Pregnancy is an exciting and challenging time for parents, regardless of how much planning is involved. And when your baby is born, new obstacles present themselves. Although many of these learning experiences are expected, illness is one everyone hopes to avoid. A cough here and a cold there is normal, but some medical conditions are very serious. Mayo Clinic Health System obstetrician & gynecologist Javier Cardenas, M.D., shares steps you can take before and after birth to help your baby be the healthiest he or she can be.
Folic acid. Are you planning a pregnancy? Or maybe you’re not necessarily trying to become pregnant but know it’s a possibility. Either way, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid helps prevent brain and spine birth defects. These problems occur during the first few weeks of pregnancy, a time period during which many parents are unaware of conception. Getting enough folic acid from a regular diet is challenging, so supplements are encouraged.
Smoking cessation. Refraining from smoking before and during pregnancy is a must. Smoking has harmful effects on fetal development. If you do smoke, talk to your health care provider about quitting.
Diet. Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet. Consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.
Your body. Being underweight or overweight is not ideal for pregnancy, so your health care provider may want you to address your weight before becoming pregnant. Additionally, get regular physical activity and minimize daily stresses. Avoid alcohol, illegal drugs and toxic chemicals.
Now you’re pregnant — what’s next? Continue to do the things you were doing to prepare your body for pregnancy. Eat right, never smoke, avoid harmful substances and exercise.
"Yes, you can exercise while pregnant. In fact, exercise can help ease pains, boost your mood and energy, improve sleep, prevent unnecessary weight gain, and enhance strength and endurance," says Dr. Cardenas.
Always consult your health care provider prior to starting an exercise routine.
Congratulations! You now have a new member — or members — of your family. Now that your baby is here, the ballgame has changed. You’ll catch on fast, but here are some things to keep in mind to create a healthy life for your child.
Learn, learn, learn. Focus on your baby’s patterns. How does he or she cry? What are his or her tendencies? Does he or she seem to be developing mentally and physically?
Use available resources. Your health care provider is a great resource for rearing your child. Nurse call lines and other parents can be helpful too.
Take care of yourself. Your baby relies on you, so make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. Sleep as much as possible, eat right and ask for assistance if you need it.
Watch out for signs of illness. Fevers, changes in appetite or mood, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, constipation and coughs should be monitored closely. Seek medical assistance if symptoms persist or if you are concerned about your child.
"Becoming a parent is a wonderful but challenging experience," says Dr. Cardenas. "Using these tips can help improve your health before baby, as well as your baby's health during pregnancy and after he or she is born."