7. Stay safe
"Injuries are the leading cause of maternal death during pregnancy," says Andrea Carlson Gielen, Sc.D., Sc.M., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Motor vehicle crashes are the most frequent cause of traumatic injury to pregnant women, and 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. 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. A recent Harvard study found that women who experienced violence from their male partners during their pregnancies were 37 percent more likely to deliver their babies early, and their babies had a more than 30 percent greater likelihood of requiring intensive care after birth. Women who are being abused can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help (800-799-SAFE).
8. Get off your butt
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, unless they have medical reasons not to, all pregnant women should exercise a minimum of 30minutes a day, six or seven days a week. "The good news is that this amount of exercise can be done in small increments--for example, three 10-minute segments when morning sickness or pregnancy fatigue is high," says Cincinnati-based exercise physiologist Renee M. Jeffreys, M.S., co-author with OB-GYN Karen Nordahl, M.D., of Fit to Deliver: An Innovative Prenatal and Postpartum Fitness Program (Hartley & Marks, 2005).
"There are numerous emotional and physiological benefits to exercising when you're pregnant," explains Nordahl, a clinical associate instructor in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia. "You'll probably feel more energized; you'll tend to sleep better; and your day-to-day activities won't seem as difficult if you're fit."
Regular stretching and exercise also can relieve backaches, constipation and morning sickness. Plus, having a strong heart and lungs will help you get through your upcoming marathon: giving birth. Low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, prenatal yoga and Pilates, mild aerobics and stretching, are best, as are abdominal exercises.
However you choose to keep moving, avoid overheating, drink plenty of water and stop exercising immediately if you feel nauseous, weak or faint or get muscle cramps.