Pregnancy is a perfectly natural state and
should be a happy, healthy, and exciting period in your life. But
it does represent a major change, and you have to adapt your
lifestyle to meet the needs of the baby developing inside you.
This section discusses some of the things you
can do to take care of yourself and your baby. It includes things
like exercise, rest, personal hygiene, clothing, sexual relations,
work, and travel. Some will require an extra effort on your part,
but they are all designed to improve your chances of having a
Your baby is completely dependent on you for
everything, so your diet must include foods that supply what your
baby needs to build a healthy body. But remember, just as your
baby gets its food from you,
if you smoke so does your baby
if you drink alcoholic beverages so does
if you use drugs or medicines so does your
All these things can harm your developing baby
and may cause health and developmental problems later. If you do
any of these potentially harmful things, this is a good time to
"kick the habit." Talk to your doctor or someone at the
clinic; they will be able to advise and help you.
Exercise is very important to you and your
baby. If you stay active you will feel better. Outdoor exercise
and recreation give you a chance to get sunshine and fresh air.
Walking is particularly good because it strengthens some of the
muscles you will use in labor.
Avoid lifting heavy objects and moving
furniture while you are pregnant. Stretching will not harm you or
your baby, but don't reach for things from a chair or ladder
because you might lose your balance and fall. During the latter
part of your pregnancy, you will probably begin to feel awkward
because your balance is affected by your increasing size. At this
point you may want to substitute walking for more active sports.
Do some yoga
exercises that are useful for strengthening muscles used in
labor and delivery. They are quite simple to do and can be
practiced whenever you have an opportunity to sit for a few
minutes. Here are few more exercise for the pregnant women.
While seated on the floor, bring your feet
close to your body, and cross your ankles. Maintain this position
as long as it is comfortable to do so.
While seated on the floor, bring the soles of
your feet together as close to your body as is comfortable. Place
your hands under your knees and press down with your knees while
resisting the pressure with your hands. Count slowly to three,
then relax. Gradually increase the number of presses until you are
doing them ten times, twice each day.
While seated on the floor and keeping your back
straight, stretch your legs in front of you with your feet about a
foot apart. Allow your feet to flop outward. Stretch your hands
forward toward your left foot, then back; toward the center, then
back; toward the right foot, then back. Gradually increase the
sets of stretches until you are doing ten of them twice a day.
This is sometimes called the Pelvic Floor
Exercise because it is designed to strengthen the muscles in your
pelvis. After you have practiced it, you will be able to relax
your pelvic muscles for delivery. First, sit down. Then contract
the lowest muscles of the pelvis as tightly as you can. Tighten
muscles higher in the pelvis until you are contracting the muscles
at the top. Counting slowly to 10 helps, tightening additional
muscles at each number. Release slowly, as you count back from 10
to 1. You are developing control of the muscles so that you can
stop at any point.
These muscles are the same ones you use to stop
the flow of urine. To see if you are doing the Kegel exercise
correctly, try stopping the flow of urine while you are urinating.
Practice the exercise for several minutes two or three times a
day. An alternate method of doing the Kegel exercise is to tighten
first the pelvic muscles then the anal muscle. Hold a few seconds,
then release slowly in a reverse order.
There are breathing techniques that you can
practice while you are pregnant to help you relax during labor.
They also help reduce muscle tension that works against the
contractions and causes pain. If you are able to relax, you will
be able to use the rest periods between labor contractions to
reduce fatigue and build up your energy.
Lie down with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Breathe in
once as deeply as possible, then hiss or blow the air out slowly
through your mouth. Let yourself completely relax.
Pretend that you are having a contraction that lasts about 30 to
45 seconds. At the beginning of the contraction, take a complete
breath and blow it out. Then breathe deeply, slowly, and
rhythmically through the remainder of the practice contraction.
Have your partner or coach go through this technique with you.
