The 10 Essential Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy | Fit Pregnancy

The 10 Essential Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy

Overwhelmed by all the information out there for expecting moms? Here are the only 10 things you need to know.

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Photo: AnaÏs & Dax


“Injuries are the leading cause of maternal death during pregnancy,” says Andrea Gielen, Sc.D., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death and injury for pregnant women. In a crash, those who aren’t wearing seat belts are three times as likely to lose their baby as those who are buckled up.

Be sure to adjust the lap belt across your hip-pelvis area and below your belly.

The second most common source of traumatic injury in pregnancy is domestic violence, Gielen says. Women who are being abused can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help (800-799-SAFE, or visit


Minimize your exposure to chemicals, including those in commonly used household cleaners, solvents, paints and beauty products. Avoid lead dust, which can be generated during renovations in older homes. And steer clear of bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen found in countless products, including plastic containers and thermal cash register receipts.

Avoid secondhand smoke, stay away from cat litter and gardening soil, and buy organic foods as often as you can to minimize exposure to pesticides, growth hormones and other chemicals. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables before eating: Studies have linked prenatal exposure to pesticides to an increased risk in obesity, infertility, attention deficit disorders and cognitive problems in children.


Current guidelines call for women of normal weight to gain 25 to 35 pounds, underweight women up to 40 pounds and overweight women 15 to 25 pounds. But in light of the obesity epidemic, some experts are questioning the latter recommendation.

“Research is showing that most women gain too much weight during pregnancy,” says Raul Artal, M.D., professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Overweight moms are at greater risk for pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia. They’re also more likely to give birth to larger babies, go through more complicated labors and have Cesarean sections.

However, pregnancy is not the time to diet, either, so don’t stop eating or start skipping meals.


Some studies suggest that experiencing severe or chronic stress may affect the fetus.

“One out of 10 women experiences depression during pregnancy,” says Janet Rich-Edwards, Sc.D., M.P.H., director of developmental epidemiology at Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Many suffer without seeking the treatment that could help.”

Intimacy is a great stress reliever, and research from the Ohio State University Medical Center confirms that unless you have risk factors for premature labor or other complications, you can enjoy a healthy sex life until you give birth.


3 Things Not to Worry About

1) The drink you had before you missed your period.
It takes about seven days for the fertilized egg to implant in your uterus. The placenta begins to develop about 12 days after conception, which is just before your period is due. Before then, there’s no exchange of blood between mother and baby.

2) That morning sickness will rob your baby of nutrients.
Generally, nausea and vomiting taper off by the end of the first trimester. During much of that time, the embryo and, later, the fetus will leech what it needs (which isn’t a lot) from your body. Be sure to take a prenatal vitamin.

3) That something you do will cause a miscarriage.
Most early miscarriages are the result of chromosomal abnormalities within the developing embryo. Smoking, alcohol and drug use may increase miscarriage risk, but normal everyday activities, including exercise and sexual intercourse, do not.


Sandy Jones  and Marcie Jones  are the mother-daughter authors of Great Expectations: Pregnancy & Childbirth (Sterling).


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