Pregnancy is a natural condition that progresses uneventfully in most women. Before attempting to become pregnant, it is advisable that you undergo a full physical examination so that any underlying problems can be identified and controlled. After you are pregnant, you should visit your doctor for regular prenatal checks of both your own health as well as that of your baby’s.
Concentrate on eating healthy, well-balanced meals without depriving yourself or over-indulging. You should especially eat plenty of folate-rich foods such as green, leafy vegetables. Good nutrition is important for both mother and baby. While pregnancy is not the time to start a diet, it is also not the time to eat excessively. Whether consuming regular meals or snacks, avoid foods high in calories with little nutritional value. Use caffeine in moderation, and avoid drinking alcohol.
In general, pregnant women should not take any prescription or over-the-counter medicines without first consulting their doctor. However, your doctor may recommend that you take a supplement of folic acid (500 mcg) before conception until the 12th week of pregnancy. This helps reduce the risk of brain and neural tube defects in your child. If your first child has been born with spina bifida or another neural tube defect, a higher-than-usual supplement of folic acid may be needed.
Taking an iron supplement is also often advisable to prevent anaemia. Folic acid and iron supplementation are available as over-the-counter medicines at your local pharmacy.
Almost any medicine taken by the mother affects the baby (even something as simple as aspirin), so avoid taking any unless approved by your doctor. If you suffer from a condition requiring a medicine, your doctor will help choose a drug that will not jeopardise your baby.
If you have not had rubella (German measles), vaccination is advisable before becoming pregnant, and you should avoid contact with children who have chickenpox.
It is also advisable that you do not handle unknown cats or litter boxes during your pregnancy.
You should undertake regular, low-impact exercise such as walking, swimming or low impact aerobics while pregnant. These are beneficial to both your cardiovascular and general health. However, you should avoid strenuous and potentially dangerous activities such as horseback riding, mountain climbing, scuba diving and water skiing. Also avoid deep bending or any movement that stretches the joints.
Most importantly, you should stop smoking, and refrain from taking any recreational or illegal drugs.
You should seek medical advice if you:
Last Reviewed: 12 July 2001