Lifestyle can have a big impact on your pregnancy. Avoiding drugs and alcohol, exercising, and following a healthy diet helps you and your future baby stay healthy.
What should I eat if I’m trying to get pregnant?
Eating a variety of good foods is super important for a healthy pregnancy and baby. The nutrients you put into your body directly affect your baby’s birth weight and health — even after they’re born.
Many people find they need to change their diet so they can have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Changing the way you eat can be hard — it may be easier to start by adding more healthy foods before you take away the unhealthy foods.
Here are some tips for a balanced pre-pregnancy diet:
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Eating fruits and veggies is a good way to get lots of different vitamins and nutrients.
A little more than half of what you eat should be carbohydrates (carbs). Try to get most of your carbs from whole grains, like brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, corn, and whole wheat bread.
Limit processed and sugary carbs, like cookies, cakes, pastries, and white bread.
Protein helps your fetus grow. You can get protein from meat, dairy, and tofu. Nuts, beans, seeds, lentils, peas, and dark leafy greens (like spinach and broccoli) are also good sources of protein.
If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you can still have a healthy pregnancy and get plenty of protein from non-animal sources. But it’s a good idea to tell your doctor about your diet so they can make sure you’re getting enough protein.
Certain fats are healthy and help you absorb vitamins. For example, the fats in nuts, fish, and vegetables are really good for you, especially during your pregnancy.
Limit the more unhealthy fats found in dairy, red meat, pork, fried food, and junk food. Look for foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
You can get fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
It’s good to eat at least 3–5 servings of fiber per day.
Salt, sugar, and junk food
Limit sugary foods and drinks (like candy, soda, and ice cream).
Limit salty, fatty, processed snacks (like chips).
Try to avoid processed food and fast food.
It’s almost impossible to follow a perfect diet, and it’s okay to indulge every once in a while. But try to eat as healthy as you can before and during your pregnancy. And don’t forget about variety — eating many different kinds of healthy foods helps you have a balanced diet and keeps you from getting bored with your meals.
Once you’re pregnant, you’ll need to eat about 100 – 300 more calories per day — pregnancy is hard work!
What do I need to know about exercising before and during my pregnancy?
Exercise is a great way to get your body ready for a healthy pregnancy. And most people can safely exercise throughout their pregnancy. Exercising regularly during pregnancy gives you more energy and helps you feel better physically and mentally. It strengthens your body and can even help make it feel easier to give birth.
Walking, swimming, yoga, dancing, biking, and other kinds of moderate exercise are popular with pregnant people. If you’re not already exercising, talk to your doctor or midwife about the best way to start and what types of exercise are best for you.
Do I need to be concerned about my weight before and during my pregnancy?
Being underweight or overweight can make it harder to get pregnant. And people who are at a healthy weight are less likely to have problems during their pregnancies. Your nurse or doctor will let you know if you need to gain or lose weight before you try to get pregnant.
If your weight is usually within a normal range and you stick to healthy habits, you’ll probably gain no more than 35 pounds by the end of your pregnancy. But each person’s body is different, so talk to your nurse, doctor, or midwife about what a “healthy weight” means for you. They can also give you tips on managing your weight during your pregnancy.
What should I avoid when I’m trying to get pregnant?
Smoking, alcohol, and other drugs can be dangerous for your pregnancy and your future baby. Changing these habits before you get pregnant lowers your risk of problems. It’s also important to make sure your home and work environments are safe and healthy places for you, both mentally and physically.
Some habits can be really hard to change. So it’s best to start trying as soon as you can, instead of waiting until you’re pregnant.
Quitting smoking helps you, your future baby, and everyone around you be healthier. People who smoke take longer to get pregnant and have higher rates of miscarriage than non-smokers.
Smoking during your pregnancy exposes the fetus to dangerous chemicals, and increases the chance that your baby will be born early or have a low birth weight. Smoking also increases the risk for other serious health problems after your baby is born, as well as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Quitting smoking is hard, but your doctor can help. And many Planned Parenthood health centers have programs to help you stop smoking. You can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
Breathing secondhand smoke (smoke from other people), also has negative effects on your pregnancy. If you live with someone who smokes, ask them to smoke outside, away from you.
Stay away from alcohol when you’re pregnant. Most health care providers tell pregnant people not to drink at all, because there’s no known “safe” amount you can drink at any point during your pregnancy.
Drinking alcohol while you’re pregnant can increase your chances of having a miscarriage. It can also cause you to give birth too early, and could even lead to a stillbirth. Drinking alcohol while you’re pregnant can also cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS can cause serious physical and developmental harm to your baby, like physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and other conditions.
It’s a good idea to avoid alcohol when you’re trying to get pregnant, too. You don’t always know that you’re pregnant as soon as it happens, so stopping drinking before you get pregnant can help you avoid accidentally drinking during your pregnancy.
If you need help to stop drinking alcohol, talk to your doctor or visit Alcoholics Anonymous.
Using certain drugs during your pregnancy — such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and opioids like oxycodone — can cause serious problems. These types of drugs can be really addictive. They also increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth. Your baby could also be born with health problems.
Certain legal prescription drugs can also be addictive and harm you and your baby. Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking, and check with your doctor before taking any new medications. They may recommend you switch to a different medication or stop altogether during your pregnancy.
If you need help to stop using drugs, talk to your doctor or visit Narcotics Anonymous.
Chemicals and toxic substances
Toxic substances in your work and home environments can also affect your pregnancy. They include lead, mercury, fertilizer, pesticides, solvents, radiation, and cat or rodent poop.
These substances can hurt your reproductive system and make it harder to get pregnant. Some can also harm your fetus if you’re exposed to them when you’re pregnant. Your doctor will tell you which environmental toxins to stay away from.
Watch out for dangers in your workplace. Some jobs — like those that expose you to chemicals or are physically difficult or dangerous — may be risky before and during your pregnancy.
Talk with your boss and your doctor to figure out how you can work safely during your pregnancy. And try to avoid standing for too long and working too many hours in a row.
Avoiding stress and taking care of your mental well-being can help you have a healthier (and happier) pregnancy. Set time aside to do things you enjoy and that relax you.
Feel free to enjoy your sexuality, too. Having sex or masturbating can help ease stress and tension, and many people have an increased sex drive during pregnancy. It’s perfectly normal and healthy to have sex throughout your pregnancy, if you want to. (And if you don’t, that’s perfectly fine, too.)