Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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Clean up your act} Don’t use tobacco (avoid secondhand smoke, too), alcohol or recreational drugs, all of which can contribute to prematurity, low birth weight and birth defects, including mental retardation. Stop using over-the-counter remedies, including herbal supplements, unless they’re approved by your doctor.
Seek support} It’s easier to meet the demands of motherhood when you have a support system in place long before you deliver. Enlist the help of family and friends, meet other women who are considering pregnancy, start practicing stress-relief strategies such as meditation or yoga and get professional help, if needed, for emotional problems.
Do’s & Don’ts
Exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system; helps control weight gain; reduces stress and fatigue; relieves backaches and other discomforts; helps prevent constipation; makes for better sleep; and tones your muscles, including those needed to push the baby out. “Exercise helps with labor and delivery,” says Edward Jew, M.D., director of the division of obstetrics/gynecology at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York. Most doctors agree that exercise is safe during pregnancy as long as you’re free of certain complications, including bleeding, a history of premature labor or an incompetent cervix. Pregnant women do need to take some precautions, however. Jew offers the following suggestions:
>Don’t overexert yourself During aerobic exercise, work out hard enough to boost your heart rate but not so hard that you’re out of breath for very long. You should be able to carry on a conversation.
>Stick with safe activities Risky types include skiing, outdoor cycling, horseback riding and in-line or ice skating, any of which can cause you to fall, particularly as you get bigger. Landing on your abdomen could dislodge the placenta
and trigger premature labor. Instead, choose activities like walking, jogging, riding a stationary bike, swimming, water aerobics, weight lifting and yoga (for a great prenatal-yoga workout, see “Strength & Serenity” on pg. 88).
>Stay off your back Exercises that require you to lie flat on your back can restrict blood flow to the baby.
>Work with a qualified trainer If you lift weights or start a new activity during pregnancy, find a trainer with special expertise in prenatal exercise.
>Don’t get overheated A too-high temperature will trigger your body to direct blood away from your abdomen, and from the baby, as it works to cool down.