The plan to have a healthy baby starts before conception. Paying close attention to what goes into your body and how you treat it will help determine the health of your baby.


Discuss your plans to have a baby with your doctor before you try to conceive. Many doctors will prescribe prenatal vitamins before you become pregnant. If you’re taking medications, the decision to stop taking them or adjust the dosage needs to be made. If you use birth control pills, follow a strict vegetarian diet, run long distances or perform strenuous exercise on a regular basis, or are trying to reduce your weight, you may have special nutritional needs that need to be addressed.


A nutritious, well-balanced diet is a basic necessity for good health normally, but even much more so when you are pregnant. Each woman’s body structure and metabolism are different, therefore each woman has slightly different nutritional needs. Doctors no longer insist a minimal amount of weight be gained during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman eats a well-balanced diet, she will probably gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. Especially during the third trimester, additional calories and protein are needed because the baby is growing rapidly. Also, increased calcium is needed to fill both mom a baby’s nutritional needs.


Unless you’re having difficulty with the pregnancy, exercise is essential. Regular exercise is encouraged even if you didn’t exercise regularly before becoming pregnant. Moderation is the key. Choose something that you enjoy doing and stop when you are uncomfortable or tired. Exercise slowly and gently to prevent tiredness or strain. There are exercise programs designed just for pregnancy and postpartum health.


Any and all chemical or environmental hazards can affect your unborn baby.

Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand tobacco smoke.

Smoking during pregnancy exposes your developing baby to the same cancer-causing chemicals you inhale. If you smoke when you’re pregnant you’re reducing the amount of oxygen going to your baby. Smoking can also affect the neurological development of your child. You will increase your risk of having a miscarriage, a premature delivery and a low-birth weight baby if you smoke during pregnancy.

Don’t drink alcohol.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, low-birth weight, learning disabilities and the development of fetal alcohol syndrome. Heavy drinking has been linked to mental retardation; slow physical growth; and defects of the face, head, heart and skeleton.

Don’t use drugs.

Whatever mom ingests, baby ingests too. Even the occasional use of recreational drugs will have harmful effects on the baby. Cocaine babies are born too small and too soon. Growth and development are impaired; miscarriage, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are common side effects. Babies born that were exposed to marijuana tend to weigh less and be born earlier.

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