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pregnant womanBy Suzi Hinck, Graduate Student, Case Western Reserve University and Dietetic Intern, Massachusetts WIC Program

Are you pregnant?  Congratulations!  So am I!  It’s an exciting and busy time between thinking of names, buying baby clothes, books, and toys, and thinking ahead to my baby’s arrival. But there’s something even more important to me now that I’m pregnant, and that is my health and the health of my growing baby.  Personally, I have found that I am more willing to take care of myself now that I am pregnant. I want to make sure the baby will have the best start to her life!

Pregnancy is the perfect time to focus on being healthy.  Here are some tips for having a healthy pregnancy!

Healthy Eating: During pregnancy, I know it’s important for me to pay attention to what I eat and drink.

  • I eat a variety of foods each day: protein (lean meats, poultry, and fish); grains (I make half my grains whole grains); low-fat dairy products; vegetables; and fruits. I try to eat small meals and snacks throughout the day so that I eat different types of foods.
  • Sorry to break it to you, but you don’t need to “eat for two” when you’re pregnant. I know – I was disappointed, too!
    • During the first trimester, I didn’t need any extra calories.
    • In the second trimester, I need an extra 340 calories per day. That means a few small snacks throughout the day or a half a sandwich between meals.
    • In the third trimester, I will need an extra 450 calories per day. This is about the same amount as an extra small meal.
  • I make sure to take a prenatal multivitamin that contains folic acid to decrease the risk of birth defects like spina bifida. Prenatal vitamins that have omega-3 fatty acids help my baby’s brain and eyes develop. During the first trimester, I found it helpful to take these vitamins with meals when I was feeling sick.
  • I try to limit my caffeine intake. Doctors recommend no more than about one cup of coffee or one caffeinated drink each day.
  • I know to practice safe handling of foods to keep my baby safe. I make sure to eat well-cooked meat, poultry and eggs. I avoid unpasteurized milk or juice.  I stay away from soft cheese, like brie, feta, queso fresco and blue cheese, unless they’re made from pasteurized milk.

Physical Activity: Being active is good for me and my baby during pregnancy. I made sure to check with my doctor before exercising. She said that some good activities for pregnant women are walking, swimming, and yoga. I like to walk outside a few days every week and do yoga on the weekends. Also, I have found that even taking time to stretch my arms, legs, and back really helps prevent aches and pains.

Alcohol and Smoking: Luckily, I’ve never smoked, and I made sure to avoid alcohol before becoming pregnant. Alcohol can cause birth defects and damage my baby’s brain. Smoking causes health problems and can cause miscarriage or premature birth.

I’ve always focused on my health, but now that I’m pregnant, I find it more enjoyable to be healthy and set a good example for my baby. How do you plan to stay healthy during your pregnancy?  Let us know!

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