Testing For Birth Defects
Tests in the first and second trimester can show if your baby has a birth defect. It's your choice whether to have these tests. You and your partner can talk to your doctor or midwife about birth defects tests.
For more information on these tests, see the topic Birth Defects Testing.
You can choose from different kinds of tests. If you are worried about the chance of a birth defect, you might want test results as early as possible. If your risk for having a baby with a birth defect is very low or if knowing that your baby has a birth defect wouldn't change your plans, you might decide not to have early tests. Or you might choose not to have these tests at all.
Health and Nutrition
The best way to help yourself have a healthy pregnancy is to eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of rest, and avoid things that could hurt your baby.
For more tips on how to have a healthy pregnancy, see Quick Tips: Healthy Pregnancy Habits.
- Try to get proper nutrition. Pay close attention to your folic acid, iron, and calcium intake and the need for slow, gradual weight gain. Women who are obese may have a different weight-gain goal than other women.
- A vegetarian diet requires special attention so that you get enough protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and zinc, in addition to the extra folic acid, iron, and calcium that all expectant mothers need. These nutrients are vital to your fetus's cellular growth, brain and organ development, and weight gain.
- Calcium is an important nutrient, especially during pregnancy. If you can't or don't eat dairy products, you can get calcium in your diet from nonmilk sources such as tofu, broccoli, fortified orange juice or soy milk, greens, and almonds.
For more information on eating well, see:
- Healthy Eating: Changing Your Eating Habits.
- Healthy Eating: Making Healthy Choices When You Shop.
- Healthy Eating: Cutting Unhealthy Fats From Your Diet.
- Quick Tips: Adding Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet.
- Exercise during pregnancy can help your body best handle labor, delivery, and recovery. Moderate activity such as brisk walking or swimming is ideal during pregnancy. Some women enjoy prenatal yoga. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active. This is very important when it's hot out.
- Fitness: Walking for Wellness
- Do pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises during and after pregnancy. They strengthen your lower pelvic muscles. This may help prevent a long period of pushing during labor.2 They also may help prevent urine control problems (incontinence) after childbirth.
- In addition to moderate exercise, the following stretching and strengthening exercises are well suited to pregnancy:
What to avoid
- Medicines that are not approved by your doctor or midwife
- Alcohol and drugs
- Tobacco smoke
- Sources of food poisoning that may cause listeriosis or toxoplasmosis infection, such as raw meat, poultry, or seafood; unwashed fruits or vegetables; and cat feces or outdoor soil that cats commonly use
- Fish that may contain mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, more than 6 oz (0.2 kg) of white albacore tuna per week, or fish caught in local waters that haven't tested as safe
- Hazardous chemicals, radiation, and certain cosmetic products
- Caffeine (Or limit your intake to 1 cup of coffee or tea each day.)
- Hot tubs and saunas
- Papaya, when at all unripe, because it can cause the muscles of the uterus to contract.3 Contractions of the uterus can lead to a miscarriage.
What's okay when you're pregnant
- Sex causes no problems during an uncomplicated pregnancy, and sexual interest often changes during different phases of a pregnancy.
- Working or going to school, if it isn't too physically demanding, is usually fine during pregnancy. Scale back if you're becoming too worn down as your pregnancy progresses. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you are at risk for preterm labor.
- Travel is usually a safe choice until later pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any concerns. During your third trimester, it's best to stay within a few hours of a hospital, in case of sudden changes that need medical attention.
- Wearing a seat belt is vital to protect yourself and your baby during pregnancy.
- Massage during pregnancy is safe when it is done by a specially trained massage therapist.