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10 simple rules for a healthy pregnancy


9. Go green
The fetus is very vulnerable to environmental toxins, so minimize your exposure to chemicals, including those in commonly used household cleaners, pesticides, solvents and paints. Avoid lead dust, which can be generated during sanding and renovations in older homes.

"The most important pollutant for pregnant women to avoid is secondhand smoke," says Norman H. Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. "It can cause your baby to be born smaller or prematurely, and might predispose him to asthma."

Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide during pregnancy is also linked to prematurity and low birth weight, as well as to birth defects such as cleft palate--and even infant death. "Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and make sure your furnace is working properly," advises Edelman. "And don't exercise during a smog alert, or exercise early in the morning, when smog levels tend to be lower."

Avoid cat litter and gardening soil; both can harbor the microorganism that causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that may cause serious harm to your baby. Also avoid direct contact with the urine and feces of rodents.

Buy organic foods if you can to minimize exposure to pesticides, growth hormones and other chemicals, and wash all fruits and vegetables before you eat them.

10. Try to stay calm "Laugh often, learn all you can about normal birth and stay away from people with scary birth stories," advises Marian Tompson, co-founder of La Leche League International and the mother of seven.

Some studies suggest that experiencing severe or chronic stress, such as being in an unhappy marriage, having a very demanding job or serious illness, or being in an accident, may affect the fetus. "Severe stress may affect your baby's growth and increase the risk of delivering prematurely," says Janet Rich-Edwards, D.Sc., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "One out of 10 women experiences depression during pregnancy," Rich-Edwards adds, "and many suffer without seeking the treatment that could help."

Intimacy is a great stress reliever, and new 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 to the end.


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