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Health Tips for Pregnant Women
Learn about healthy eating and physical activity during pregnancy to gain the right amount of weight and avoid health problems for you and your baby.
Health Tips for Pregnant WomenIn this section:
Healthy Weight Healthy Eating Physical Activity
After the Baby Is Born
Having a baby is an exciting time that often inspires women to make healthier lifestyle choices and, if needed, work toward a healthy body weight. Here you’ll find tips on how to improve your eating and physical activity habits while you’re pregnant and after your baby is born.
These tips can also be useful if you’re not pregnant but are thinking about having a baby! By making changes now, you can get used to new lifestyle habits. You’ll give your baby the best possible start on life and be a healthy example to your family for a lifetime.
Being active when you’re expecting can help you have a healthy pregnancy.
Why is gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy important?
Gaining an appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy helps your baby grow to a healthy size. But gaining too much or too little weight may lead to serious health problems for you and your baby.
According to experts External link, gaining too much weight during pregnancy raises your chances for developing gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and high blood pressure during pregnancy. It also increases your risk for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure later in life. If you’re overweight or have obesity when you get pregnant, your chances for health problems may be even higher. You could also be more likely to have a cesarean section (C-section) .
Gaining a healthy amount of weight helps you have an easier pregnancy and delivery. It may also help make it easier for you to get back to your normal weight after delivery. Research shows that recommended amounts of weight gain during pregnancy can also lower the chances that you or your child will have obesity and weight-related problems later in life.
How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?
How much weight you should gain depends on your body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy. BMI is a measure of your weight in relation to your height. You can use a formula to calculate your BMI online.
The general weight-gain advice below is for women having only one baby.
If you’re1 You should gain about
Underweight (BMI less than 18.5) 28 to 40 pounds
Normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) 25 to 35 pounds
Overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) 15 to 25 pounds
Obese (BMI of 30+) 11 to 20 pounds
It’s important to gain weight very slowly. The old myth that you’re “eating for two” is not true. During the first 3 months, your baby is only the size of a walnut and doesn’t need many extra calories. The following rate of weight gain is advised
1 to 4 pounds total in the first 3 months
2 to 4 pounds each month from 4 months until delivery
Talk to your health care professional about how much weight gain is appropriate for you. Work with him or her to set goals for your weight gain. Take into account your age, weight, and health. Track your weight at home or when you visit your health care professional.
Don’t try to lose weight if you’re pregnant. Your baby needs to be exposed to healthy foods and low-calorie beverages (particularly water) to grow properly. Some women may lose a small amount of weight at the start of pregnancy. Speak to your health care professional if this happens to you.
How much should I eat and drink?
Consuming healthy foods and low-calorie beverages, particularly water, and the appropriate number of calories may help you and your baby gain the proper amount of weight.
How much food and how many calories you need depends on things such as your weight before pregnancy, your age, and how quickly you gain weight. If you’re at a healthy weight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) External link says you need no extra calories in your first trimester, about 340 extra calories a day in your second trimester, and about 450 extra calories a day in your third trimester.1 You also may not need extra calories during the final weeks of pregnancy.
Check with your health care professional about your weight gain. If you’re not gaining the weight you need, he or she may advise you to take in more calories. If you’re gaining too much weight, you may need to cut down on calories. Each woman’s needs are different. Your needs also depend on whether you were underweight, overweight, or had obesity before you became pregnant, or if you’re having more than one baby.
What kinds of foods and beverages should I consume?
A healthy eating plan for pregnancy includes nutrient-rich foods and beverages. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 External link recommend these foods and beverages each day
fruits and vegetables (provide vitamins and fiber)
whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-grain bread, and brown rice (provide fiber, B vitamins, and other needed nutrients)
fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products or nondairy soy, almond, rice, or other drinks with added calcium and vitamin D
protein from healthy sources, such as beans and peas, eggs, lean meats, seafood that is low in mercury (up to 12 ounces per week), and unsalted nuts and seeds, if you can tolerate them and aren’t allergic to them.
12 Ways to Stay Healthy During Pregnancy
Tips to help you ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH WOMEN'S HEALTH
12 Ways to Stay Healthy During Pregnancy
CONTRIBUTOR Audra Meadows, MD, MPH
Audra Meadows, MD, MPH, an obstetrician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, helps patients optimize their health before, during and after pregnancy. Here are 12 tips from Dr. Meadows to help you increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
1. Eat healthy foods.
Eating healthy foods is especially important for pregnant women. Your baby needs nutrients to grow healthy and strong in the womb. Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods and foods low in saturated fat.
2. Take a daily prenatal vitamin.
Taking a daily prenatal multivitamin can help ensure you get the right amount of the key nutrients you and your baby need during pregnancy. These include folic acid, iron and calcium.
3. Stay hydrated.
A pregnant woman’s body needs more water than it did before pregnancy. Aim for eight or more cups each day.
4. Go to your prenatal care checkups.
Women should get regular prenatal care from a health care provider. Moms who don’t get regular prenatal care are much more likely to have a baby with low birth weight or other complications. If available, consider group prenatal care.
5. Avoid certain foods.
There are certain foods that women should avoid eating while pregnant. Don’t eat:
Raw or rare meats
Liver, sushi, raw eggs (also in mayonnaise)
Soft cheeses (feta, brie)
Raw and unpasteurized animal products can cause food poisoning. Some fish, even when cooked, can be harmful to a growing baby because they’re high in mercury.
6. Don’t drink alcohol.
Don’t drink alcohol before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD can cause abnormal facial features, severe learning disabilities and behavioral issues.
