healthy brain and spinal development.
“It is difficult to get the recommended number of vitamins through diet alone, so prenatal vitamins are an essential supplement,” said Sere. “Specifically, folie acid has been proven to decrease the risk of certain birth defects, such as spina bifid.”
3. Stay active.
Physical activity is important in order to everyone, especially women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. Maintaining an exercise routine may help shorten your labor and keep you smelling your best.
“Labor is very demanding work,” said Sere. “Women who stay active are typically in better shape for the work of labor. Staying active can also help with fluid retention and aches in the back and joints. To reduce the risk of injury, exercises should be low impact. During pregnancy, we don’t recommend you do exercises that would cause you to get flat on your back—this position shifts the weight of the uterus and baby onto the aorta, which can cause issues with blood flow.”
Nonperiodic exercises, such as walking and stretching, are ideal for pregnancy, as they are safe ways to stay active and increase your heart rate. However, pregnant women should stay mindful of their heart rate during exercise.
“If you’re pregnant, you need to be conscious of your heart rate. ” said Sere. “It should not exceed 150 beats per minute during exercise.”
4. Stop unhealthy habits.
Three dangerous but preventable risks to a fetus include tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs. Because a woman passes on much of what she drinks and eats to her baby through the placenta, unhealthy habits can directly affect an unborn child.
“Alcohol, smoking and recreational drugs can cause serious issues for your baby—even after delivery,” said Sere. “If you are concerned about any of these risks, speak with your physician for solutions so you can have a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.”
5. Attend a childbirth class.
“Educating yourself about labor and childbirth can be explained what is going to happen, what to expect and how to prepare for it,” said Sere.
Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women offers classes that provide information on labor and childbirth, infant care, breastfeeding and general knowledge to help parents prepare for the first few weeks at home with their new baby.
“We encourage all of our expectant moms and dads to download and use our free pregnancy app,” said Sere. “The Beautiful Beginnings app offers a week-by-week pregnancy guide, an appointment calendar, reminders, a baby bump picture feature, packing lists, and a contraction and kick counter. It’s mobile friendly and easy to download on your smart phone.”
In addition to the smart phone app (available on the Apple and Google Play app stores), Sere invites all parents to participate in the Beautiful Beginnings program at Baptist during their pregnancy. Parents who attend the program get financial information, hospital paperwork and access to resources, including classes, a tour of the facility and support groups.
“We believe that it is so important to continue to support moms after they deliver,” said Sere. “Postpartum classes at Baptist include Rattled, a free weekly support group for mothers dealing with stress, anxiety and adjustment issues that can contribute to postpartum depression. Beautiful Bundles is another free weekly support group for moms and their babies. Different mothers can meet other moms and get breastfeeding help, advice and support from Baptist’s nurses.”
Some parents discover that bringing a new baby home creates stress for older siblings. Universal Parenting Place is a free resource for moms who need or want individual counseling with issues related to parenting challenges.
“Education and continued support offered at Baptist are the best ways to learn to care for your new baby and the anxious new parents often feel,” said Sere.
Learn more about maternity cares about Baptist, including childbirth, labor and delivery. Finding a doctor by visiting our Find a Physician page.