September 19, 2014 Healthy Living

How to Prepare for a Healthy Pregnancy

Are you thinking about starting a family? You should know that a healthy pregnancy is the first and most important step you can take to help your little one get off to a good start. Indeed, the choices you make now could affect your baby for the rest of his or her life, so it’s essential that you know some strategies that can make a difference before and during your pregnancy.

Healthy Habits

If you’re planning to start a family, optimizing your health should be your top priority.

Nutrition. Ideally, your weight should be at a healthy level, but if you are overweight, do not start a weight-loss regimen while pregnant. Your pre-pregnancy diet should include the following:

  • lean meats
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole-grain bread
  • low-fat dairy
  • plenty of water

In addition, your provider will likely prescribe a prenatal vitamin supplement to ensure adequate levels of calcium, iron and folic acid.

Exercise. Regular exercise before and during pregnancy has several benefits, including:

  • minimal weight gain
  • decreased likelihood or intensity of back pain, swelling, and constipation
  • improved sleep
  • increased energy
  • preparation for the physical demands of labor
  • reduced recovery time

Plan to exercise for at least 30 minutes at moderate intensity four or five days each week. If you’re already doing a more rigorous workout or are very active, your provider may allow you to continue your routine during your pregnancy. Before beginning or continuing any exercise regimen, though, be sure to consult your caregiver.

Choosing a Prenatal Care Provider

One of the most important things you can do to ensure that your baby is healthy is establish a relationship with a prenatal care provider at the start of your pregnancy. A good choice is an obstetrician or a midwife, as they are specially trained to monitor your pregnancy, assist with delivering your baby, and treat any issues that arise before, during, or after childbirth.

An obstetrician (OB) is a physician who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-delivery recovery period. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or risk factors that could cause your pregnancy to become high-risk, your OB might refer you to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (also called a perinatologist) with expertise in treating those conditions.

A certified nurse-midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse who has specialized training and experience in taking care of pregnant women and delivering babies. CNMs are licensed to care for women and babies before, during, and after delivery.

When choosing a prenatal practitioner, consider these factors:

  • Does the provider have a good reputation? If you know any mothers with young children or other women who are pregnant, ask for their recommendations. Word of mouth is a great way to find out what people really think about the care they received during pregnancy and childbirth.  Such recommendations shouldn’t be your only deciding factor, however, as everyone has different styles and preferences.
    • The CDPHP® Find-A-Doc tool can help you narrow your search, as it allows you to easily determine which practitioners accept your insurance and have offices convenient to where you live or work.
  • Are you and your partner comfortable with your practitioner and his or her experience level?
  • Is the office convenient and easily accessible, and does the practice have hours that mesh with your schedule?
  • Does the hospital where the provider performs deliveries have a good reputation? Is the hospital baby friendly?
  • Is the office staff respectful, readily available, and knowledgeable?
  • Is the provider part of a group of practitioners? If so, how many different providers would you see throughout your pregnancy? Are you comfortable with each person who could potentially be on-call when you deliver? If the provider is a solo practitioner, who covers for him or her if he/she is not available in an emergency or when you go into labor?
  • Is a 24-hour number you can call for after-hours questions or emergencies available?
  • Is the provider willing to consider any strong preferences you have with regard to your pregnancy care or delivery?

What to Avoid During Pregnancy

Once you become pregnant, you should refrain from certain activities and substances that pose significant risks.

Smoking. When a pregnant woman smokes, her unborn child is exposed to toxins, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risks for stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and other respiratory problems.

If you’re a smoker and are thinking about having a baby, it’s critical that you quit. Even if you’re not a smoker, you should avoid secondhand smoke. If you need help quitting, several smoking cessation resources are available from CDPHP to help you kick the habit.

Alcohol. Alcohol is one of the most common causes of mental and physical birth defects. Because an unborn baby cannot eliminate alcohol from its body as easily or as quickly as its mother, even moderate alcohol intake can damage the baby’s developing nervous system. To complicate matters, it is not known how much alcohol is too much (or what would be a “safe” amount) to consume during pregnancy, so the best approach is to avoid it altogether.

Recreational Drugs. Recreational drugs (those not recommended or prescribed by your doctor) place your baby at risk for premature birth, poor growth, birth defects, and behavior and learning problems. If you are addicted to drugs, or even a casual user, CDPHP substance abuse resources can help you address the issue. In any case, any recreational drug use during pregnancy should be reported to your caregiver, even if you are no longer using.

Caffeine. Although opinions differ as to whether caffeine consumption is safe during pregnancy, high levels have been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, especially in the early stages of pregnancy. For that reason, it is important to talk with your provider about your recommended caffeine intake during pregnancy.

CDPHP is With You All the Way
From nutrition, fitness, or digital app support, learn more about all of the resources CDPHP has to support you during your pregnancy at our pregnancy site. Interested in learning more about your maternity benefits? Log into your member account and check out the Maternity Care & Family Planning page.

References: March of Dimes, MedlinePlus

Photo by kit4na / CC BY

Elise Shaver
About the Author

Elise Shaver joined CDPHP® in February 2021 as a marketing communications coordinator and currently serves as communications specialist. A native of the Capital Region, Elise earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Siena College. She brings several years of experience in both the marketing and not-for-profit industry. Elise enjoys the outdoors, gardening, and spending time with her family.

Comments are closed.

Get our favorite local activities, health tips
and more, each month.