This exercise helps keep the abdominal wall relaxed and keeps the
uterus from pressing against the lining of the abdomen. Lie down
and place your hands on your abdomen. Breathe in slowly and fully,
allowing your abdominal wall to rise gently. Hold this position
for four to six heartbeats. Breathe out slowly and smoothly
through the mouth, allowing your abdomen to fall. Relax. Repeat
four or five times.
You can learn about other breathing techniques
in prenatal classes or from your doctor.
Rest is just as important as exercise during
pregnancy. Be sure to get plenty of sleep at night. Most pregnant
women need about 8 hours of sleep but your needs may be different.
You may also need to rest during the day.
There are some things you can do to keep from
getting too tired. If your work requires you to be on your feet
most of the day, try to sit down, put your feet up, and close your
eyes whenever it is convenient. But if you spend most of your time
sitting, get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour. When
you are at home, take a nap during the day, especially if you have
children who take naps. Plan a short rest period and really relax
about the same time every day. When resting, you may find it more
comfortable to use an extra pillow as shown in the illustration.
Try to find easier ways to do things. And ask
other members of the family to share the workload. Perhaps someone
else can help with the grocery shopping, laundry, and housework.
You should also know the best way to get out of
a. Turn onto your side.
b. While bending your knees, use your arms to
raise yourself up.
c. Lower your feet to the floor.
d. Sit upright for a few moments and hold onto
the side of the bed.
e. Lean forward.
f. Use the muscles in your legs to rise.
During pregnancy you will probably perspire
more and have slight vaginal discharge because your body is going
through many hormonal changes. Your usual daily bathing or
showering will not only refresh and relax you, but also help
prevent infection. Special creams are available to soothe and
soften dry, scaly skin should it occur. Never douche during
pregnancy unless your doctor specifically tells you to.
It is always a good idea to put a rubber mat in
the tub or shower to prevent slipping. Keep the water temperature
warm but not hot, particularly in early and late pregnancy because
hot water may make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. Tub baths may
become more difficult near the end of pregnancy when your center
of balance shifts. You may want to switch to showers or have
someone help you in and out of the tub.
Wearing a bra that provides firm support during
your pregnancy may make your breasts more comfortable. About the
third or fourth month, you may need to get a larger bra (such as a
maternity bra) that fits well without pressing, binding, or
rubbing against your nipples. If your breasts are large, you may
be more comfortable wearing a bra at night as well as during the
About the middle of pregnancy, your nipples may
drip a small amount of clear or yellowish fluid called colostrums.
This is a sign that your body is preparing for breast feeding.
Colostrums can dry into a crust around your nipples and should be
washed off with only warm water since soap and alcohol dry out the
skin and make your breasts sore. If colostrums leakage is a
problem, wear a cotton or absorbent pad in your bra. To avoid
irritation or infection, the pad should be replaced when wet.
Preparing to Breast Feed
If you plan to breast feed your baby, start to
prepare your breasts during the seventh or eighth month. Your
doctor or nurse may suggest some exercises to do every day. They
may include the following:
Rubbing your nipples gently with a towel.
Gently rolling each nipple between your
thumb and finger four or five times.
Gently stretching each nipple to the side.
Massaging your breasts.
Exposing your breasts to sunlight and air.
Letting your breasts rub against your
clothing several times each day.
Care of Teeth
Oral health is an important part of your total
health and physical well-being. As early as possible in your
pregnancy, see your dentist to be checked for tooth decay, gum
disease, and other dental problems and get the necessary
treatment. Because you require special care and attention at this
time be sure to tell your dentist that you are pregnant or suspect
that you might be pregnant. Discuss with your dentist the use of
local X-rays, anesthetic agents, pain medications, and other
drugs. Your dentist is trained to weigh the benefits and risks of
your particular situation and recommend alternative procedures and
Brush and floss your teeth at least once a day.
This disrupts plaque and bacteria that cause tooth decay and also
will help you maintain healthy gums.
