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.
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:
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:
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:
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.