By Melissa Ray, FNP
Pregnant or thinking about it? This is a time of excitement, anticipation – and big changes. Here are six steps to promote health and reduce risks during your pregnancy.
Get prenatal care. Prenatal care is crucial. During these prenatal care visits, your provider will carefully monitor your baby’s growth and development. As experienced mothers know, your body will undergo big changes during your pregnancy, so your provider will also be checking how you are doing. During these visits your provider will work to detect and address any issues. You’ll receive suggestions and advice on how to maintain good health.
Given that, here’s an important point: In our area of southern Indiana, making appointments and traveling to see a provider for prenatal care can be a challenge. It’s very important for you and your baby to get regular prenatal care during your pregnancy, so this is a time for you and your family (and friends) to work together to schedule and make appointments (Southern Indiana Community Health Care may be able to help – visit sichc.org/services for more information).
Eat well and drink plenty of water. Sound nutrition is always important. But eating fresh vegetables and fruit with whole grains and lean proteins while you’re pregnant is especially important. Indiana generally in the summer and early falls offers plenty of fresh goods, so stock up. Consider taking a folic acid supplement but avoid Vitamin A supplements (unless recommended by a provider) and limit caffeine intake (caffeine appears in coffee, some teas, colas, and some chocolates and medications – note: some new research suggests that expectant mothers would do well to completely stop consuming any caffeine, due to possible miscarriage and birth defect risks). Lighten up on fatty foods like cheeseburgers, French fries, fried tenderloins and other related foods. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Exercise regularly, but also get extra rest. Walking, swimming and yoga all represent good low-impact exercises. Talk with your provider during prenatal visits about what’s good for you. It’s also totally fine to nap and rest. Regular sleep can be challenging from pregnancy-related discomforts, but it’s still important.
Avoid stress and promote emotional wellbeing. Even with the joy of becoming a mother, it’s common to experience occasional stress and anxiety, even depression, during a pregnancy. Exercise can help moderate this, and stress-reducing activities like meditation, deep breathing and yoga also can help.
Avoid harmful substances. If you or a partner are a smoker, now’s the time to quit. The same goes for any alcohol or illegal drugs. All of these can lead to severe complications, birth defects, and development issues. Ask your provider for suggestions and help ( as well as advice about any vitamin or herbal supplements you may be taking).
Create a safe place. Where possible and appropriate, straighten up your living areas to minimize accidents (ask for help as needed). You and your unborn baby should avoid exposure to cleaning agents that have toxic ingredients (like certain bathroom and kitchen cleaners). That includes pesticides. Wash your hands regularly.
Pregnancy can and should be a time of joyful expectation. To help ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby, follow these steps (and the advice of your provider). Working now for a healthy pregnancy can help promote a lifetime of good health for your baby. (For more tips and downloadable information in English and Spanish, please visit https://sichc.org/obstetrics/)
A board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner, Melissa Ray has more than 25 years of healthcare experience, including service in the greater Crawford, Lawrence and Orange county regions. She offers primary and obstetrics care, pregnancy, well-baby, and well-woman services.