An early dental examination followed by
necessary treatment, good oral hygiene practices, and a
well-balanced diet will help you maintain bright and healthy
teeth. A well-balanced diet will insure that your baby develops
and cuts healthy, sound teeth.
Avoid sweets such as caramels, hard candies,
sticky foods, and soft drinks. If you have some of these
occasionally, eat or drink them at one time instead of several
times throughout the day and then brush your teeth or at least
rinse with water. Sugar buildup in your mouth, even for a few
hours, can contribute to tooth decay.
During the fourth month of pregnancy you may
notice your clothes are tight and your bras are uncomfortable.
Maternity clothes are not really necessary at this time, but loose
clothing may be more comfortable. Some women feel much warmer
during pregnancy and find lighter weight fabrics are more
pleasant. Avoid tight belts, bras, girdles, slacks, garters, and
knee socks. Clothes that cut circulation around the legs lead to
varicose or enlarged veins.
A bra that fits and provides good support to
your breasts is important. If you plan to breast feed your baby,
it may be more economical to buy a nursing bra to wear during
pregnancy, too. Nursing bras are designed with flaps that unhook
to allow easy access for breast feeding.
Your shoes should have a medium or low heel and
provide firm support. Wearing high heels may result in an accident
or an aching back.
For the healthy woman, there are few
restrictions on sexual intercourse during pregnancy. However, it
is perfectly normal for your feelings about sex to change during
this time. You may go through temporary periods when your desire
for sexual intercourse increases or decreases. As the pregnancy
progresses and your abdomen becomes large, intercourse may be
uncomfortable and you and your partner may want to experiment with
more comfortable positions.
Usually there is no problem with having
intercourse into the ninth month, but it's best to discuss this
with your doctor. There may be times when your doctor suggests
that you do not have intercourse because it might interfere with
the normal course of your pregnancy. Intercourse is likely to be
restricted in early pregnancy if you have had a history of
miscarriages, or later if you have had premature births.
See your doctor as soon as possible if
intercourse is painful, if you have bleeding or infection, or if
your water breaks prematurely. When any of these signs occur,
More women than ever are continuing to work
during pregnancy. It is best to discuss this matter with your
doctor, however, because each woman should be evaluated
individually. If your pregnancy is complicated by medical,
obstetrical, or other problems, you and your doctor must decide
how long it is advisable for you to continue working. In general,
a normal, healthy woman who has no complications may work
throughout pregnancy if her job presents no greater potential
hazards than those she faces in normal daily life. Special
consideration should be given to occupational hazards such as
heavy lifting, moving, other strenuous physical activities, or
exposure to chemicals (gases, dusts, fumes), radiation, and
infections. Tell your supervisor and the nurse or doctor at your
place of work as soon as you know you are pregnant. You may need
to be reassigned temporarily to another type of work that does not
pose any danger to your pregnancy. It is even better to discuss
the problem of occupational hazards when planning your baby. It is
also important that you discuss any occupational hazards with the
doctor or nurse who sees you for your prenatal care.
Traveling during your pregnancy is fine.
Airplane, train, and bus travel are less tiring for long distances
because you can get up and move around. When you travel in a car,
it is very important to wear both a shoulder harness and a lap
belt to protect you and the baby in case of an accident. Just
fasten the belt as low as possible below the baby.
Sitting for long periods of time may cause leg
cramps, discomfort, and tiredness, particularly late in the
pregnancy. To keep from getting too tired during a car trip, stop
about every 2 hours to stretch, walk about, and go to the
Late in your pregnancy, it is a good idea to
avoid long trips. By staying close to home, your baby can be born
where you planned and where your medical history is known. If you
must travel at this time, ask your doctor to refer you to a doctor
in the area you will be visiting and ask for a copy of your
medical chart to take with you.
