As the mom of two boys, I know first-hand how exciting pregnancy can be. But the anticipation also comes with many questions about how you can ensure a positive and healthy pregnancy for you and your growing baby. The following tips will help answer some of these questions to support a healthy pregnancy.

TIP #1: Early and Regular Prenatal Care

Receiving early and regular prenatal care, either with your obstetrician or midwife, is important to help ensure you and your baby are healthy during pregnancy, as well as after the birth. These visits also help to screen for health conditions that may lead to complications, which may be prevented if appropriate care is given early [1].

TIP #2: A Regular and Balanced Diet

Make sure to eat a regular and balanced variety of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good quality proteins, and essential fats. Minimize caffeine intake, avoid sugar and alcohol, and drink plenty of water throughout the day, while avoiding foods such as raw meat and fish, deli meats, raw eggs, and soft cheeses [2].

Fish is a great food source that provides omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), along with protein and other nutrients essential for a baby’s growth and development, especially the eyes and brain. Remember to eat fish that is low in mercury and high in essential fats, such as wild salmon [3]. Taking a fish oil supplement may be a suitable alternative to eating fish and will offer a number of health benefits for both mom and baby [4].

TIP #3: Prenatal Multivitamins

Take a daily prenatal multivitamin that includes important nutrients such as folic acid and iron. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins needed to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Since neural tube defects can occur during the first four weeks of pregnancy, when some women may not even be aware that they’re pregnant, ensuring appropriate folic acid supplementation (at least 400 mcg daily) is an important preventive step. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to begin taking a prenatal multivitamin at least three months before pregnancy [5,6].

Iron, a mineral that helps form and support red blood cells, is another important nutrient for a healthy pregnancy. Iron requirements increase during pregnancy, and women who are low in iron may experience fatigue, dizziness, and headaches. Although your health provider will test your iron levels, most prenatal multivitamins provide 27 mg of iron to help prevent deficiency.

TIP #4: Regular Exercise and Quality Sleep

Regular exercise and sufficient sleep are a must. Research has shown that regular physical activity and exercise during pregnancy is safe and does not increase the risk of preterm delivery [7]. The 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy advises pregnant women (without serious concerns) to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to gain health benefits and reduce the risk of pregnancy complications [8]. Look to engage in a variety of activities such walking, swimming, modified yoga and Pilates, strength training, and pelvic floor muscle training such as Kegel exercises.

Sleep disturbances, either due to worry, discomfort, restless legs, or reflux, are common during pregnancy. Try relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, stretching, and massages to help get a good night’s sleep. As well, don’t forget to take breaks during the day, and a short nap can go a long way to help you feel rejuvenated.

TIP #5: Social Support

Social support, from pregnancy and beyond, is extremely important. A mother’s mental and physical well-being during pregnancy, labour and delivery, and post-partum can be influenced by the support available from her partner, family, and friends.

Consider information support from prenatal classes, labour and birth support from a doula, and/or participation in a mom’s group. These resources will help you understand the changes you will face during pregnancy, after birth, and during the journey of being a mom.

Other factors such as reducing stress, weight management, and avoiding firsthand and secondhand smoke and other toxins such as lead, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and BPA (bisphenol A), are important steps to support the healthy growth and development of your baby. It is also important to read, ask questions, and stay informed on how you can have a healthy pregnancy.

References:

  1. The Office on Women’s Health. Prenatal Care. Available from: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/prenatal-care.html [Accessed 9th January 2019].
  2. Government of Canada. Healthy Eating and Pregnancy. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/pregnancy/healthy-eating-pregnancy.html [Accessed 11th January 2019].
  3. Government of Canada. Mercury in Fish. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/chemical-contaminants/environmental-contaminants/mercury/mercury-fish.html [Accessed 11th January 2019].
  4. Coletta JM, Bell SJ, Roman AS. Omega-3 fatty acids and pregnancy. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010; 3(4):163-171.
  5. Government of Canada. Folic Acid and Neural Tube Defects. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/pregnancy/folic-acid.html [Accessed 9th January 2019].
  6. Government of Canada. Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines for Health Professionals – Folate Contributes to a Healthy Pregnancy. Available from:  https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/food-nutrition/prenatal-nutrition-guidelines-health-professionals-folate-contributes-healthy-pregnancy-2009.html [Accessed 9th January 2019].
  7. Satterfield N, Newton ER, May LE. Activity in pregnancy for patients with a history of preterm birth. Clin Med Insights Women’s Health. 2016 May 19; 9(Suppl 1):17-21.
  8. Mottola MF, Davenport MH, Ruchat S, et al. 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. Br J Sports Med. 2018; 52:1339-1346.