From bump to baby

Your guide for a healthy pregnancy

babybumpPREGNANCY HAS SOME certainties: At some point it’s going to be hard to see your toes when you look down. And as your tummy grows, so will your curiosity, especially if this is the first time you’re expecting. When will you feel your baby’s first kick? Will you have a boy or a girl? And most important: Will your baby be healthy?

Thankfully, there’s much you can do to help the answer to that last question be yes. How you take care of yourself can significantly shape how your baby develops.

See a doctor along the way
One of the most crucial ingredients in growing a healthy baby is early and regular prenatal care. If you think you might be pregnant, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. Then attend every recommended visit.

Typically, this means having a pregnancy checkup about once a month for weeks 4 through 28, then twice a month through week 36 and once a week in the homestretch of pregnancy.

If you’re older than 35 or if you have a chronic medical problem such as diabetes, expect to make more frequent visits.

“Pregnancy can cause nausea, heartburn and constipation due to the hormonal changes,” says Kristina Eaton, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist. “Luckily, diet, hydration and medicine can help. The fun parts of pregnancy are the joy, the excitement, the anticipation and those amazing ultrasounds.”

These checkups allow your doctor to keep close tabs on your baby’s and your own health and to respond quickly should a problem develop, such as a slowing of your baby’s growth or a spike in your blood pressure.

Among other things, you’ll be screened for harmful infections, diabetes and other conditions that – if not treated – could harm your health or your baby.

Make good choices
Every day of your pregnancy is a chance for you to practice habits that are good for your growing baby – and you too. Among the most essential:

Nourish your body. Eating a variety of foods is the best way to get all the nutrients you and your baby need. Focus on fruits; vegetables; whole grains; lowfat, calcium-rich foods; and lean sources of protein, such as poultry and beans.

Also, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water.

Do keep in mind that being pregnant is not an excuse to overeat. You only need about 300 more calories every day to nourish your developing baby. Those calories add up quickly – so quickly, in fact, that an English muffin with peanut butter covers them.

Watch your weight. Adding too many pounds increases your risk of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or a difficult delivery. Gaining too few pounds, on the other hand, raises your risk of having an underweight baby.

Your doctor will advise you on the right amount of weight to gain. If you were at a healthy weight before you conceived, your likely target will be 25 to 35 pounds.

Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid daily. This reduces your risk of having a baby with birth defects of the brain and spine.

Make time for exercise. Unless your doctor says otherwise, try to fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise (such as swimming or brisk walking) on most or all days of the week.

Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs. Doing any of these things could seriously endanger your baby’s health. Tell your doctor if you need help quitting any of these risky habits.

Remember: By caring for yourself, you are caring for your baby.