Surprising Facts: Safety tips for a healthy pregnancy
These early months of pregnancy are a critical time for your baby's development. Taking a few key steps now can help protect your baby's health and your own. (Read our complete list of steps for a healthy pregnancy.)
Get early prenatal care and keep up with your appointments. Good prenatal care is essential to your baby's health — and to yours. At your first prenatal visit (usually around eight weeks) you'll be screened for certain conditions that could lead to complications. If you haven't yet chosen a caregiver and set up an appointment, make it a priority now.
Take your prenatal vitamin. Most prenatal supplements contain more folic acid, iron, and calcium than you'll find in a standard multivitamin. Pregnant women need more of these nutrients. (Don't overdo the vitamins, though; more is not necessarily better and in some cases can even be dangerous.)
It's particularly critical to get enough folic acid while trying to conceive and during your first trimester because it greatly reduces your baby's risk of developing neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.
Consult your caregiver about the medications you're taking. Many drugs — even some over-the-counter ones — aren't safe during pregnancy. If you take any medications to treat a chronic condition, don't stop them cold turkey but call your caregiver right away to go through your medication list and find out what's safe and what's not. Mention everything, even supplements and herbs.
Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk of a host of problems, including miscarriage, placental problems, and preterm birth. It also slows fetal growth and increases the risk of stillbirth and infant death. Some research has even linked smoking to an increased risk of having a baby with a cleft lip or palate.
It's never too late to quit or cut back. Every cigarette you don't light gives your baby a better chance of being healthy. For help, visit BabyCenter's quitting smoking during pregnancy area.
Stop drinking alcohol. As little as one drink a day can increase the odds of low birth weight and raise your child's risk for problems with learning, speech, attention span, language, and hyperactivity. No one knows exactly how harmful even the smallest amount of alcohol may be to a developing baby, so skip the booze altogether.
Make sure your home and job are safe. Some jobs or hobbies can be hazardous to you and your developing baby. If you're routinely exposed to chemicals, heavy metals (like lead or mercury), certain biologic agents, or radiation, you'll need to make some changes as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that some cleaning products, pesticides, solvents, and lead in drinking water from old pipes can also be harmful. Talk to your doctor or midwife about what your daily routine involves, so you can come up with ways to avoid or eliminate hazards in your home and workplace.