The first, and perhaps most important, step in a healthy pregnancy is getting prenatal care. This means finding an obstetrician right after a positive pregnancy test. The doctor will recommend prenatal vitamins, which are rich in many nutrients expectant mothers need, like calcium, iron and folic acid. Folic acid is especially important in the first few weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus is developing its neural tube, which eventually develops into the brain and spinal cord. A lack of folic acid during this period can result in birth defects. The recommended daily amount is 400 micrograms. There is enough folic acid in prenatal vitamins, and even in some multivitamins, but you can't get too much of it, so a healthy diet with foods rich in folic acid is recommended as well.
Between doctor's visits, pregnant women should follow a healthy diet, exercise on a regular basis, keep their "baby weight" within healthy limits, and try to manage stress levels. Many doctors believe that good health should begin before you even conceive in order to ensure the healthiest pregnancy possible. In fact, taking folic acid even before you get pregnant can help prevent birth defects.
While there are plenty of vitamins and foods that you should ingest, there are a few things expectant mothers should avoid. They shouldn't smoke or even be around smoke. Either of these behaviors doubles the risk of placental problems and low birth weight. It also increases the risk of having a premature baby. However, there is good news. If a woman quits smoking during her first trimester, the risk returns to that of a woman who never smoked. Other things to avoid while pregnant include excessive amounts of caffeine, exposure to X-rays and, of course, contact sports or other dangerous physical activities [source: March of Dimes].
It's also important for any woman who may suffer from a chronic health condition to take extra special care of herself. Women with high blood pressure should start checking their pressure at home and discussing medication changes with their doctors. Also, women with diabetes should check their blood sugar several times a day and adjust their insulin or oral medications as needed. Finally, pregnant women should treat any bacterial or viral infections. Some viral infections, like chlamydia or herpes, can determine if baby will be born vaginally or via Caesarean section.
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