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10 simple rules for a healthy pregnancy

5. Know the red flags During pregnancy, seemingly mild symptoms may signal something serious, so never be embarrassed about calling your doctor if anything is worrisome. That includes persistent dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, constant nausea and vomiting, trouble walking, pain or burning during urination, blurry vision, pronounced swelling or decreased fetal activity for more than 24 hours. "About one in every eight babies is born prematurely, so contact your care provider immediately if you havesuch symptoms as uterine cramping that gets stronger, gripping backache, leaking amniotic fluid and vaginal bleeding,"says March of Dimes medical director Nancy Green, M.D.

Unless you're sure that you've had German measles or chickenpox or have been immunized against them, schedule a blood test to find out. Also get a flu shot and regular dental checkups (skip the X-rays, though); untreated gum infections are linked to premature births.

If you get sick, don't self-medicate: Even over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin as well as some "natural" and herbal remedies can be risky. Don't take anything that hasn't been OK'd by your doctor or midwife. (To find out if any substance you're considering taking or using is linked to birth defects, go to

6. Eat well (but not for two)
Pregnancy is the time to make every calorie count. "Choose foods rich in nutrients such as protein, folate, calcium and iron that will nourish you and your baby," says dietitian Heather Blazier. High-fiber foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole gains, can help prevent constipation, a common problem during pregnancy. So can drinking plenty of water, which you also need to support your increased blood volume. Eating four or five mini-meals a day can help prevent heartburn and keep your blood-sugar (and, thus, energy) levels steady and prevent bingeing.

Avoid foods that can be dangerous during pregnancy, including undercooked meats, cold cuts and deli meats; raw fish and oysters; raw or undercooked eggs; and large fish, such as shark, marlin, swordfish and tuna, which can contain high levels of mercury and other toxins. Limit your caffeine consumption to 150 milligrams daily, the equivalent of about 1 1/2 cups of coffee.


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