Alcohol can impact a baby’s health in the earliest stages of pregnancy, before a woman may know she is pregnant. Therefore, women who may become pregnant also should not drink alcohol.
7. Don’t smoke.
Smoking is unhealthy for you and your unborn child. It increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), premature birth, miscarriage and other poor outcomes.
8. Get moving.
Daily exercise or staying active in other ways can help you stay healthy during pregnancy. Check with your doctor to find out how much physical activity is right for you.
9. Get a flu shot.
The flu can make a pregnant woman very sick and increase risks of complications for your baby. The flu shot can protect you from serious illness and help protect your baby after birth, too. Ask your doctor about getting a flu shot.
10. Get plenty of sleep.
Ample sleep (7 to 9 hours) is important for you and your baby. Try to sleep on your left side to improve blood flow.
11. Reduce stress.
Reducing stress is crucial for improving birth outcomes. Pregnant women should avoid, as much as they can, stressful situations. Recruit your loved ones to help you manage stress in your life.
12. Plan the right time to get pregnant.
“If you are choosing to become pregnant at a time when you know that you’re at your healthiest, that increases your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy birth,” says Dr. Meadows.
This not only means that women should make sure that they are healthy before they become pregnant, but they also should consider their age before getting pregnant. Mothers who have children early in life (earlier than 16-years-old), or late in life (older than 40) are at greater risk for having a premature birth. Also, women who become pregnant again too soon (less than 18 months in between births) are even more likely to have a premature baby.
Audra Meadows, MD, MPH
Audra Meadows, MD, MPH is an obstetrician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).
Staying Healthy During Pregnancy (for Parents)
During your pregnancy, you'll probably get advice from everyone. But staying healthy depends on you - read about the many ways to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Staying Healthy During Pregnancy
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Print en español
Cuidado de la salud durante el embarazo
Now that you're pregnant, taking care of yourself has never been more important. Here's how to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Prenatal Health Care
Key to protecting the health of your child is to get regular prenatal care. If you think you're pregnant, call your health care provider to schedule your first prenatal appointment. Many health care providers, though, won't schedule the first visit before 8 weeks of pregnancy, unless there is a problem.
At this first visit, your health care provider will probably do a pregnancy test, and will figure out how many weeks pregnant you are based on a physical examination and the date of your last period. He or she will also use this information to predict your delivery date (an ultrasound done sometime later in your pregnancy will help to verify that date).
If you're healthy and there are no complicating risk factors, most health care providers will want to see you:
every 4 weeks until the 28th week of pregnancy
then every 2 weeks until 36 weeks
then once a week until delivery
Throughout your pregnancy, your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure while also checking the growth and development of your baby (by doing things like feeling your abdomen, listening for the fetal heartbeat starting during the second trimester, and measuring your belly). During the span of your pregnancy, you'll also have prenatal tests, including blood, urine, and cervical tests, and probably at least one ultrasound.
When choosing a health care provider to counsel and treat you during your pregnancy, your options include:
obstetricians/gynecologists (also known as OB/GYNs): doctors who specialize in pregnancy and childbirth, as well as women's health care
family practitioners: doctors who provide a range of services for patients of all ages — in some cases, this includes obstetrical care
certified nurse-midwives: advanced practice nurses specializing in women's health care needs, including prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care for uncomplicated pregnancies. There are also other kinds of midwives, but you should look for one with formal training who's been certified in the field.
Any of these is a good choice if you're healthy and there's no reason to anticipate complications with your pregnancy and delivery. However, nurse-midwives do need to have a doctor available for the delivery in case an unexpected problem arises or a cesarean section (C-section) is required.
Nutrition and Supplements
Now that you're eating for two (or more!), this is not the time to cut calories or go on a diet. In fact, it's just the opposite — you need about 300 extra calories a day, especially later in your pregnancy when your baby grows quickly. If you're very thin, very active, or carrying multiples, you'll need even more. But if you're overweight, your health care provider may advise you to consume fewer extra calories.
Healthy eating is always important, but especially when you're pregnant. So, make sure your calories come from nutritious foods that will contribute to your baby's growth and development.
Try to maintain a well-balanced diet that incorporates the dietary guidelines including:
lean meats fruits vegetables whole-grain breads
low-fat dairy products
By eating a healthy, balanced diet you're more likely to get the nutrients you need. But you will need more of the essential nutrients (especially calcium, iron, and folic acid) than you did before you became pregnant. Your health care provider will prescribe prenatal vitamins to be sure both you and your growing baby are getting enough.
But taking prenatal vitamins doesn't mean you can eat a diet that's lacking in nutrients. It's important to remember that you still need to eat well while pregnant. Prenatal vitamins are meant to supplement your diet, and aren't meant to be your only source of much-needed nutrients.
Most women 19 and older — including those who are pregnant — don't often get the daily 1,000 mg of calcium that's recommended. Because your growing baby's calcium demands are high, you should increase your calcium consumption to prevent a loss of calcium from your own bones. Your doctor will also likely prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, which may contain some extra calcium.
Good sources of calcium include:
low-fat dairy products including milk, pasteurized cheese, and yogurt
calcium-fortified products, including orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
dark green vegetables including spinach, kale, and broccoli
tofu dried beans almonds
Pregnant women need about 30 mg of iron every day. Why? Because iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. Red blood cells circulate throughout the body to deliver oxygen to all its cells.
Without enough iron, the body can't make enough red blood cells and the body's tissues and organs won't get the oxygen they need to function well. So it's especially important for pregnant women to get enough iron in their daily diets — for themselves and their growing babies.