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During Pregnancy

Planning for Pregnancy

Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Knowing that you are doing all you can to stay healthy during pregnancy and give your baby a healthy start in life will help you to have peace of mind.

1. Make a Plan and Take Action

Preventing Problems

Premature Birth: Important growth and development occur throughout pregnancy – all the way through the final months and weeks. Babies born three or more weeks earlier than their due date have greater risk of serious disability or even death. Learn the warning signs and how to prevent a premature birth.

Folic Acid and You: Your Healthy Pregnancy Infographic

Folic Acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent major birth defects. Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, before and during pregnancy.

Smoking during pregnancy is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants. Learn more about the dangers of smoking and find help to quit.

Alcohol: When you drink alcohol, so does your developing baby. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.

Marijuana Use: Marijuana use during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby’s health. The chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) pass through your system to your baby and can harm your baby’s development.

Vaccinations: Vaccines help protect you and your baby against serious diseases.  CDC recommends you get a whooping cough and flu vaccine during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your developing baby. Talk to your ob-gyn or midwife about including vaccines as part of a healthy pregnancy.

Infections: You won’t always know if you have an infection—sometimes you won’t even feel sick. Learn how to help prevent infections that could harm your developing baby.

HIV: If you are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant, get a test for HIV as soon as possible and encourage your partner to get tested as well. If you have HIV and you are pregnant, there is a lot you can do to keep yourself healthy and not give HIV to your baby.

West Nile Virus: Take steps to reduce your risk for West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne infections.

Diabetes: Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chance for birth defects and other problems for your baby. It can cause serious complications for you, too.

High Blood Pressure: Existing high blood pressure can increase your risk of problems during pregnancy.

Medications: Taking certain medications during pregnancy might cause serious birth defects for your baby. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you are taking. These include prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements.

Depression: Depression is common and treatable. If you think you have depression, seek treatment from your health care provider as soon as possible.

Environmental Exposures: Did you know that when you’re pregnant you might need additional supplies or need to protect yourself during an emergency?

  • The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUsexternal icon) are a direct link to medical and health professionals. Because environmental factors can impact health of children and reproductive age adults, the PEHSU network has experts in pediatrics, allergy/immunology, neurodevelopment, toxicology, occupational and environmental medicine, nursing, reproductive health and other specialized areas. There are regional specialists across the country to answer your questions.
  • The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has many fact sheets about toxic substances (e.g, lead, benzene) if you have concerns about toxic exposures.

Environmental and Workplace Exposures: Some workplace hazards can affect the health of your developing baby. Learn how to prevent certain workplace hazards.

Developing Babies Exposed to Radiation: If you think you might have been exposed to radiation, talk with your doctor.

Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Learn about pregnancy weight gain recommendations and steps you can take to meet your pregnancy weight gain goal.

Genetics and Family History

Genetics: Understanding genetic factors and genetic disorders is important for learning more about preventing birth defects, developmental disabilities, and other unique conditions in children.

  • Family History: Family members share their genes and their environment, lifestyles, and habits. A family history can help identify possible disease risks for you and your baby.
  • Genetic Counselor: Your doctor might suggest that you see a genetic counselor if you have a family history of a genetic condition or have had several miscarriages or infant deaths.

Other Concerns

Bleeding and Clotting Disorders: Bleeding and clotting disorders can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage. If you have a bleeding or clotting disorder, talk with your doctor.

Disaster Safety for Expecting and New Parents: Learn general tips to get prepared before a disaster and what to do in case of a disaster to help keep you and your family safe and healthy.

Travel: If you are planning a trip within the country or internationally, talk to your doctor first. Travel might cause problems during pregnancy. Also, find out about the quality of medical care at your destination and during transit.

Violence and Pregnancy: Violence can lead to injury and death among women in any stage of life, including during pregnancy. Learn more about violence against women, and find out where to get help.

Things to Think About Before Baby Arrives

Breastfeeding: You and your baby gain many benefits from breastfeeding. Breast milk is easy to digest and has antibodies that can protect your baby from bacterial and viral infections.

Jaundice and Kernicterus: Jaundice can sometimes lead to brain damage in newborns. Before leaving the hospital, ask your doctor or nurse about a jaundice bilirubin test. If you think your baby has jaundice, call and visit your baby’s doctor right away.

Newborn Screening: Within 48 hours of your baby’s birth, a sample of blood is taken from a “heel stick,” and the blood is tested for treatable diseases. More than 98% of all children born in the United States are tested for these disorders.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Learn what parents and caregivers can do to help babies sleep safely and reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS.

Child Safety Seats: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. But many of these deaths can be prevented. Placing your baby in age- and size-appropriate restraint system lowers the risk of serious and fatal injuries by more than half.

5. Avoid Toxic Substances and Environmental Contaminants

Avoid harmful chemicals, environmental contaminants, and other toxic substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces around the home and in the workplace. These substances can hurt the reproductive systems of men and women. They can make it more difficult to get pregnant. Exposure to even small amounts during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, or puberty can lead to diseases. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from toxic substances at work and at home.

6. Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight

People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, including complications during pregnancy, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).1 People who are underweight are also at risk for serious health problems.2

The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity.

If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant.

7. Get Help for Violence

Violence can lead to injury and death among women at any stage of life, including during pregnancy. The number of violent deaths experienced by women tells only part of the story. Many more survive violence and are left with lifelong physical and emotional scars.

If someone is violent toward you or you are violent toward your loved ones―get help. Violence destroys relationships and families.

8. Learn Your Family History

Collecting your family’s health history can be important for your child’s health. You might not realize that your sister’s heart defect or your cousin’s sickle cell disease could affect your child, but sharing this family history information with your doctor can be important.

Other reasons people go for genetic counseling include having had several miscarriages, infant deaths, trouble getting pregnant (infertility), or a genetic condition or birth defect that occurred during a previous pregnancy.

9. Get Mentally Healthy

Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. To be at your best, you need to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, get help. Talk with your doctor or another health professional about your feelings and treatment options.

10. Have a Healthy Pregnancy!

Once you are pregnant, be sure to keep up all of your new healthy habits and see your doctor regularly throughout pregnancy for prenatal care.
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