from the Centers for Disease Control's National
Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Not all birth defects can be prevented, but a woman can
take some actions that increase her chance of having a healthy baby.
Many birth defects happen very early in pregnancy, sometimes before a
woman even knows she is pregnant. Remember that about half of all
pregnancies are unplanned.
A Avoid exposure to
toxic substances and chemicals --- such as cleaning solvents, lead and
mercury, some insecticides, and paint. Pregnant women should avoid
exposure to paint fumes.
B Be sure to see
your doctor and get prenatal care as soon as you think you're
pregnant. It's important to see your doctor regularly throughout
pregnancy, so be sure to keep all your prenatal care appointments.
Breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for both you and
your baby. Talk to your doctor, your family and friends, and your
employer about how you choose to feed your baby and how they can
support you in your decision.
smoking during pregnancy can result in low birth weight babies.
It has been associated with infertility, miscarriages, tubal
pregnancies, infant mortality and childhood morbidity. Additionally,
cigarette smoking may cause long-term learning disabilities. If you
smoke, you should try to quit. Secondary smoke may also harm a mother
and her developing baby. It is a good idea to ask people to stop
smoking around you during your pregnancy and after the baby is born.
D Drink extra
fluids (water is best) throughout pregnancy to help your body keep up
with the increases in your blood volume. Drink at least 6 to 8
glasses of water, fruit juice, or milk each day. A good way to know
you're drinking enough fluid is when your urine looks like
almost-clear water or is very light yellow.
Eat healthy to
get the nutrients you and your unborn baby need. Your meals should
include the five basic food groups. Each day you should get the
following: 6-11 servings of grain products, 3-5 servings of
vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruits,
4-6 servings of milk and milk products, 3-4 servings of meat and
protein foods. Foods low in fat and high in fiber are important to a
F Take 400
daily both before pregnancy and during the first few months
of pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and
spine. All women who could possibly become pregnant should take a
vitamin with folic acid, every day. It is also important to eat a
healthy diet with fortified foods (enriched grain products, including
cereals, rice, breads, and pastas) and foods with natural sources of
folate (orange juice, green leafy vegetables, beans, peanuts,
broccoli, asparagus, peas, and lentils).
G Genetic testing
should be done appropriately. It's important to know your family
history. If there have been problems with pregnancies or birth
defects in your family, report these to your doctor. Also, genetic
counselors can talk with you about the information you might need in
making decisions about having a family. You can call a major medical
center in your area for help in finding a board-certified genetic
H Hand-washing is
important throughout the day, especially after handling raw meat or
using the bathroom. This can help prevent the spread of many
viruses that cause infection.
I Take 30 milligrams of iron during your
pregnancy as prescribed by your doctor to reduce the risk of anemia
later in pregnancy. All women of childbearing age should eat a diet
rich in iron.
J Join a support group for moms to be, or
join a class on parenting or childbirth.
K Know your limits. Let your physician
know if you experience any of the following: pain of any kind, strong
cramps, uterine contractions at 20-minute intervals, vaginal bleeding,
leaking of amniotic fluid, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath,
palpitations, tachycardia (rapid beating of the heart), constant
nausea and vomiting, trouble walking, edema (swelling of joints), or
if your baby has decreased activity.
L Legal drugs
such as alcohol and caffeine are important issues for pregnant women.
There is no safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink while pregnant.
syndrome , a disorder characterized by growth retardation, facial
abnormalities, and central nervous system dysfunction, is caused by a
woman's use of alcohol during pregnancy. Caffeine, found in tea,
coffee, soft drinks and chocolate, should also be limited. Be sure to
read labels when trying to cut down on caffeine during pregnancy.
More than 200 foods, beverages, and over-the-counter medications
M Medical conditions such as diabetes,
epilepsy, and high blood pressure should be treated and kept under
control. Ask your doctor about any medications that may need to be
changed or adjusted during pregnancy. If you are currently taking any
medications ask your doctor if it is safe to take them while you're
pregnant. Also, be sure to discuss any herbs or vitamins you are
taking. They are medicines, too! Discuss with your doctor all
medications, prescribed and over-the-counter, that you are taking.
N Never be afraid to ask your doctor or
health care provider questions about your health. It is better to
take all precautions and discuss any questions or concerns you may
O Over-the-counter cough and cold remedies
may contain alcohol or other ingredients that should be avoided during
pregnancy. Ask your health care provider about prescription or
over-the-counter drugs that you are taking or may consider taking
during pregnancy can benefit both you and your baby by lessening
discomfort and fatigue, providing a sense of well-being, and
increasing the likelihood of early recovery after delivery. Light to
moderate exercise during pregnancy strengthens the abdominal and back
muscles, which help to improve posture. Practicing yoga, walking,
swimming, and cycling on a stationary bicycle are usually safe
exercises for pregnant women. But always check with your doctor
before beginning any kind of exercise, especially during pregnancy.
Q Queasiness, stomach upset and morning
sickness are common during pregnancy. Foods that you normally love
may make you feel sick to your stomach. You may need to substitute
other nutritious foods. Eating five or six small meals a day instead
of three large ones may make you feel better.
Read about and
make plans to baby-proof your home. These are important tips for
making your home a safer environment for your baby.
S Saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms should
be avoided while you are pregnant. Excessive high heat may be harmful
during your pregnancy.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite that can
seriously harm an unborn baby. Avoid eating undercooked meat and
handling cat litter, and be sure to wear gloves when gardening.
U Uterus size increases during the first
trimester, which, along with more efficient functioning of your
kidneys, may cause you to feel the need to urinate more often. You
may also leak urine when sneezing, coughing or laughing. This is due
to the growing uterus pressing against your bladder, which lies
directly in front of and slightly under the uterus during the first
few months of pregnancy. If you experience burning along with
frequency of urination, be sure to tell your doctor.
Vaccinations are an
important concern for pregnant women. Get needed vaccines before
pregnancy. CDC has clear guidelines for the use of vaccines during
pregnancy. Review the list and be sure to discuss with your doctor.
W Being overweight or underweight during
pregnancy may cause problems. Try to get within 15 pounds of your
ideal weight before pregnancy. Remember, pregnancy is not a time to
be dieting! Don't stop eating or start skipping meals as your weight
increases. Both you and your baby need the calories and nutrition you
receive from a healthy diet. Be sure to consult with your doctor
about your diet.
X Avoid X rays. If you must have dental
work or diagnostic tests, tell your dentist or physician that you are
pregnant so that extra care can be taken.
Y Your baby loves you, and you should show
your baby that you love her, too. Give your baby a healthy
environment to live in while you are pregnant.
children require constant care and guidance. Their health and safety
should be carefully watched at all times. Refer to the link above for
tips on safe and healthy child care.
Z Get your ZZZZZZZZZ's...Be sure to get
plenty of rest... Resting on your side as often as possible,
especially on your left side is advised, as it provides the best
circulation to your baby and helps reduce swelling.
Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor on any and
all issues regarding your pregnancy. Although these may be good
general pregnancy tips, every pregnancy is different, and each
deserves the attention of a doctor or health care provider.
The following links provide more technical
literature on pregnancy-related issues:
Medications & Pregnancy
Drug & Alcohol Use During Pregnancy