How to Stay Healthy During Your Pregnancy

Pregnant woman holding child's hand
Congratulations — you're expecting! Your heart fills with anticipation as you prepare to meet your new bundle of joy. But if you're like most women, your mind will likely gravitate toward a vital factor: staying healthy during pregnancy. No matter where you are in your pregnancy, it's a great time to attend to your health — and that of your rapidly developing child.

Pregnancy impacts your body in significant ways, and it's up to you, with the assistance of your medical providers, to help the baby grow so it's healthy at birth. 

Read on for a few healthy pregnancy tips, from eating well and staying fit during pregnancy, to avoiding stress. 

What to eat during pregnancy

Knowing how to eat healthy during pregnancy is one of the first things to consider when you find out you're having a baby. The answer isn't surprising: many nutritionists recommend a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, with plenty of lean protein like chicken and seafood, as well as whole grains and dairy products high in calcium. 

Speak with your doctor about which prenatal vitamins and supplements are right for you (perhaps iron if your prenatal doesn't contain it), and be sure to drink plenty of fluids every day, especially water. This can prevent digestive problems such as pregnancy constipation, which is very common.

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Foods to avoid during early pregnancy

When considering healthy food for pregnancy, focus on a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. While there are some differing viewpoints about food no-no's during pregnancy, it's essential to be aware of standard foods to avoid, as they could pose a risk for you and the baby. 

Chief among them are raw or overly-rare meats and seafood, raw eggs (watch mayonnaise, as Salmonella is a risk), and unpasteurized dairy products, including some soft cheeses. Avoid eating cooked seafood known to be high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, and tuna, and limit your intake of processed meats like hot dogs and deli meats. 

The importance of sleep during pregnancy

Exhaustion is a completely typical pregnancy symptom. If your body is telling you it needs to shut down for a little while, listen to it. Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things to do in early pregnancy and will set you up for staying healthy during pregnancy and beyond. 

Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night, but if you need more, try to take a nap when you can. As your pregnancy progresses, you may find it hard to sleep comfortably. A pregnancy pillow can help, as can lying on your left side with your knees bent and pillows between your legs and behind your back. Keep experimenting until you find a solution that helps you sleep soundly.

How to stay fit during pregnancy

Though it may seem that pregnancy is a time to relax and not over-exert yourself, one of the best early pregnancy tips is to exercise. It's wise to avoid certain high-risk activities such as kickboxing, horseback riding, or any activities where you could fall or be hit in the belly. 

Maintain healthy, moderate-intensity activity throughout your pregnancy. Swimming, walking, biking, yoga, and Pilates are excellent choices. Avoid pushing or straining yourself; overstretching can happen quickly during pregnancy. Be sure to take breaks and drink plenty of fluids while you're active.

Moderate exercise and mind-body practices are also great for stress reduction. Stress is increasingly associated with some pregnancy complications, such as pre-term labor. Although stress is a natural part of daily life, pregnant women will do well to reduce sources of stress in their life for the sake of themselves and their child. 

Avoid smoking and drinking

It's important to go about enjoying many of the same things you did pre-pregnancy. But two of the biggest things to avoid during pregnancy are cigarettes and alcohol. Alcohol, even in small amounts, can cause issues for growing fetuses, and no known quantity is safe to recommend. 

Children of smokers are at risk of prematurity, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and low birth weight. If you're a smoker or a heavy drinker, there's no better time to commit to quitting. There are numerous programs available for quitting, so ask your doctor to help you access one.

Other tips to stay healthy during pregnancy

There are a couple of other caveats to be aware of during pregnancy. Here's one: if you have a cat, ask your partner to change the litter. A disease called toxoplasmosis can be contracted through dirty cat litter and can cause problems for your baby. 

Another tip is to carefully consider any over-the-counter and prescription drugs you take while pregnant. Go over the list of what you regularly take with your doctor to determine if any may have side effects for your baby. Even simple drugs such as aspirin may carry risks that are easily avoided.

Consider your life insurance needs

One final pregnancy tip for first-time moms is to consider, with your partner, whether your need for life insurance will change. Life insurance protects your loved ones when you're not in the picture. Many couples re-evaluate their need for life insurance when their first child arrives. 

Just as you do everything to maintain good health during pregnancy, consider your financial health too, with a free quote from Ethos.

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