A healthy pregnancy is the goal of every expectant mother. Conflicting reports of what is considered "best for baby" make this topic quite confusing. Fortunately, some simple, straightforward, and time-tested methods of maintaining maternal health are still the best way to go.

Visit your obstetrician or midwife regularly

Your healthcare professional will screen you and your baby for complications and offer personalized advice throughout your pregnancy. Ask questions and let your provider know what's happening, especially if you feel uneasy about anything your body is doing.

Lay off the vices

. Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and illicit drugs can all do damage to your unborn baby. They can also make it difficult for you to enjoy your pregnancy. If you have specific questions on how to eliminate these substances, or how much your body can tolerate during a pregnancy, speak with your health care professional.

Stay hydrated

. "Morning sickness," or, for many women, "All-Day Sickness" can leave you dehydrated. Dehydration can cause all kinds of problems: fatigue, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, increased heart rate, and elevated body temperature. All of these are heavily exacerbated by pregnancy. Avoiding dehydration can help temper them significantly. Try drinking a bottle of water (approximately 16 ounces) at each meal. Continue sipping water throughout the day.

Eat a balanced diet

This does not mean you should balance your sugar with your caffeine. Instead, eat whole grains for energy, protein (preferably with heavy doses of iron) for building life, and vegetables and fruits for an array of necessary vitamins. Some of the most important nutrients for pregnant women include:

  • Folic acid. It prevents birth defects and can be found in leafy green vegetables (spinach, collard greens), broccoli, citrus, and beans.

  • Iron improves the blood supply of both mother and baby and can be found in red meat, egg yolks, leafy green vegetables, raisins, and artichokes.

  • Calcium supports bone growth in the baby and prevents bone loss in the mother and can be found in dairy products, broccoli, citrus, leafy green vegetables, beans and dried herbs. For maximum impact, calcium should be consumed with Vitamin D.

Every meal should contain some heart-healthy fats

(like nuts, meat, avocado, eggs, and dairy - not frying or hydrogenated oils). Fats aid in the transmission of vitamins and minerals into your bloodstream ensuring that you get the benefits of all the healthy foods you eat.

If you cannot get a balanced diet, or if you are unsure of your intake of these essential nutrients,take a prenatal vitamin. Look for one that has high doses of folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamin D. Iron can impact nausea levels, so look for a low-iron dose if you're experiencing a lot of nausea.

Exercise as much as you feel comfortable

If you've been a couch potato for the last 5 years, pregnancy is not the time to start training for a triathlon. However, moderate exercise is probably a good idea. Walking, prenatal yoga, and even moderate weight training can help build strength and endurance for pregnancy and labor, improve your postpartum recovery time, help maintain healthy weight gain, and reduce your chances of delivery complications. Check with your doctor if you're nervous about exercising. Also, be sure to watch your heart rate, particularly if you are at risk for preeclampsia (your doctor can advise you as to your specific target heart rate).

Sleep, sleep, sleep

Sleep as much as you can. In the early weeks, this might be very easy (pregnant women often report "passing out" at the end of every day during their first trimester), but will become increasingly difficult as the months progress. Proper sleep not only helps you sustain your energy levels during the day, it helps your body increase blood supply (which can help stave off dizziness).

By being proactive in adopting good habits, you can enjoy a healthy pregnancy and be ready to focus on the exciting addition that will soon be a busy part of your family.

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