According to the March of Dimes, more than 450,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the United States. Practicing healthy behaviors prior to and during pregnancy is important for a baby’s growth and development. Before getting pregnant, women should avoid drinking alcohol, using drugs, smoking, and secondhand smoke. Women should also take a daily prenatal vitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
During pregnancy, eating healthy is one of the best things a woman can do for her baby. Food eaten by the mom-to-be is the baby’s only source of nutrition and contributes to the baby’s growth and development. Pregnant women only need to eat an extra 300 calories a day. Make those calories count by choosing healthy snacks, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products.
For most women, being active is recommended during pregnancy. This can help relieve stress, build stamina needed for labor and delivery, and may help prevent gestational diabetes. Walking is a great exercise because it is generally safe for everyone, is easy on the body and joints, doesn’t require extra equipment, and can be done almost anywhere. It is important for pregnant women to check with their doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
Prenatal care is very important. If you have just become pregnant, or think you might be, call your doctor to schedule an appointment. During each prenatal appointment, the doctor evaluates the progress of the pregnancy, monitors the baby's growth and checks the mother’s weight, blood and urine. Prenatal appointments are also a good time for the mom-to-be to ask questions about pregnancy, childbirth and the growing baby.