Not smoking is one of the best gifts you can
give your unborn child. Women who do not smoke are more likely to
deliver a healthy baby of normal birth weight than women who do
smoke. Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy is directly associated
with low birth weight, premature births, miscarriage, and other
While there are no safe levels of smoking, the
fewer cigarettes the better. The risk of delivering a low birth
weight baby may be reduced if a woman gives up smoking before the
fourth month of pregnancy. Smoking during the time of breast
feeding is also not advisable since the nicotine will be passed on
to the baby through your breast milk.
Babies born to mothers who smoked while
pregnant and after delivery have a higher incidence of sudden
infant death syndrome (crib death).
Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy
are more susceptible to respiratory problems in early childhood
and may be slightly behind their age group in physical growth. If
either parent continues to smoke after the baby is born, the child
may have a greater risk of developing bronchitis or pneumonia.
Alcohol in any form can be harmful to a
developing baby. This is recommended that all women of
childbearing age take the following precautions:
Do not drink alcoholic beverages when you
are pregnant or are considering pregnancy. In the crucial
early period of a baby's development often before pregnancy is
recognized maternal consumption of alcohol increases the risk
Be aware of the alcoholic content of food
Researchers have found increased miscarriages
and decreased birth weight associated with consumption of even 1
ounce or less of absolute (pure) alcohol per day. This is the
amount of alcohol found in 2 standard drinks. Women who drink 3
ounces (the amount in 6 standard drinks) or more of absolute
alcohol per day are at very high risk of delivering a child with
fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Babies affected with FAS have severe physical
and mental problems, including lifelong mental retardation, slow
growth and development, small heads, and abnormal eye features.
One typical drink contains 1/2 ounce of
absolute alcohol which is found in any of the following:
A 1 1/2 ounce shot of liquor (80 proof
whiskey or vodka containing 40 percent alcohol)
A 3 ounce glass of fortified wine (sweet
sherry, port, etc., containing up to 20 percent alcohol)
A 5 ounce glass of table wine (dry chablis,
rose, burgundy, etc., containing up to 12 percent alcohol)
A can or bottle of beer (12 ounces of 4 1/2
You should also be aware that many cough
medicines and nighttime cold remedies contain large amounts of
alcohol. FAS can be entirely prevented if a pregnant women does
not take alcohol in the form of alcoholic beverages or an
The alcohol in beverages such as wine, beer,
and liquor is a rich source of calories, but these calories do not
contribute to good nutrition. Alcohol can depress your appetite,
causing you to replace nutritious food in your diet with empty
Caution should be exercised even after your
baby is born if you plan to breast feed.
Medicines and Drugs
You should take only those medicines prescribed
by your doctor. This is particularly important during the first 12
weeks of pregnancy. Medicines have different effects, some major,
some minor, so be careful even if you think you might be pregnant.
Make a list of all the medicines and drugs you
are taking prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, street
drugs. Show it to your doctor on your first prenatal visit. Your
doctor will determine whether you can continue taking these
medications or whether you will need substitutes. Over-the-counter
medicines, cold remedies, laxatives, nose sprays, aspirin, and
aspirin substitutes should only be used under a doctor's
Remember, whatever you take affects your baby.
This includes tranquilizers, sleeping pills, barbiturates
(downers), amphetamines (uppers), cocaine, narcotics, marijuana,
hallucinogens, or other products. If you are using any of these
substances, tell your doctor so you can get help. Babies can be
born addicted to drugs. If the doctor does not know that the baby
is going through a withdrawal period, the condition can be very
serious or even fatal.
It is very good to take only safe herbal medicines.
There are differences of opinion about the
dangers of caffeine during pregnancy. Nevertheless, it's a good
idea to use as little as possible at this time. Many soft drinks,
coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate contain caffeine. You can find
out if a food or drink contains caffeine by checking the label or
bottle cap. Ask your druggist or doctor if there is caffeine in
any over-the-counter or prescription drug you are taking. Choose
milk and fruit juices as beverages and caffeine-free
(decaffeinated) coffee, tea, or soft drinks. If you are still
getting a lot of caffeine (over six cups of coffee daily) ask
about other ways to eliminate it from your diet.