Make healthy choices

Taking good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. Pay special attention to the basics:

  • Make a preconception appointment. Meet with your health care provider before you conceive to make sure your body is prepared for the task ahead. He or she will assess your overall health and discuss lifestyle changes that might improve your chances for a healthy pregnancy and baby. The preconception appointment is a great time to address any concerns you might have about fertility or pregnancy at your age. Ask about the best ways to boost the odds of conception — and options if you have trouble conceiving.
  • Seek regular prenatal care. During pregnancy, regular prenatal visits help your health care provider monitor your health and your baby's health. Mention any signs or symptoms that concern you, even if they seem silly or unimportant. Talking to your health care provider is likely to put your mind at ease.
  • Eat a healthy diet. During pregnancy, you'll need more folic acid, calcium, iron, protein and other essential nutrients. If you're already eating a healthy diet, keep it up. A daily prenatal vitamin — ideally starting a few months before conception — can help fill any gaps.
  • Gain weight wisely. Gaining the right amount of weight can support your baby's health — and make it easier to shed the extra pounds after delivery. A weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds (about 11 to 16 kilograms) is often recommended for women who have a healthy weight before pregnancy. If you're overweight before you conceive, you might need to gain less weight. If you're carrying twins or triplets, you might need to gain more weight. Work with your health care provider to determine what's right for you.
  • Stay physically active. Unless your health care provider says otherwise, pregnancy can be a great time to get active. Regular physical activity can help ease or even prevent discomfort, boost your energy level and improve your overall health. Perhaps best of all, it can help you prepare for labor and childbirth by increasing your stamina and muscle strength. Get your health care provider's OK before starting or continuing an exercise program, especially if you have any underlying conditions.
  • Avoid risky substances. Alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs are off-limits during pregnancy. Clear any medications or supplements with your health care provider ahead of time.
  • Learn about prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities. Diagnostic tests such as chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis provide information about your baby's chromosomes or the risk of specific chromosomal abnormalities, but also carry a slight risk of miscarriage. Your health care provider can help you weigh this risk against the value you place in knowing the test results. Although most prenatal tests simply confirm that a baby is healthy, it's important to prepare for other possibilities.

Look toward the future

The choices you make now — even before conception — can have a lasting effect on your baby. Think of pregnancy as an opportunity to nurture your baby and prepare for the exciting changes ahead.

Jul. 23, 2011 See more In-depth